Moonwater VI: Though she be but little, she is fierce!


"Though she be but little, she is fierce!" This timeless quote from Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" encapsulates the essence of a remarkable individual who defies expectations with her strength and determination. Despite her small stature, she possesses an indomitable spirit and a fierce determination that radiates through every aspect of her being, and her impact transcends physical size.

Amid the bustling dance scene of Chicago, a contemporary dance company echoes Shakespeare’s sentiment. Though small, their artistic impact resonates powerfully and defies expectations with every performance. Moonwater Dance Project (MDP) presented “Moonwater VI” at the Ruth Page Center June 28-30, to celebrate the end of their sixth season. Founded by artistic director Mackenzie King with a vision of innovation and expression by women, this group thrives on pushing boundaries and exploring storytelling through dance.

Four works captivated the audience with daring choreography, physical prowess and a diverse bill. The dancers execute intricate movements with grace and poise, leaving spectators in awe of their athleticism and artistic depth. As an ensemble, each dancer compliments the other, and together every dancer is a puzzle piece that creates a beautiful united image. The cohesiveness of MDP not only elevates the quality of their performance but also strengthens their collective identity and leaves a lasting impression on their audiences.

The evening began with “Montage” choreographed by Jessica Miller Tomlinson. Dancers clad in brown unitards draped with fabric began to move in silence, immediately showcasing their technical abilities through beautiful extensions of their legs and precise movement of their bodies.

As the final two dancers enter the space, violins began to swell, and the audience watches in awe as the group moves together in unison, their rhythm in sync as one body. Although we are the viewer of the world created by Tomlinson, it never feels as though we are invited into it. The dancers move with an inward focus, declining to project themselves to the audience, leaving us feeling removed from the environment so beautifully fabricated before our eyes.

“Still Point," with Emily Brand; Photo by Ren Picco-Freeman

Soloist Emily Brand enters a stage filled with white flower petals in “Still Point,” choreographed by artistic director Mackenzie King. An ode to the beauty found in being alone, Brand dances within the petals, causing them to scatter with each brush of her foot or twirl of her body. Her movements match the melody of the piano, creating moments of stillness that echo the tenuto of each sustained note. As the dance continues, Brand’s breathing intensifies, an audible reminder to the audience that while she remains calm on stage, the physicality of the performance is demanding. The quiet embrace of solitude and tranquility emerges as a gentle companion to Brand, a peacefulness that transcends the noise of the world.

MDP shifts the audience’s perspective with the performance of Katie Carey’s “Grisly Bare." The dancers embody an earthy, primal energy, obscured by long jackets that shroud their bodies and faces like ethereal veils. As they move across the stage, the jackets become extensions of their limbs, swirling and billowing in response to their gestures. The choreography explores themes of concealment and revelation as the dancers fluidly manipulate the fabric to unveil moments of vulnerability and raw emotion. Through this interaction with their attire, they create a dynamic visual language, where the tactile nature of the jackets contrasts with the fluidity of their movements, evoking a sense of mystery and intrigue.

“Grisly Bare” was refreshingly long in its duration, a trait that dance companies have seemed to move away from when building their repertoire. “Grisly” allows for the development of intricate choreography that evolves organically, revealing layers of meaning and emotion. It offers an immersive experience for the audience, fostering a deeper connection with the narrative unfolding, holding a unique capacity to immerse both dancers and viewers in a profound exploration of movement and storytelling.


“Cloudland," with Moonwater Dance Project; Photo by Ren Picco-Freeman

"Cloudland," choreographed by rehearsal director Noelle Kayser  and Ching Ching Wong, unfolds as a surreal exploration of dreams and reality, where the familiar meets the unexpected in a whimsical tapestry of movement and symbolism. Dancers turn props—like a wooden chair and a fold-out metal frame bed—into vessels of imagination and expression as they move them around the stage, creating new environments for their dancing to take shape. Each gesture and interaction with the props carries symbolic weight, inviting viewers into a world where boundaries blur and possibilities abound.

Adorned in mismatched eclectic costumes that blend textures and colors in playful disarray, they perform gestural movements that oscillate between fluidity and abruptness, echoing the unpredictability of dreams. The work weaves together "Everyday" by Buddy Holly and "American Pie" by Don McLean to evoke a journey through time and emotion. Beginning with the upbeat familiar melody of "Everyday," dancers embody a sense of youthful exuberance and innocence as they move individually in the space. The mood shifts with pounding electronic rhythms fading into a haunting acapella rendition of "American Pie," marking a transition into introspection and nostalgia.

The choreography mirrors the ebb and flow of life's complexities, blending motion with moments of poignant stillness. Each note and lyric becomes a thread weaving a tapestry of memory and reflection, culminating in a powerful exploration of loss, resilience and the enduring spirit of music and the human spirit.

Through its distinctive approach to contemporary dance, Moonwater Dance Project has established itself as a powerhouse within the city, earning acclaim for pushing artistic boundaries and developing compelling narratives that resonate long after the final curtain falls. This small yet formidable company continues to carve a significant place in the world of Chicago dance.

For more information about Moonwater Dance Project, click the company link below.