Project Bound and Emma Draves a perfect pair in Links Hall split-bill 'The Nearest Place'

Some things are meant to go together: peanut butter and jelly, bacon and eggs, popcorn and movies. And every once and a while, a new pairing comes into existence and it becomes nearly impossible to ignore the cohesive connection between the two things. That feeling is the byproduct of Emma Draves and Project Bound’s latest collaboration, “The Nearest Place.” Performed in the open concept space known as Links Hall, the two companies offer an evening of dance that blends remarkably seamless styles and individualized artistic visions.

Emma Draves’ self-choreographed, self-performed solo, “Succour,” begins the show with a dramatic note as live-accompanists, Thor Bremer and Stephanie Young— two founders of Nine Worlds Ensemble— orchestrate a Game of Thrones-esque score, filled with haunting violin and percussive xylophone. The amorphous and contextless movement Draves puts forth in her dance is indubitably hypnotic. The piece overall, described as an ode to gratefulness in spaces, is visually indecipherable in its purpose and meaning. Clearly there is an internal driver for her body placement and choreographic pathways, yet that driver is unclear to us as onlookers. However, the effortless air with which Draves moves through space poses the question: is there an actual need for a known motivation? Or can we simply submit to the losing of ourselves in her captivating flow?

Project Bound follows “Succour” with a perplexing, poetry-inspired solo. Emily Loar’s “A Theory on Staying,” melds original text with personalized performance quality as she plays with word-dance association. It begins from the vantage point of an audience member as Loar stirs from across the room surrounded by patrons— a concept that would’ve been better executed had we not observed her settling into that spot pre-performance. As we absorb her words it’s easy to forget that she’s even dancing. Loar’s poetic tone and powerful prose are deeply relatable and, in a sense, renders the movement she’s performing an after-thought. In the best of ways, we’re allowed to feel a multitude of emotions evoked by listening to her musings on relationship habits while observing the thoughtful and calculated placement of her body in space. 

To break the back-to-back solo pattern, Emma Draves presents her second work of the night, “With every breath I…,” a duet performed by dancers Chloe Grace Michels and Andy Slavin. Joined once again by the live musicians, the pair move together so succinctly it’s as though we’re looking in a mirror. Each performer has an individual look, and clearly each has their own artistic motives, yet they complement each other when dancing in unison. Draves’ choreographic identity proves consistent as the duet is evocative of the solo she performed earlier in the show. What is beautiful about her style this time around, though, is that it highlights the musicians that so easily went unobserved before. The dance is an evening-length’s work-in-progress as notated in the program, and the artists move with a confidence that inspires excitement for what’s anticipated to come in 2021.

The final two snippets by Project Bound are playful in nature. “Excerpt I” introduces us to the smile-inducing performance quality of dancer Rachel Molinaro. Her all-too-relatable monologue about getting caught in the rain coincides so perfectly with her sharp-natured, athletic performance; the pedestrian costuming of a graphic t-shirt and jeans makes it acceptably human. “I Don’t Know How to Make This Matter,” closed out the evening on a comparatively hyper-active note. The pop-rock musical selection of Pom Poko decidedly shifts the tone to an upbeat, almost combative level, and it’s gladly welcomed as people begin to smile at the contagious energy shared by Kathryn Hetrick and Ashley Deran. It’s clear they’re enjoying themselves as the two perform with a coy nature that makes the piece fly by with a satisfactory swiftness.

This five-piece, hour-long performance opts to showcase a harmonious balance of finished dances and works-in-progress. The companies perform both exploratory pieces and definitive choreography. They satisfyingly mix live music, spoken word, and recorded vocals. All of what goes into making “The Nearest Place” what it is, is utterly complimentary. The audience can feel one moment of movement bleed into the next without any artificial transitions, which is a task that is difficult to achieve when attempting to find equilibrium between two innovatively choreographic minds—time well spent.


“The Nearest Place” continues through March 1 at Links Hall, 3111 N. Western Ave. Tickets are $18, available by clicking the event page below.