In one segment of Empress Archer, The Cambrians' latest installment of its ongoing choreographic experiment, two dancers knit a web of limbs in a four-legged spider walk across a diagonal trajectory. You can almost feel the silken fibers of their iridescent net, their prey perhaps each other, or some mutual target in the distance. In another segment, the two women inch across the upstage curtain, one’s head gently cemented onto the other’s hip. “Everything is about relationships,” says Empress Archer director and Cambrians brainchild Benjamin Wardell. “At our heart, we are driven to build the most meaningful relationships we can, both between ourselves and with our audience.” Exploring the nature of relationship in all its permutations through a holistic approach to the mind/body is at the heart of the company’s dancer-driven process.
As with previous Cambrians productions, Empress Archer asks what would happen if twelve choreographers from diverse cultures and stylistic genres are given carte blanche to “get as weird or experimental, try anything you want” with two world-class dancers. The only caveat is that once they have set their work on the dancers, the choreographers are done, and the dancers take over, re-weaving and internalizing the movement segments into their own artistic matrix, often accompanied by spoken or voice-over narrative storytelling.
This unique structural process models how the diverse impulses of art from far-flung regions and artistic traditions can come together to access universality in human relationships. “Their relationship is the primary piece of art,” Wardell explains, and how the nature of partnering is the doorway into how the body’s organization makes for connection between two people. All facets of that relationship come into play in the movement—separation, aggression, stable state all unified in the experience of living the process. “It’s a show unlike any I’ve seen,” says Wardell.
Israeli dancer Ariel Freedman and Wisconsin-born Meredith Webster are the yin and yang of Wardell’s inspired casting, Webster’s nearly six-foot frame towering over Freedman’s diminutive physique; Freedman’s ethereal curves and floating arms a contrast to the span of Webster’s linear strokes.
Empress Archer is the culmination of nearly two years’ work in residencies as distant as Vermont, San Francisco, and Tel Aviv. “There is definitely a strong Butoh influence in the use of time, in the structure of the piece,” says Wardell. Some of the segments are performed intact, sequenced exactly as they were originally choreographed, while movement material from other segments is spliced and re-configured throughout the piece, with improvisational transitions.
Ariel Freedman is an Israeli citizen who lives in Tel Aviv and freelances globally (previous work includes: Batsheva Dance Company, Kidd Pivot, Motley Dance, and Keigwin + Company), and Meredith Webster is a San Francisco based dancer (previous work includes: Spectrum Dance Theatre and Alonzo King LINES Ballet).
Music is eclectic, combining drum lines, classical, and contemporary sounds, along with recorded voices of the dancers in personal storytelling, a hallmark of The Cambrians productions.
The performance centers on the personal and artistic relationship these two artists have built over their time working together. This intimate portrait of their friendship manages to be both goofy and serene and, at times, downright feral. As always, The Cambrians puts the audience in the middle of the action, bringing you up close and personal with some truly world class dance.
Choreographers represented in Empress Archer include: Roy Assaf, Charlotte Griffin, David Harvey, Magdalena Jarkowiec, Ledoh, Melinda Jean Myers, Ohad Naharin, Ella Rothschild, Ilya Vidrin, Zack Winokur, and Aviv Abeba Yosef.
Empress Archer will be presented at Old Town School of Folk Music
4545 N Lincoln Ave · The Myron R. Szold Music & Dance Hall · 773.728.6000
Thursday, February 16, 2017 ♦ 8:00 PM
Friday, February 17, 2017 ♦ 8:00 PM
Saturday, February 18, 2017 ♦ 8:00 PM
Sunday, February 19, 2017 ♦ 1:00 PM
For details and tickets, go to seechicagodance.com and click on “Upcoming Events.”