Emerging choreographers explore with Alluvion Dance Chicago


For years, Alluvion Dance Chicago has been a key supporter of rising choreographers through its annual summer Choreography Festival, "emergence." This competitive program provided promising new choreographers the chance to showcase their work in a fully produced setting, with artistic and logistical support from Artistic Directors, educators and Rehearsal Directors throughout the Chicagoland area.

Since its inception in 2015, the program has grown significantly in the subsequent years, culminating in its largest presentation of choreographers yet in its tenth season. Showcasing 17 choreographers between two performances at the Edge Theater—one featuring choreography by Alluvion Dance Chicago company members and the other by external choreographers—this program strives to be the bridge between emerging choreographers and professional companies.

“Body Memory,” choreographed by Ryan Dick, was a stand-out among the seven pieces presented. One of the two pieces showcased both evenings, this full company performance was an explosion of energy that encapsulated the difficulty of change.

The piece had frantic energy and employed extensive geometric movement to create a systematic feeling of entrapment— as if the dancers were components of a unified machine driven ceaselessly by their sole purpose of movement. Caught between this relentless resolve and a yearning for change, the dancers embodied the struggle of breaking free from ingrained patterns.


The ensemble of Alluvion Dance Chicago's "Emergence";Photo by Michelle Reid

Their performance oscillated between intense movements and lethargic walks and gestures, reflecting the internal conflict within their bodies. In the end, all but one dancer collapsed onto the floor, the lone standing figure hunched over, breathing ragged breaths of defiance in spirit, yet physically defeated.

“u&me&u,” choreographed by Kaetlyn Jeffries, was an endearing duet that explored the power of connection. The piece, performed by Ryan Dick and Cassie Stahnk, showcased the various emotional stages of relationships and how these interconnected experiences influence personal growth.

Each dancer wore a graphic tee, one with the phrase “U &” and the other with “Me &” This charming visual allowed the dancers to create the phrases “U & Me &” and “Me & U &” when they stood together in tandem. These phrases highlighted the relationship between the two dancers, with the “&” symbol at the end signifying an openness to further growth and influence.

As the dancers transitioned from lovers to separated, Stahnk appeared lost. Afraid and struggling in her new situation, she eventually found meaning by drawing direct inspiration from Dick’s movements during their time together—emphasizing the significance of connection in fostering personal growth. When the dancers reunite, their movements echo their initial choreography but are elevated beyond their original potential, with soft leaps now larger than life. Each dancer was stronger and freer to experience unbridled joy together after going through separate healing journeys.


"Emergence," with Alyssa Athens; Photo by Michelle Reid

Even as they parted ways at the piece's conclusion, Stahnk appeared more grounded in her solitude. Instead of desperately reaching back for her partner, she looked toward the future and for the possibilities of new growth. It was a touching reflection on the significance of connections, even fleeting ones, and their role in individual growth.

"Maestro" choreographed by Sarah Bodony, featured a duet performed by Lauren Smith and Kristen Whalen that evoked the essence of a live marionette show. Throughout the performance, the dancers moved in synchronized harmony, with one periodically influencing the other – adjusting an arm, moving a leg or tilting the head.

However, the dynamic shifted when the puppeteer became the puppet, revealing a role reversal that explored how individuals influence each other, even within preconceived roles where one is expected to be more powerful or influential.

Other pieces featured in the program were “Sans Fin” by Miranda McGovern, “Dual Dialogues” by Alyssa Athens, “5/4” by Cassie Stahnk and “Always a Pleasure” by Lauren Smith. Each piece contributed its own unique artistic flair and vision to the collective experience.

While the first evening of performances focused on the chorographical talents within the Alluvion Dance Chicago Company, the second evening expanded its focus to chorographical talents within the greater Chicago area. Such performances include: “3 Waltzes” by Celine O’Brien, “Ascendancy” by Dani Johnson and Sawyer McNamara, “Everything I Touch Smears” by Ink CO-OP, “Pruning Season: Elegy” by Mark Gonzalez, “Broken Patterns” by Olivia Pennell, “Collision of Time” by Haley Tarling, “Femme & Fatal (excerpt)” by Esther Farley, “Beryl III” by Jamie Greco, “Apart, A Part” by Anna Caffarelli and “Swim Good” by Andrea Moses.

Alluvion Dance Chicago remains a staunch supporter of emerging choreographers. "emergence" has consistently nurtured new and innovative choreographic talent, with this year being no different. I only wish I could have gone to both performances as I’m sure the second evening of dance was just as entertaining and innovative as the first. I look forward to returning for next year's festival and seeing the next generation of artists take the stage.

For more information about Alluvion Dance Chicago, click the company link below.