… in some ways, Dance Crash is rooted in one of the richest — and oldest — traditions in concert dance. They love to tell stories.
Chicago Dance Crash stands out as a different kind of dance company in many ways, but sometimes that may be a little misleading. Of course, it’s true that they blend up to-the-minute street sensibilities with more mainstream looks so well that they’re often identified for their uniqueness, and not without reason. Right along side their successful full length shows, repertoire concerts and extensive touring, they’re the only major dance company you know that runs three or four wildly popular battle shows a year. But in some ways, Dance Crash is rooted in one of the richest — and oldest — traditions in concert dance.
They love to tell stories. Back when concert dance didn’t know how to do anything that wasn’t called ballet, every show was a story show — like Swan Lake, Giselle, and even The Nutcracker. In the wider world of concert dance, that’s become less common, but for several years, one of the most often-admired parts of the Crash calendar has been their series of full-evening story shows. Since Jessica Deahr’s appointment as Artistic Director seven years ago, they seem to take it to a new level every time out.
Two years ago, their production of The Bricklayers of Oz, which won Dance Magazine’s 2017 award for “Most Inventive New Work”, set a new standard in an art that to a large degree they’ve completely reinvented. They tell a rich, complex story with choreography, just like in the old days, but they do so with such a high-cycle intermingling of movement styles that the word ‘fusion’ becomes an understatement.
This year, they’re adding Lil Pine Nut to this rich tradition. It’s a reimaginining of nineteenth century political satirist Carlo Collodi’s “The Adventures of Pinocchio,” and it runs August 23, 24, 25, 30 and 31 at Chicago’s Ruth Page Center for the Arts. DancerMusic asked Dance Crash Rehearsal Director KC Bevis what we’ll see at Ruth Page, and here’s what she told us:
… but this show was particularly made for the audience member to go on a journey of their own alongside our Lil Pine Nut …
Johnny Nevin: Over the years, Dance Crash has become known for creating story shows — evening-length dance concerts with a plot line that focuses on a single narrative. This year, Artistic Director Jessica Deahr took inspiration from Italian author Carlo Collodi’s fairy tale novel, The Adventures of Pinocchio. Can you tell us about Lil Pine Nut, Crash’s’ characteristically adventurous take on this classic story?
KC Bevis: Dance Crash, and Jess in particular, has a knack for integrating a relatable message into a classic story we all love. Lil Pine Nut is no exception, and as with any of our story shows, it has a throughline. But this show was particularly made for the audience member to go on a journey of their own alongside our Lil Pine Nut, hopefully relating their journey to his or finding some inspiration to keep their own journey alive. You’ll definitely recognize some main characters and scenes but spoiler alert, this isn’t the one about his nose growing. It’s about “an unlikely hero’s journey that encourages us to dive into life, seek lessons from our own experiences, and discern for ourselves. Who is trying to pull our strings and who is worth sacrificing ourselves for?”
… luckily for me and my pieces, this show had a lot of room for character and scene development due to the open framework.
Johnny: Jessica Deahr brought you in to choreograph several scenes in the show. Even though you are Crash’s rehearsal director, this is a new role. What can you tell us about the experience of creating movement design with Jessica and Dance Crash? Since you’re also performing in the show, there must have been a number of challenges in this process — can you tell us about some of them?
KC: Choreographing on my own was a very new experience for me, but collaborating with Jessica, which is how I first started my choreographic process, was as easy as breathing. I’ve worked under Jess for about six years now and creating movement in the studio with her is way more fun than it is work. I’ve been known to speak the language of “Jess” and my Crashers know exactly what that means. Essentially, it’s a mix between knowing exactly what the company needs, what Jess wants and what kind of crazy creativeness can come alongside that. As far as creating on my own, well, it wasn’t as easy as breathing but luckily for me and my pieces, this show had a lot of room for character and scene development due to the open framework. I was first tasked with creating a solo for Lil Pine Nut (Elijah Motley) right after he is magically brought to life. Although Eli is an awesome person to work with, this process, taking a couple more rehearsals than expected, really put into perspective just how challenging my job during the rest of the curation would come to be.
I love this show and if anything, I know the audience will feel that.
I’ve been no stranger to alternating between performer and rehearsal director, but adding choreographer was quite the challenge. It was like having three different personalities fighting against each other, making it difficult to come to a clear decision on what I truly wanted. Especially when it was almost a full cast, not just a solo to create. The performer in me wanted to be in every part of the piece of course. My rehearsal director side wanted everything to be clean and clear right away but my choreographer side wanted a party-like, free-formed dance. Eventually, I had to sacrifice my performer side so that I could stand outside of the piece to get a clearer vision. With that being said, I struggled a decent amount but fortunately for me, Crash isn’t just a dance company. We are a family. I know that sounds cheesy but it’s true. They often times tell me straight up what is working and what’s not. In turn, that makes my job as a performer, director and choreographer easier. I feel comfortable with pushing them to their physical and mental limits because I trust they’ll tell me when it’s too much and they’ll push me just the same. I love this show and if anything, I know the audience will feel that.
Chicago Dance Crash presents Lil Pine Nut at Chicago’s Ruth Page Center for the Arts (1016 N. Dearborn, Chicago, IL 60610) on Friday, August 23rd and Saturday August 24th at 8pm, Sunday, August 25th at 3pm, Friday, August 30th at 8pm and Saturday, August 31st at 8pm. Tickets are available online from BrownPaperTickets.com.
The cast for Lil Pine Nut includes: Elijah Motley as Pinocchio, Monternez Rezell as Geppetto, introducing Logan Paschall to Chicago as the Cricket, Kristi Licera as the Turquoise Lady, Porscha Spells as the Fox with Logan Howell as Side Cat in addition to KC Bevis, Kelsey Reiter, Jasper Sanchez and introducing Diamond Burdine to Chicago.
The Lil Pine Nut Artistic Team includes: Choreographers Jessica Deahr & KC Bevis with additional choreography by Jim Morrow and Dionna PridGeon. Costumes by Jeffrey Hancock, original lighting design by Erik S. Barry, and score design by Jessica Deahr, KC Bevis and Johnny Nevin.