Summing up Dances from the Underground in a brief preview seems a daunting task; the triple bill featuring The Seldoms, Peter Carpenter Performance Project, and Kate Corby & Dancers will show works in varying stages of development over two weekends at Links Hall.
In the first weekend, Peter Carpenter Performance Project premieres the twelfth installment of his continuing series of dances under the umbrella title Rituals of Abundance for Lean Times. The work began in 2012 with a commission from New Trier High School, exploring issues of power, economy, and access, and the American-ness (or not?) of dance. The series marked a distinct shift in Carpenter’s career, away from an acute focus on queerness in his earlier works. In a café chat with SeeChicagoDance.com, he stated that the series may be approaching a shift of its own; following a new collaboration next spring with the Dance COLEctive he anticipates moving away from developing new material to focus on mixing and matching existing branches of the series in various combinations.
Carrie Hanson’s work-in-progress RockCitizen, inspired by 1960's counterculture and rock music, appears in the first weekend with Peter Carpenter, and in the second with a remount of Kate Corby’s Digging, created through a month-long process involving six dancers and four composers in a daily meditation practice. Corby was one of the first to explore the cross-city company model by basing her work in Madison and Chicago. Though initially sine qua non due to her position at the University of Wisconsin – Madison (UW-Madison), Corby maintains long distance collaborations despite a demanding job and a new baby out of allegiance for the longstanding relationships she’s developed in her company.
Seldoms’ Artistic Director Carrie Hanson chose Peter Carpenter and Kate Corby to share a performance out of respect for both artists’ processes. It’s not often dance audiences get to see three local artists of this caliber on the same bill, and Hanson’s motivation was, in part, to provide an opportunity for mutual learning. Though the products look quite distinct onstage, each of the choreographers on the bill share some distinct similarities. All three have a foot firmly planted in academia; Carpenter recently finished his PhD in Culture & Performance at UCLA, Hanson and Carpenter are faculty members at the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, and Corby was recently tenured in the dance department at the UW-Madison. Like Hanson, her show mates on the shared concert (collectively titled Dances for the Underground) enjoy working in long, involved processes. Hanson cites Corby’s delicate hand and use of restraint with her material, and Carpenter’s elegant choreographic structures and personal politics as reasons why she wanted to share a few evenings with them, and in speaking to each choreographer separately, they all expressed a joint affinity for an intensive and thoughtful process that manifests as both intelligent and physical onstage. There are smart dances, and there are dancey dances… rarely does an audience get to witness both, together, from three of Chicago’s leading choreographers.
The tenacity each shows toward his/her process is the sort of stamina that allows them to continue making work. Hanson, Corby, and Carpenter could all be lumped together into the ambiguously defined “mid-career artist” category; each is at that critical stage in one’s career in which local funding and individual artist grant opportunities wane. It is the point at which one must, in essence, go big or go home. The Seldoms felt this crunch profoundly as Carrie Hanson searched for opportunities to fund her massively scaled new work Power Goes (of which RockCitizen is an offshoot). The evening length work premiering March, 2015, is now supported by the often elusive National Dance Project (NDP) Award. All three choreographers expressed that the urge to continue is frequently driven by the dancers in the room, and by an overwhelming desire to support them as best as possible. That, plus, they really like making dances. Fortunately, they’re also really, really good at it.
The Seldoms’ presents Dances for the Underground with Peter Carpenter Dance Project (Dec 5-7) and Kate Corby & Dancers (Dec 12-14) at Links Hall (3111 N. Western Ave.). All shows are at7:00pm. Tickets are $15-20, available online at https://www.ticketfly.com/search/?q=The+Seldoms or at the door.