Visceral Dance Chicago kicked off their Fall Engagement series with a performance at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie this weekend, and DancerMusic’s Kristi Licera was in the audience to capture what you missed:
Now celebrating its fifth anniversary season, Visceral Dance Chicago has anchored itself as a prominent fixture in the Chicago dance community and beyond. The clarity and expressive range of Visceral’s movement aesthetic is presented like never before, thanks to Artistic Director Nick Pupillo’s careful curation of the Fall Engagement program. Four of the five works feature the full company ensemble, showcasing the technical and artistic range of the dancers both individually and as a whole.
Four of the five works feature the full company ensemble, showcasing the technical and artistic range of the dancers both individually and as a whole.
(1996 • Company Premiere 2017)
Choreography: Mark Godden • Music: Mozart • Costume Design: Paul Daigle
The Fall Engagement program opens with Mark Godden’s ‘Minor Threat’ – a gem of choreographic genius from 1996. What makes this work stand out is its use and evolution of movement motifs, the most prominent being the dancers shuffling towards the black abyss of the upstage curtain, hands grasped behind their knees, as if retreating into their shells. This contemporary ballet showcases the incredible technical precision of each of the dance artists, and introduces that audience to the Visceral Dance Chicago movement aesthetic – deeply emotional, bold, and innately human. What is most apparent in the performance of this work is the clarity of movement and intention, which remains consistent throughout.
Choreography: Nick Pupillo • Music: Goldmund • Costume Design: Branimira Ivanova
I had the pleasure of seeing this work in its premiere at the Athenauem Theater two years ago, and seeing it again imprints the importance of dance artists having the time and ability to continue to explore a piece of choreography. This piece further pushes the Visceral movement aesthetic by asking the dancers to be consistently expressive in a marathon of emotion.
‘She Three’ further pushes the Visceral movement aesthetic by asking the dancers to be consistently expressive in a marathon of emotion.
The piece opens with three dancers in individual pools of light, eventually coming together to be three parts of a singular entity. Kudos to Noelle Kayser, Caitlin Cucchiara, and Paige Fraser on a performance expressive beyond the physicality of the human body.
Choreography, Concept, & Costume Design: Marguerite Donlon
Music: Sam Auinger, De Dannan, Luke Kelly, Kila, Sinead O’Connor, Claas Willeke
If you want to get to know the individual artists of Visceral Dance Chicago, this piece speaks volumes about their personalities. This audience favorite showcases yet another facet of Visceral’s powerhouse talents: utilizing vocalizations. As the closing piece of the first act, the vocalizations come in at the perfect time – it is almost as if the first two works in the show built up the energy so ferociously that the dancers have no choice but to take the expression into an audible space. Heavy, grounded movement plays well against the driving sounds of Irish bagpipes, most noticeable as the five men of VDC consume the stage in their feature section.
Pick a Chair
Choreography & Costume Design: Danielle Agami • Music: Glen Kotche
Being a dance artist means more than being able to express yourself through dance. It means continually looking inside of yourself to find the ways in which you can bring more of yourself into your art, and challenging yourself to bring other artistic tools into the creative space. Princess Grace Choreographic Fellow Danielle Agami (Ate9 Dance Company) utilizes the full VDC ensemble to explore a single character – a cellist, played by Noelle Kayser, whose spot-on acting and narration carry the audience through a piece that leaves you begging for more.
Princess Grace Choreographic Fellow Danielle Agami utilizes the full VDC ensemble to explore a single character – a cellist, played by Noelle Kayser, whose spot-on acting and narration carry the audience through a piece that leaves you begging for more.
What struck me most about this piece is that it reminded me of meeting some of my favorite artists – at the surface, you know their talent to be phenomenal. Digging deeper into who they are, you begin to understand the root of that talent lies in the impact that their life experiences have given them, and in the love or lack thereof that they have received from others.
Choreography: Nick Pupillo • Music: Darryl Hoffman • Costume Design: Nathan Rohrer
First and foremost, recognition and major applause goes out to Nathan Tomlinson for the lighting design of this piece. The complex lighting design features 30 LED lights, each with a number of different colors and flashing light patterns. As the first tones of Darryl Hoffman’s original score ring through the theater, the lights flash in varying patterns, revealing dancers planted stoically behind them. In scientific terms, a synapse is a junction between two nerve cells. Electrical and chemical signals are sent through the gap to pass information through the body. Pupillo’s choreography truly embraces and explores this concept, as the dancers pass energy and movement motifs from body to body. Most notable in this piece is the solo section performed by new company member, Prince Lyons. The choreography for this solo is the best representation of the concept, and also hints at the innovation yet to come in Pupillo’s future works.
Visceral Dance Chicago speaks a language of dance as unique as the choreography Pupillo curates, amplified by the individual talents of the collective body of artists.
The Fall Engagement program is a display of artistic virtuosity and diversity that maintains the purity of the Visceral aesthetic while simultaneously pushing the emotional and technical range of the dancers. From classical works like ‘Minor Threat’ to groundbreaking works by renowned choreographers, VDC’s Fall Engagement is sure to have a lasting impact on the dance community at large and sets the bar high for the remainder of their fifth anniversary season.
Do not miss your next and only chance to see Visceral Dance Chicago’s Fall Engagement at the Harris Theater on Saturday, October 7 at 7:30pm. Purchase tickets online, or visit Visceral Dance Chicago to view their season calendar.
Photography by Todd Rosenberg.