Dance Shelter makes a move to Stage 773

What inspires a company with an in-house performance venue to present in a new space? A nice grant from the Met Life New Stages for Dance initiative doesn’t hurt, but the brain child behind most of the things that happen at The Chicago Moving Company (CMC) is Kay LaSota. This year’s Dance Shelter was presented down the street from CMC’s home at Hamlin Park Theater (HPT) in Stage 773’s Pro theater. The configurations are exactly opposite from Hamlin Park - the space at Stage 773 is lacking in depth, the space at HPT is lacking in width - and while the move down Belmont doesn’t immediately feel like an upgrade, Stage 773 has luxuries such as a bar, box office, plush seats, and fancy bathrooms. These are things CMC patrons aren’t afforded at HPT, and makes, overall, for a really pleasant experience.

Dance Shelter has two goals: 1) provide a platform for HPT artists-in-residence, namely, Rachel Bunting, Ayako Kato, and Atalee Judy, and 2) present audience-selected favorites from CMC’s summer dance-off for developing artists called D49 (Dance for $9.99). The “winners” of D49, Erica Ricketts and Callie Frey/Maureen Gonzales, each offered duets. Frey and Gonzales created The Knot That Settles In through a long distance collaboration, which comes across clearly. Rather than a duet, the work is a series of solos, sometimes occurring simultaneously. Ricketts’ Best is a comment on “the best night of her life.” Presumably a work in progress, Best is in the same vein as previous works; she continues to demonstrate a clear commitment to a quirky aesthetic that capitalizes on her keen sensibility for gesture and awkward pauses…. in a good way.

Rachel Bunting’s my my gray sky was last seen at The Dance Center of Columbia College, with a cast of 10 and massive production elements. The restaged excerpt shown this weekend feels slightly muted compared to the Dance Center; the cast of six and pared down lights didn’t quite achieve the visual punch in the face it did last February. The glue of the work is all there, but not the impact - that is - until dancer Isabelle Collazo crawls downstage like a character from the Exorcist in a stark white light. It’s the precursor to what is, from the perspective of this viewer, the best bit of dance Rachel Bunting has made. Six dancers sit in chairs for a series of unison gestures with feather quills, followed by a serenade in which Bunting wears a floppy bunny hat, dancing exquisitely, as three “back-up dancers” support a classy soundtrack from The Velvet Underground.

Atalee Judy and Ayako Kato had very different offerings: Judy with an excerpt of her “absurdist dance theatre piece” This is a Damage Manual, and Kato with a mesmerizing dance/meditation set to a soundtrack of waves. Kato is dainty and delicate on the surface, but has an underlying strength reinforced by her uncanny ability to remain solidly on her leg. The whole piece is a peaceful musing until she stands at center and drags her fingertips across her mid-section. It is a jarring moment that would not return, but gives the lingering impression that she is not so delicate as she might seem, and, like the ocean, has a visceral capacity for manipulation that increases the deeper one looks.