On November 3-4, contemporary dance company Hedwig Dances will present “no ideas but in things,” featuring three world premieres. SeeChicagoDance was invited to view a preview performance of “K@O2” by Rigoberto Saura, “Pat & Dianna” (working title) by Noelle Kayser and an untitled work by Jenna Pollack. As the show’s title suggests, each artist was prescribed a single objective: to merge dance with a tangible visual environment.
The title comes from William Carlos Williams’ poem, “Paterson,” published in 1927. Williams chose to focus on objects rather than mere concepts, a contrast to 19th century poets who wrote less about real things and more about their abstract characteristics. “To Williams, poetry should focus on the ‘thing’ leaving the reader to ‘see’ the bigger picture in his own way.” [Ed Wickliffe, triggerfishcriticalreview.com]
The program begins with Noelle Kayser’s “Pat and Diana” (working title). Dancers stroll along the banks of parallel rivers made from crumpled clothes, accompanied by a wispy melody on piano. Three are in slacks and a vest while several others start in thin undergarments. An unclothed dancer tries on a new dress and is placated…for a few seconds. Another finds a new shirt, but it itches! Layer after layer, will nothing appease their sense of style?
Dancer Rigoberto Saura bursts out in tight shorts and socks, contorts like a marionette being pulled from above and below, and twists like he’s trying to jump out of his own skin. Meanwhile, the three in vests gather used clothes—now yesterday’s fashion—and lob them onto giant heaps in the background.
“Pat and Diana” (working title) is highly interpretive. Kayser may be commenting on toxicity within the fashion industry, how keeping up with trends can become an obsession, or how we’re hiding our true selves under layers of ephemera. For the performance, the dancers will be framed by a colossal wall made from donated clothing (that the company will donate to charitable organizations after the run of the show).
In an untitled work by Jenna Pollack, structural engineering and human movement combine as dancers wield jointed wooden boxes that become both characters and landscapes.
The visual of dancers interacting with these morphing objects is like peeking into the goings-on in alternate dimensions. Dancer Paula Sousa climbs and crawls across towering skyscrapers like a lethargic kaiju; the buildings pulse and breathe like an LSD-induced visual. The towers transform into floating amoebas, suspended and crawling through agar with wriggling arms and fingers as legs. As dancers roll across the ground, the wooden boxes rotate around them like treads around the wheels of a tank.
It’s interesting how four-sided objects can inspire so much variation in the imagination. Pollack puts a point on it: “Ultimately, the question of the piece is: Who decides what the next form will take? Is it person or box?”
The final piece is Rigo Saura’s “K@O2,” a sequel to Saura’s “Chaos,” a digital work produced by Hedwig Dances in 2020. This preview has dancers performing to recorded music, but the show version will feature live singing and musicians.
“K@O2” begins with two dancers facing each other with arms locked, accompanied by a deep, male voice reciting a poem in Spanish over tenderly plucked notes from a nylon string guitar. From stark stillness they deliquesce into streams that flow over, under and around each other in a perpetual oblong loop. Like waves crashing against sea stacks, one lifts the other in spurts of different obtuse poses—at first impression, this one makes a splash!
The second movement sees dancer Alex Meeth raging and screaming while skipping through scenes of a life lived in fast motion, accompanied by picante Andalusian Flamenco music. One moment Meeth admires his reflection in an invisible mirror, then gets pulled back into celebrating a victory with arms pumping the air, then thrusts forward as his hands act as a dam between puffy cheeks that threaten an eruption of vomit.
Beside Meeth, the company of dancers melt in and out of existence, sometimes attacking the floor with their legs or placing their hands together in a prayer vigil, juggling fabrics and other objects as Meeth juggles temporality.
Everything in Saura’s work feels slightly asymmetrical and keeps you constantly engaged. “The enemy is symmetry!” says Saura. In a bout between Saura and symmetry, it’s the audience who is the clear winner.
Surreal yet relatable, the works in “no ideas but in things” transform everyday objects into fuel for the imagination and continues Hedwig Dances’ 38+ year tradition of presenting a multicultural blend of dance artistry rooted in ethnic dance traditions and interdisciplinary collaborations.
Hedwig Dances presents “no ideas but in things” at the Ruth Page Center, 1016 N. Dearborn. Tickets are $20-$55 and are available by clicking the event link below.