PRE-View: Taylor Mitchell’s “Out of Pocket” at Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival
It’s an ideal pairing; Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival brings together a rich spectrum of imaginative independent choreography each year
Taylor Mitchell has a brand new work, and naturally, we wanted to hear all about it. It’s called Out of Pocket, and its performance by MitchellMovement is part of Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival’s second weekend of performances (Friday September 28 and Saturday September 29, both at 8PM). It’s an ideal pairing; Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival brings together a rich spectrum of imaginative independent choreography each year, and Mitchell epitomizes the kind of engaging and impactful dance that HCCDF was founded to present.
Following last years double success with Red Beans and Rice-ly Yours for St. Louis’ Big Muddy Dance Company and Here Comes Treble for Chicago’s Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, Mitchell has reimagined a work that he originally began in a very different context a few years back. We asked him to let us in on more of what we’ll get to see when Out of Pocket takes the stage at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, and here’s what he told us:
There is nothing more funny and charming than a group of performers drowning in mistakes and surprises, which is the beauty of clown performance.
Johnny Nevin: Your work is always based on a carefully conceived idea, but you then manage to blend that idea with great movement design, and almost always with a sense of irreverent fun. Can you tell us about the work you’ll be presenting at Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival, Out of Pocket — about how the work developed, and the ideas that you’re exploring and expressing in the work? Does Out of Pocket also include some more of the merging of clown technique and contemporary dance that you often explore?
Taylor Mitchell: Out Of Pocket is a whacky satire exploring themes of greed that I first developed as a pre-professional dance piece with Extensions Dance Company (Chicago, 2016). I first envisioned this idea while digesting the past presidential race. Politics aside, I wanted to explore the different angles of greed that I believe continue to escalate in our current culture. “Money” from Cabaret (Alan Cumming) is a familiar track used in many dance venues which drove me to create my own version.
Also, I set this pre-professional version on Revolution Dance Company (Baton Rouge, LA) in Fall 2018. In spring of 2018, I was granted an Artist In Residence position with the Dance Department of Southeast Missouri State University where I was able to further develop the work while adding two additional sections. The positive audience response at the college motivated me to further explore this idea on a professional level. Since the first two installments of the work utilized larger casts of females, I wanted to try the work on a more intimate cast of four male professional dancers. I showcased this newer version at the 2018 Inaside Dance Chicago Choreographic Sponsorship Event.
As I’ve expressed in past interviews with Dancer Music, I have been merging contemporary dance and clowning technique as a choreographer for the past two and half years. I personally find this recent work one of my most successful approaches to my artistic development. Thanks to the perspective of clown, this work connects with the audience in a refreshing and unique way as different angles of greed are provoked through comedy and contemporary dance. There is nothing more funny and charming than a group of performers drowning in mistakes and surprises, which is the beauty of clown performance. Growth through mistakes is an important aspect of the human experience which I think can be often forgotten. I am honored to share this work to the audiences of the Harvest Festival September 28th and 29th at 8:00 pm at Ruth Page Center For The Arts.
I’m incredibly thankful and fortunate to work with such open and brave artists who are able to bring my ideas to new heights.
Johnny: Out of Pocket is a men’s quartet, featuring Jack Halbert, Ricky Ruiz, Braeden Barnes, and yourself. That’s quite a diverse group to represent the breadth of contemporary dance in Chicago — can you tell us a little more about putting this together with Jack, Ricky and Braeden?
Taylor: The gift of this project performance is that I am able to work with active dancers from the community who are also friends of mine. This cast includes Ricky Ruiz (River North Dance Chicago Alum & current Guest with Visceral Dance Chicago), Jack Halbert (G2-Giordano Dance Chicago), Braeden Barnes (Visceral Dance Chicago), and myself as a freelance choreographer, teacher, and performer.
Working with this connected group of gentleman is like working with brothers. In special cases like this, I favor working with energies who I feel genuinely mesh well with myself and each other to create an exciting and humorous dynamic on stage. Let’s just say this work involves making a slight mess of the stage with money in hopes of grabbing it all for oneself. I’m incredibly thankful and fortunate to work with such open and brave artists who are able to bring my ideas to new heights. Their willingness to add my particular vision of clown technique as a perspective through contemporary dance is something refreshing and new that is ready to be shared with the Chicago dance community. There are definitely plenty of opportunities for this cast to play off of one another, the audience, and to have a new experience each time the curtain lifts.
There are definitely plenty of opportunities for this cast to play off of one another, the audience, and to have a new experience each time the curtain lifts.
The second weekend of Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival will present two performances at The Ruth Page Center for the Arts: on Friday, September 28 and Saturday, September 29. Both performances are at 8pm. Tickets are available online from brownpapertickets.
The second weekend of HCCDF 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, and Jacksonville Dance Theatre.