Words about Dance
Last week at Links Hall, choreographers Paige Caldarella and Kate Corby combined to show powerhouse works, new and old. Admittedly, due to CTA fumbles, I was late to the show, and had to sneak in after the first piece. To my pleasant surprise however, the show was so packed that sitting on the floor was my only option.
The first piece I did see, actually the second of the evening was a premiere called Giving Way by Kate Corby, in collaboration with the dancers. Dancers Michelle Scurlock Jensen and Jenny Showalter enter the space and circle over and over, generally avoiding eye contact with the audience but occasionally meeting each others’ eyes in a detached manner that still manages not to feel cold. At some point in the first few minutes, a circular motion with straight arms and fingers pointed together in a blade emerges to become motif in the piece. This circling motion makes the dancers seem to teeter a little, back and forth, and back and forth, juxtaposing their otherwise graceful swings, drops of weight, and sweeping of the space. The dancers fall in and out of unison multiple times in a calming rhythm that makes this piece comforting to watch, like a lullaby.
The second half of the evening is to show work by Paige Cunningham Caldarella. Master or Disaster comes first and showcases two former Columbia College Chicago students. Dancer Dalton Rhodes towers in straight-cut pants by Jeff Hancock making Rhodes’ legs look seven miles long. Dancer Chloe Michels holds her own next to Rhodes’ towering figure as she coyly smiles, challenges, and speaks to Rhodes in a mesmerizing performance. The work features ballet vocabulary with distinctive Caldarella flair, and the piece sets up a complicated relationship between the two dancers from the start. These two athletic movers display ballet positions in almost statuesque stillness and then snap in and out of more contemporary, sometimes sharp movement. The ballet technique, seemingly by choice, starts to deteriorate throughout the piece as the dancers throw their arms, barrel through the space, and almost chase each other at times. The dancers flirt and smile at each other, and even sit to watch each other at some points during the piece. I was curious about what this “sitting out” had to do with the “story line” of this work. What was this relationship? What did it mean when the dancers sat to watch one another? Perhaps Caldarella leaves these questions intentionally unanswered, which leads us into more questions with the next work.
Wearing t-shirts that read “But first, coffee”, and “Mommin’ aint easy”, On the Verge immediately sets up the performers’ personal involvement in the piece, as their evident personal mantras are spelled out on their shirts. As Verge develops, the audience is introduced to an intense conflict between the dancers as a confrontational and competitive nature emerges through the actions of dancers charging forward, lunging towards each other, maintaining fierce eye contact throughout, and even physically pushing each other at one point.
Finally, after some technical difficulty in getting the projector to run, the On the Verge dance film, by King is a Fink Productions is shown. The dance as a film gives the audience more time to think, as the visual stimulation is more removed, stripping away the raw human, living and breathing mere feet away from the audience in the intimate Links Hall space. The film is listed before the physical dance in the program, and perhaps would have been served better in this order as it provides a nice opportunity to see much of the same choreography in a different light.
Above anything in Caldarella’s work, it is most evident that she has an amazing knack for crafting her pairings in casting. If Michels and Rhodes exude a flirty and playful relationship on stage, the pairing of dancers Jess Duffy and Keesha Beckford is all power and grace. These two dancers seemingly come from different places in their careers, Duffy a young, fairly new transplant to the city, quickly building an eclectic list of Chicago appearances, and Beckford, with a whole career’s worth of experience under her belt and mesmerizing stage presence. The pairings in Caldarella’s work are dynamite and really make her work come alive. What is more is the pairing of the two choreographers shows curatorial prowess too, with Corby’s long and well-established presence as a choreographer in the city, against Caldarella’s comparatively new choreographic voice.
Overall, the evening speaks for itself with two very smart choreographers presenting well developed works. Here’s to hoping they’ll do it again, and maybe for several nights next time.