Makers and Wreckers Series: A New Chicago Choreographic Collaboration: A response by Kristen Vasilakos

Breaking Grounds Performance Series: Makers and Wreckers a choreographic collaboration

September 7-9, 2018 at Links Hall (*)

Artistic Director Destine Young with:

Makers:  Camilia Rivero Pooley, Karen Yatsko, Tariana Baralt Torres, Maraia Blanco, Amanda “Mandy” Milligan

Wreckers:  Destine Young, Julie Ferrell, Mary Willmeng, Amanda “Mandy” Milligan, Lydia Feuerhelm

image design: Destine Young

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On Sunday, September 9, 2018, I attended the Breaking Grounds Performance Series presented by Ground Rhythm Dance Project at Links Hall.  I was especially interested in the project based off the description of the program stating, “For three nights, choreographic works will be shown that displays a two-part creative process; one choreographer MAKES a work and their partner choreographer WRECKS their work.”  I was confused, yet intrigued by this description.  Uncertain if they were going to deconstruct the works in front of us, if the works were already deconstructed during different points in the process of creation, or if they were deconstructed halfway through the process, I attended the show with an open mind and excited to see new, hopeful and emerging choreographers in the Chicago dance community.  The night was filled with a variety of works stemming from postmodern, to contemporary, to even one upbeat jazzy work.  There were a few works in particular that stood out to me that I feel should be noted in this program:

The third work of the evening “I’m Fine,” choreographed by Yariana Baralt Torres and set to music by Ólafur Arnalds and Residente, was a beautiful contemporary duet that immediately engaged me from the first gesture.  The work began in low lights, with two chairs on the stage, one downstage left and the other upstage right.  The first dancer began by taking a slow, stressful swig of what looked like an imaginary cigarette.  The dancer took her time and let each gesture of stress build until, as an audience member, I felt as if my anxieties were bubbling up with her.  Eventually, the second dancer joined her and the entire work built until it concluded into a final puff of a cigarette from the first dancer.  I loved the dynamics, music, and overall build of the work.  As a dancer, I feel it can be hard not to “over perform” an emotion such as sadness or anxiety, but I felt that both dancers did a great job giving a genuine performance that made me intrigued and empathetic, rather than just putting on a face of anxiety that made me feel uncomfortable to watch.  The program said the entire work was 8 minutes and 53 seconds, but it did not feel that long at all.

“Fuss,” choreographed by Amanda “Mandy” Milligan, was the fourth work in the show set to Ella Fitzgerald’s’ Please Tell Me The Truth and Bach’s Cello Suit No. 1 in G Major III. Courante.  A duet of two girls dressed in simple dresses came out dancing to Ella Fitzgerald.  Both looked at each other as if they were annoyed and frustrated.  They moved across the stage individually as each one seemed to try to make their case about why they were right.  I felt as if I was watching an argument between two sisters that were each trying to plea their case.  Although I was watching an argument, I couldn’t help but smile at the silly argument they were having.  It made me think of my sister and I as kids fighting about taking each other’s clothes.

“To Really Get Down,” choreographed by Maria Blanco, was set to Marvin Gaye’s Got To Give It Up (Part 1).  This was the type of work that made my feet tingle with the urge to dance.  The fun, “dance like no one’s watching” choreography was accompanied by all three dancers putting their own unique style into the movement.  The jazzy and upbeat work incorporated three chairs.  Each dancer wove in and out of the chairs both together and individually as each one enjoyed the art and freedom of moving.  I appreciated that all of the dancers were performing together but were also given artistic liberty to perform the choreography differently and individually.  It was an excellent five minutes that put a huge smile on my face.

I was very happy at the end of the show that the Artistic Director, Destine Young sat down with the makers and wreckers and lead a talk-back with the audience.  I was still unsure at what point the “wreckers” came into the process.  The director explained that the “wreckers” came in just over halfway through their process.  One “maker” was paired with one “wrecker” and were given a few rules, such as they could not change the idea of the piece or the music.  Young explained that the whole idea of this project was to “promote artistic collaboration and artistic innovation.”

For next year, I would love to see part of the “wrecking” process somehow.  An audience member suggested the same idea and the director agreed that this would be a goal she would like to expand upon in the future.  I think it would be great if they showed some sort of a video with clips of each work being wrecked, or even a section of the work that changed the most.  I would also love a different program format next year—it was a bit hard to follow and there was not that much information in it.  The choreographers were listed but their “wreckers” were not, which was interesting to me because it seemed like they played an important role in the final presentation of the work.  The dancers were also not listed anywhere in the program.  Although this show was more about the process of creation rather than the final product, it would have been nice to see the dancers listed somewhere.  Overall, I loved the whole idea of this project and hope that they will present the show again next year.  It is a great opportunity for various dance artists in the Chicago community to break out of their comfort zone, come together and open their minds to new ideas, processes, and movement.

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Kristen Vasilakos attended the University of Iowa where she received a B.F.A. in Dance and a B.A. in Health and Human Physiology: Exercise Science. After moving to Chicago in the fall of 2016, Kristen joined Thodos Dance Chicago as an Intern/Trainee for the 25th Season. After TDC’s transition into a new structure, she moved into a new role as the Artistic and Administrative Assistant in March of 2018. Last August she became an apprentice with Cerqua Rivera Dance Theater. This season is her first full season as an Ensemble Member with CRDT, where she has gotten the opportunity to work with fantastic artists including Hanna Brictson, Christian Denice, Monique Haley, Joshua Ishmon, and Noelle Kaiser.

(*) PRJ is partnering with Links Hall to celebrate their 40th anniversary by providing a platform for artist-to-artist responses to the work that is presented as part of the Pay-the-40th-Forward season. Thank you, Links Hall, for all that you do for the dance and performance communities in Chicago. Congratulations on 40 years!