They say hindsight is 20/20, but sometimes looking into the past by yourself is not always enough to take full advantage of the lessons to be learned. Now and then, it is wise to have those you trust take that retrospective journey with you, if only to gain some clarity for the future. This is how the artists at Trifecta Dance Collective are approaching their upcoming performance of Moving Forward, Looking Back, with guest company Project606. The program features previous works from both companies, as well the premiere of a collection of new works by guest choreographers and company members of TDC. What we end up with is an evening of dance that takes audiences on a journey of Trifecta Dance Collective’s three part mission – to Engage, Empower, and Expand – and how these talented artists have embraced their commitment to its realization, as well as their vision of things to come.
DancerMusic’s Dance Editor Kristi Licera caught up with Associate Artistic Director and TDC Dancer Joanna Paul to learn more about Moving Forward, Looking Back. Here’s what she told us:
They enjoyed it because they saw something new while learning more about the people they knew.
Kristi: The first half of the program features a piece of repertoire titled “Take Flight”. This piece was created as part of a Veteran’s Day celebration, and the creative process for it included setting up interviews with those who had formerly served in the military. Can tell us more about this work, and how it speaks to the creative mission of Trifecta Dance Collective?
Joanna: “Take Flight” was the result of a collaboration with the employees of Takeda Pharmaceuticals that took place over the course of five months. The corporation connected with us last spring and invited us to be a part of their STRIVE Employee Resource Group Veterans Week. The event took place the week leading up to Veterans Day, and Takeda partnered with us to bring experiences to their employees that honor and remember those who have served.
Over those five months, we began conducting interviews with Takeda employees and employee family members who have served. Then, Co-Executive Directors Krissie Odegard Geye and Carrie Patterson, along with company member Cayla Roberts, began creating an evening of work specifically for the employees of Takeda. These pieces premiered on November 7th, 2018 on the Takeda campus for the employees only. Part one of Moving Forward, Looking Back brings five of the dances created for the Veterans Week event, as well as recordings of the interviews, to the public.
After our performance at Takeda, we received feedback from the employees that they loved the experience. They normally would never watch a dance performance. However, after seeing a dance inspired by their coworkers’ deployment on an aircraft carrier in the Navy or time spent serving in Japan after the devastating tsunami in Fukushima, they had a different experience taking in a performance. They enjoyed it because they saw something new while learning more about the people they knew.
We find that this model allows audience members, especially those unfamiliar with dance, to make a deeper connection to the choreography. They either recognize their neighbors in the stories being told, or see their own experiences reflected in the work.
The mission of Trifecta Dance Collective is to “ignite a community dialogue through an artistic lens,” and one of the ways we strive to do that is to partner with members of our community to share their stories. “Take Flight” was a very new endeavor; we were partnering with a company and building a show for their employees, but the idea is the same. We find that this model allows audience members, especially those unfamiliar with dance, to make a deeper connection to the choreography. They either recognize their neighbors in the stories being told, or see their own experiences reflected in the work.
This mode for creating work will continue to grow with Trifecta as we move forward. Our final show for our fourth season, taking place June 1st at the Athenaeum Theater, will include a new collaboration with Chicago-based theater company Erasing the Distance, who use performance to promote healing surrounding issues of mental health.
[Travis Cooper’s] choreographic process is rooted in improvisation, with an emphasis on introspection and following internal impulses in order to move honestly and without affect.
Kristi: The second half of the program is a collection of newer works including pieces by Nashville-based choreographer Travis Cooper and TDC Company Artists Stephanie Cihlar and Kim Galloway. The audience will also see a piece by guest company Project 606, as well as a new collaborative work by Project606 Artistic Director Meghann Mueller featuring dancers from both companies. Can you tell us a bit about each piece, and how the collection of works represents the present and future of Trifecta Dance Collective?
Joanna: Part Two opens with a trio, “Moirai”, choreographed by company dancer Stephanie Cihlar. The piece is inspired by the Three Fates in Greek mythology. The dancers weave in and out of distinct movement motifs inspired by each fate, interspersed with partnering, and solo moments to a mysterious and playful score. “My Heart Above My Head” is our second TDC artist piece. Kimberly Galloway created this dance while recovering from hip surgery and was unable to dance herself. She worked with the dancers to bring movement she was “daydreaming” about to life. The piece she created is energetic, with athletic partnering and full-bodied movement that connects seamlessly to the music.
We also have a world premiere by guest artist Travis Cooper, entitled “Authenticity”. Cooper set this work on the company in July in an intensive rehearsal process. We really enjoyed his approach to creating, which shook us out of our routine. His choreographic process is rooted in improvisation, with an emphasis on introspection and following internal impulses in order to move honestly and without affect. The resulting piece incorporates moments of spoken word and gesture and represents the tension between navigating the world authentically versus putting on a facade in order to conform.
As we move forward, we want to continue with our spirit of collaboration, diversity in our repertory, and bringing new experiences to our dancers and to our audience.
Finally, Part Two features Chicago company Project606 – our guests for this performance. Project606 will be bringing two pieces to the stage: the first, “Keep Up Small”, is a new duet by Artistic Director Meghann Mueller, and the second, “37 Vibrations”, also choreographed by Mueller, has a cast comprised of dancers from both Trifecta Dance Collective and 606.
Trifecta has always been a fan of the work of Project606, so naturally we are so excited to have these dances among our lineup. Some of our current dancers have worked with Mueller in the past, and vice versa, so there was a strong sense of camaraderie in the studio during the combined cast rehearsal process. “37 Vibrations” requires the dancers to really move together. The phrase work doesn’t rely on counts; rather, the dancers take cues from tasks or steps being performed by other performers, and unison movement is truly an act of breathing together and watching the dancers around you. Having a group of dancers who already have a sense of familiarity with one another allowed us to dive deeper into the movement, which made the piece come together in an exciting way.
Moving Forward, Looking Back takes place in the heart of our 4th season, and I believe the second half of the show really represents the spirit of what we want to continue. Our mission is comprised of three E’s – Engage, Empower, Expand – and we want to incorporate that mission into our experience with the artistic community. This show gives us the opportunity to Engage with fellow Chicago dance company Project606 and guest artist Travis Cooper, Empower our company members by giving them the resources to create new works, and Expand our repertoire and the experience for our dancers by opening up our process to new voices. Trifecta is a company that loves to say “yes” to new opportunities and collaborate; we believe this attitude helps us expand and reach a broader audience. As we move forward, we want to continue with our spirit of collaboration, diversity in our repertory, and bringing new experiences to our dancers and to our audience.
Moving Forward, Looking Back is a part of a week of performances for the Trifecta Dance Festival at Stage 773 (1225 W Belmont Ave, Chicago, 60657). The performance schedule includes:
Tuesday, January 22nd at 6pm • Fresh Perspectives – a student choreography showcase
Wednesday, January 23rd at 7pm • A New Light – a choreography showcase featuring new works from Chicago-based professional artists.
The week culminates with two nights of Moving Forward, Looking Back, January 25th and 26th, both performances at 7pm.
Tickets for individual performances, or a festival pass for 3+ shows, are available at eventbrite.com. To learn more about Trifecta Dance Collective and the upcoming festival, visit www.trifectadance.org.