PRE-View: Jessica Miller Tomlinson’s “Speak to me only with your eyes” at Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival
The spark reignites as you seize the opportunity to rediscover your connection and find more clarity and fulfillment than before.
Creating a new piece of choreography can be as vulnerable as entering into a new relationship. You have to put your heart on the line with both, take risks, and share your intimate thoughts. Thankfully only choreography gets displayed for the community to see. A choreographer can lean in and watch with joy when their entire creative process has culminated into a final performance. Usually then a choreographer walks away amicably and proud, onto the next project. Maybe some relationships end this way. Or maybe not!
In choreography and in life, you might notice an old flame in passing one day and find that you’ve both matured. The spark reignites as you seize the opportunity to rediscover your connection and find more clarity and fulfillment than before. That is what Jessica Miller Tomlinson has done in her new work Speak to me only with your eyes, to be premiered at Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival on September 21st and 22nd. She gave us some insight into reigniting the flame on a decade past work. Read on to find out how it grew into a completely new piece from a deeper exploration of the same idea, plus more insights on being a Choreographer in Chicago. Here is what Jessica had to say:
It feels more grounded and genuine than the first attempt. My life experience has definitely played a role in the development of this new work.
Crystal Gurrola: I understand that your new work in Harvest Dance Festival Speak to me only with your eyes is loosely based on a work you did in New Dances 2008 called, Crimes d’Amour. Was there something that you felt was unfinished in the original, and does this new version give you that sought after sense of completion? Could you give some insight into the process of how the piece evolved from the old to the new?
Jessica Miller Tomlinson: My new work for Harvest Festival is called Speak to me only with your eyes, and includes a small excerpt of my New Dances 2008 work Crimes D’Amour. Both works are set to the music of Led Zeppelin, which is perhaps my favorite band of all time. Back in 2008, I was listening to several of their songs for the work but had to settle on just three due to time constraints. After the premiere of the work, I was very pleased with the first short duet section of the work but always felt the rest of the work maybe could have gone in a different direction. Here we are ten years later and I finally decided to recreate the new version of the work. This new version of the work features three songs by Led Zeppelin and is essentially three vignettes based on love and relationships. Other than that common theme they are very distinctly different sections in terms of movement and feel. I believe being a more seasoned artist and choreographer as well as human, has shaped the new work. It feels more grounded and genuine than the first attempt. My life experience has definitely played a role in the development of this new work.
You really have to make opportunities for yourself and the drive to do what you love must be present.
Crystal: You’ve been a part of the Chicago dance community for some time now. What is your take on being a choreographer in this this city? What changes have you observed first hand and what does a festival like Harvest do for choreographers like yourself and the community?
Jessica: I guess I am pretty much part of an older generation of dancers/choreographers in Chicago at this point . I’ve been creating work in the city since I moved here back in 2003/04. Being a choreographer in this city is definitely not for the faint of heart or those who can’t accept the ups and downs which come with this profession. You really have to make opportunities for yourself and the drive to do what you love must be present. I’ve definitely had my highs and lows over the years but am constantly trying to reinvent myself as the dance scene is ever changing. I’m constantly looking for new adventures and ways to challenge myself and to make my work relevant in today’s dance community.
I’m constantly looking for new adventures and ways to challenge myself and to make my work relevant in today’s dance community.
When I first moved here there were a lot of big companies and a handful of smaller groups and independent artists. Creating work within a company was the standard. I created many works thru the Thodos New Dances Initiative and a few even made it into the company’s repertoire. As the dance scene has changed, many of the larger companies no longer exist and it’s becoming a norm to see independent choreographers producing their own work. Even organizations such as Dance For Life are opening up opportunities for Independent Choreographers to have their work presented. I was honored to have my work In Tongues performed during Dance For Life 2017. There are so many talented creators in Chicago and it’s nice when opportunities to present work arise.
The Harvest Festival is an amazing platform for independent artists to present their work. I’ve been a part of the festival in the past and am always amazed by the variety and talent of the artists/ works on the program . It’s a great opportunity to get your work out to a broader audience and a chance to get some feedback. I’m continually in awe of the talent of the Chicago dance community and am honored to continue to be a part of this incredible group of passionate, inspiring artists.
The Harvest Festival is an amazing platform for independent artists to present their work.
Jessica Miller Tomlinson’s Speak to me only with your eyes will be performed on Friday, September 21 at 8pm and on Saturday, September 22 at 8pm at the Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival.
Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival presents two weekends of performances at The Ruth Page Center for the Arts on Friday, September 21, Saturday, September 22, Friday, September 28 and Saturday, September 29. All performances are at 8pm. Tickets are available online from brownpapertickets.
The first weekend’s program, September 21 – 22 at 8pm, includes performances by Giordano II, Michel Rodriguez Cintra, Jessica Miller Tomlinson Choreography, RE|dance group, Theresa Bautista, Eric Mullis, Weslie Ching, and Corinne Imberski.
The second weekend of HCCDF includes, September 28 – 29 at 8pm, includes performances by South Chicago Dance Theatre (featuring DancerMusic Dance Editor Kristi Licera in a solo choreographed by Kia Smith), Kate Corby & Dancers, Aaron McGloin Dance, james morrow/THE MOVEMENT, MitchellMovement & Dancers, VADCO/Valerie Alpert, Aerial Dance Chicago, Jacksonville Dance Theatre