Posted by: trailerpilot | 05:22::2009


The Field Chicago has been on my radar for awhile but it wasn’t until last night I was able to attend their annual “performance marathon,” Fieldtrips (it continues with five more works tonight at 7:30). The detail about The Field’s mission says it’s “completely non-curated,” but the seven-part mixed bill felt of a common spirit. It was also programmed impeccably — there’s no other order I would have put those works in.


Solo Movement Collective is a quartet of women dancers who, although aware of each others’ space, remain wedded to their own interior worlds. It’s length (about twenty minutes) actually served it well, revealing subtle layers of interaction and nuance as it progressed. Mary Wu is a potent balance of physical power and impossible softness, capturing my attention many times throughout Untitled Work 1. Embodying apartness, Melissa Simo was on a completely separate plane, acknowledging the front and audience many times during her articulate, unpredictably-coordinated dancing, full of strange shapes and indecipherable gestures. Aislinn Gagliardi and Elisa Foshay explored their own territories in kind, both exceptionally aware of composition — their movement and spatial choices often seemed to “fill out” the space and collective image. They make a beautiful group, uniquely varied but on the same page in a generous sense.

Showing up far past fashionably late to a benefit performance last month, I missed Jessica Wright’s work. Luckily I didn’t a second time. Her Untitled duet for herself and Christine Benson shows the influence of Julie Mayo (of whose Dim Sum Dance they are both members) as well as a train of investigation into some serious craft and she’s very, very fun. One motif consists of a shimmy in extremis, something genteel and barely risqué from a 1950s sock hop that’s gone beyond awry, hands stretched out to the side as if to protect innocent bystanders. Another throughline is a cartoonishly bouncy quality: Added to phrases that would perhaps be standard-issue contemporary dance, there’s a light touch that not only makes the movement individual but foils the gravity of the floorwork (although it’s nicely grounded as well). It was the shortest work on the program, but also the most dense by far.

Kris Eric Larsen’s and Leslie Stevenson’s world is new to me (and I to them: Larsen and I shared a funny “do I know you?” moment as I was walking into Hamlin). Their maybe is incredibly odd in the moment and sweetly tender in retrospect. Opening with Larsen’s plaintive, a capella rendition of George Michael’s “Praying for Time,” it becomes a dance-based duet with each playing the other’s guardian, scold and advocate in turn. Stevenson, who recently returned here from “a spiritual L.A. stint as a nanny to the stars” pitches her humor exactly where it’s impossible to pin down. I had no idea during much of maybe what was going for laughs and what wasn’t, but the that just made it all the more enjoyable.

Composer Dave Hiltebrand made original music for CBDC and Inaside member Karla Beltchenko’s The Great Adventures of Consciousness, the evening’s only large ensemble piece and youngest-feeling work. Beltchenko generated some phrases of interest; the dancers frequently pick one leg up only to switch their grip and shove it back to the ground. There’s also a recurring quality of heavy wetness, as when dancers gazing upward agitate their torsos leaving the arms passive to wrap and unwrap the body, slapping sloppily like udon noodles. The purple-and-gold clowny cheerleaders’ costumes were, well, bizarre and, a quote by Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh in the program notes notwithstanding, I missed Beltchenko’s point. Still, it’s developing, as we all are.

More than anything, Molly Jaeger’s lengthy solo shows her off as a performer fabulously aware of how she’s coming across; as a matter of fact, much of Figures of Speech seems to revolve around that very awareness. Like the obsessive large pieces John Parot was making here a few years ago, her character can barely speak for all the shouting going on in her head. The vast majority of the text in Figures is vestigial, small utterances habitually thrown out in response to someone else talking (it seems that Jaeger, almost always facing front, is explicitly using the audience as a stand-in). An opening solo of floorwork I could’ve watched for hours: Jaeger is great at coming up with ways of destroying her body’s cohesion, getting herself twisted into all manner of Cubist explosions of elbows and ankles. She laid there deflated and broken, both hands fixed in a single spot as though they were nailed down. The piece has a second act, though, one where she’s standing and on the other side of the space, trying to make contact in a way reminiscent of Katie Bateman’s Behind it All at last month’s Sorry Entertainment. Illuminating the inside of her mouth with a book lamp, Jaeger retreats from us and the piece as though the simplicity of light is more honest than the trap of language could ever be, but at the moment she nudges this ascension, suddenly she’s back where she started. It’s a beautiful, brilliant work.


Adam Rose prolificacy is impressive: In March I hadn’t even heard of him, and now I’ve seen three solos and 0 = 2, a work he’s made on two dancers from his Antibody Dance company (Silvita Diaz Brown and Craig Donavin). Billed as “work in progress,” I’ll hold off on some of my impressions, but let it suffice for now that Rose’s world, the more I see of it, is growing more expansive, complex and disturbing with each glimpse. Looking forward to seeing how this duet develops.

Closing Fieldtrips was Julie Mayo’s FEED THE GUEST, made for Dim Sum Dance and performed by Rose, Wright, Benson and Jen Guglielmi. I had seen it before at the Epiphany Dance Experiment, but the darkness of Hamlin’s black box made it easier this time to focus in on its wealth of odd detail. Each of Mayo’s dances has a singular flavor comprised of pinches of this and touches of that — she approaches choreography and direction like an oenophile approaches tasting. GUEST tastes like entropy wrapped in awkwardness. It’s opening two-thirds is a trio between the women with a Lynchian appropriation of the Stones and the feeling that either they’re all ignoring one another or they’re collectively terrified by a fourth character out of frame and doing their best to approximate normalcy under the circumstances. Rose bursts in for its final scene — he may or may not be this unseen force — and the light fades on the action, the quartet’s disintegration having become clearly irreversible. Dim Sum will return to the Hamlin Park Field House August 27 and 28 for their own evening, Fever Drift, which will include a new work by Mayo and another by guest choreographer Tiffany Rhynard: I highly recommend attending.



  1. To: Zac Wittenberg
    Zac… It is so wonderful to have someone who obviously loves the dance/performance scene write so beautifully about work. It has been a long time since….
    Thanks….. Nana Shineflug

  2. That’s so kind of you. It’s been incredible seeing and researching everything going on. Thanks for reading!

  3. […] Rhynard, Fever Drift is in four parts and will be a must-see for fans of modern dance. I’ve sung Mayo’s praises before but it’s because she’s on such a different plane from what anyone else is working on at […]

  4. […] or less unchanged from its appearance on a Field Trips program in May; I liked it just as much now as I did then and appreciated the chance to see it a second time. The other, “The Arrangement of […]

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