Extroversion versus introversion and experimentation are at the core of the immersive, world premiere performances of Under(cover) dubbed “a moveable episode of dance, sound, light and space.” The brainchild of Robyn Mineko Williams brings together original music, lighting, dance and projections in an interactive environment.
Last year, Williams was granted a Works-in-Process residency at the Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC) in New York from the Princess Grace Foundation. (She was previously a Princess Grace Award-winning choreographer in 2013.) The two-week residency -- a collaboration with musician/composer Robert F. Haynes and graphic designer JT Williams, along with three dancers -- produced 20 minutes of material, which provided the “nugget” for Under(cover). “It was a really exciting process and I wanted to do something with it,” Williams said. “I also really wanted to do something on my own. I thought, ‘this is the time’ and I have to jump on it and bring it to Chicago.” One year later, that is what she’s doing, presenting an expanded 45-minute work this weekend at Links Hall.
Local audiences are very familiar with Williams’ work as a dancer (River North Dance Chicago and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago) and as a choreographer (Hubbard St. and HS2), but “on my own” refers to her being chief-in-charge of all aspects of the production from funding to scheduling to choreography.
“The show is self-presented and self-funded, so there is a major learning curve,” said Williams. “I’m trying to go step-by-step.”
For the Chicago premiere, they will use about 30% of the material created at BAC. “We’re not starting from scratch, but an elevated scratch,” said Williams. Bringing the same creative team back together was crucial. She has worked with Haynes in the past, in particular on projects presented at Hubbard Street. She describes their creative vibe as a “mind-meld.” Joining for this project is Haynes’ partner Tony Lazzara. The two musicians form the Chicago band Verger. The “other” Williams is her brother whom she refers to as her “go-to guy”. “We grew up as sort of twin powers,” she said. “He’s the one who gets me best, in general.” One of the three dancers, Adrienne Lipson, continues working on the Under(cover) experiment, while Zachary Enquist and Elliot Hammans joined the process just a few weeks ago. All three currently perform with Hubbard Street 2. Williams serves as a central point, working with each branch of the team individually, then figures out how to blend it all together.
“We want to avoid having it be a traditionally designed theater set-up, so we’re experimenting with how the audience moves and how they react…where they want to be on the floor,” Williams said. “We want it to feel like a music concert.” That will require keen improvisational skills across the board, but particularly with the dancers, who she describes as ‘phenoms’. “We will have things set, but they will have to be super malleable and make decisions on-the-fly.” Whatever these episodes uncover, each one is sure to be unique and thought-provoking.
Under(cover) at Links Hall, 3111 N. Western Ave., May 27-29. For tickets and information, go to seechicagodance.com, and click on "Upcoming Events.".