THE END IS HERE—What would Dolly Do? : A response by Kristen Vasilakos

THE END IS HERE and that’s OK

October 12-14, 2018 at Links Hall (*)

Presented by Kelly Anderson Dance Theater

Choreographer: Kelly Anderson & Company

Company: Cheryl Nowlin, Danielle Gilmore, Earlyn Whitehead, Michael O’Neill, Rachel Molinaro, Stacy DeMorrow, and Zach Bird

Script:  Kelly Anderson & Company

Lighting Design: Rachel K. Levy

Sound Design: Ethan Sherry

image credit: Matthew Gregory Hollis

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On Friday, October 13, 2018, Kelly Anderson Dance Theater presented “THE END IS HERE and that’s ok” at Links Hall.   This brilliantly funny and meaningful performance was nothing short of excellence.  This show was a unique and hilarious way of addressing very real and important issues in our world today.

The work began with each dancer doing individual gestures of their typical, every-day tasks such as folding laundry, watching Netflix, and driving.  The specificity of each gesture was accompanied by a voice-over of each person’s relatable, internal dialog.  This continued until loud rumbles and crashing slowly grew in the background and shook each performer until they were falling through the space.  Their inner mundane dialog turned into panic as they each realized the world was ending.

After waking up in Links Hall, they broke out into a comical panic.  Audience members in the front were given a bag of trash to throw onto the stage as each dancer ran around trying to bust out of Links Hall—trying the doors (which were locked) and running into the audience to bang on the walls and scream for help.  I couldn’t help but feel a little uneasy that we were also locked in as well (although they did warn us at the beginning of the show that we weren’t going to be able to leave once the show started).  Dolly Parton’s voice rang over the panic and her assistant, “Jolene,” appeared out of the fog with a calm smile explaining that they have been chosen to decide the rules of the new world.  By deciding “what worked and what didn’t,” they are given sheets of giant poster paper to discuss what rules the post-apocalyptic world must live by.

The rest of the show went through each character listing off their personal hero and why they admired them.  One of the most memorable parts of the show for me was the first hero that was named—Billie Jean King.  Zach Bird’s explanation as to why she was his hero was accompanied by a hilarious, slow-motion reenactment of one of her most memorable tennis matches known as “Battle of the Sexes.”  The match ended with Bird concluding that the new world should have, in a nutshell, equality for all regardless of sex (Amen!).  The show continued in a predictably unpredictable way, meaning that each person took turns naming their hero, but each person’s was presented in a new, unique and witty way.  Oprah, The Queen, and even the Care Bears were a few of the heroes that were listed as they continued to write down “what worked and what didn’t” and post it on the back wall of the theater.  The piece ended with everyone picking up the trash (including help from the audience members sitting in the front) and leaving the world a better place than we left it.  The work abruptly takes a turn as the characters do not agree on all of the things that worked and all of the things that did not, and the world ends, in which Jolene explains, “that’s ok,” with the same calm smile she had.

I was very impressed with the entire show.  Kelly Anderson and her dancers kept me fully engaged and surprised as they tackled real world problems.  The comedic timing was filtered perfectly throughout a series of serious moments.  I learned, I laughed, I was touched, and I also enjoyed each person’s perspective on why they wanted to create different rules.  The whole show got me thinking on what I would change in the world and what rules I would make if Dolly had chosen me to decide on what rules the post-apocalyptic world would live by.

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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!