RE|dance group explores life and the universe in “A Delicate Hand”

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    RE|dance group presents "A Delicate Hand" March 7 - 15 at Hamlin Park Fieldhouse; Photo by Matthew Gregory Hollis
    RE|dance group presents "A Delicate Hand" March 7 - 15 at Hamlin Park Fieldhouse; Photo by Matthew Gregory Hollis


Chicago is home to many dance companies, but none of them are quite like RE|dance group. The close-knit cohort returns with the premiere of Michael Estanich’s “A Delicate Hand” at Hamlin Park Fieldhouse March 7-15, a work that delves into the company’s philosophical process of dance creation.

For fourteen years, Co-Directors Lucy Vurusic Riner and Michael Estanich have been presenting work with dancers who are more like a family than a company. They don’t hold auditions; instead, dancers are chosen not by body type or resume, but by their commitment to dance and what they have to share with the group. “We’ve grown up together,” says Vurusic Riner. “It can be dysfunctional at times—like any family—but anytime we experience discomfort with each other there’s another level of growth. That’s how we know we’re growing.”

Choreographed by Estanich, “A Delicate Hand” is based on Michealangelo’s famous mural in the Sistine Chapel, where the hand of God touches Adam. The piece draws inspiration from the various systems that surround us—ecosystems, solar systems, religion, the multiverse, life and death, the flow of time and tidal currents. The work also features an original sound score by Mark Burns and installations of tall square pillars lined with lights to create an otherworldly environment that plays with emerging from and disappearing into darkness.

See Chicago Dance was invited to a company rehearsal of “A Delicate Hand.” The representation of systemic forces is apparent in the work. Vignettes emerge related to different systems, as in a section called “Tendrils” about the suppleness of the spine and how it extends through the arms like tendrils of a plant that gathers information to send back to the roots. A reference to the flow of time appears in “Rising Sun” as trios of dancers burst on the scene like the sun coming over the horizon. “Puzzle Game” mirrors the general will, or the law, where a prescribed system of words and numbers influences individual actions. The clarity with which these systems are represented in the work inspires a spectrum of emotions—joy, camaraderie, existential nihilism, dread, melancholy and hope.

All the while the company shifts into different forms, like oscillating semi-straight lines, a heap that becomes a pyramid and winding root systems of torsos, legs and limbs. Like the evolution of the Earth’s topography, these forms sometimes morph quickly and dramatically, or so slowly that you don’t notice the change until it’s there.

“We’ve been practicing how to sense and understand time with each other without prescribing it,” says Estanich. “The way we are organizing the work is that there is a central timeline that exists that we all must be aware of. We each have an individual timeline that connects to the central timeline in different places. To me it feels like a giant tide carries us through the whole piece, carries us to others and then sweeps us away into our own business again.”

RE|dance group presents "A Delicate Hand" March 7 - 15 at Hamlin Park Fieldhouse; Photo by Matthew Gregory Hollis


Estanich choreographs in tandem with the dancers, allowing individual voices to help shape the work. Ideas of nearness and touch are explored as the actions of each dancer create ripples that influence the others. Although the choreography will be set by showtime, the work is improvisational in the sense that time and space are rethought during performance, causing dancers to adapt to new placements and positions in real time. Making use of Hamlin Park’s extensive space, Estanich wants the audience to reevaluate the dancers’ choices in the distant background compared to the actions of the dancers up close and vice versa.

The show’s two-week run features a different guest each weekend. March 7-8 includes “Supernova,” performed by Sarah Holmes Villanueva Dance from Cleveland, OH, and choreographed by Villanueva. The work presents a chaotic study of patterns in the body, space, light, and sound and integrates LED lighting as part of the set to create other-worldly kinesthetic experiences for the viewer. March 14-15 features the premiere of Oak Park native kt williams’  “| | \” (pronounced three), a piece that emerged from williams’ questions about feral joy—What is it, and how do we truly allow ourselves to experience it?—as a trio of dancers undertakes a journey that leads them to explore the possibilities of joy, reverie and the moving body.

“A Delicate Hand” is RE|dance group’s first premiere following the COVID lockdowns, and Vurusic Riner expresses how the fluidity and adaptability of the work is representative of the company’s culture. “For me, this piece is about what got this company to this point, with dancers all over the age of thirty, to continue to create work that embodies our mission, which shifts as we get older, and find where we belong in the dance community. This constant shift takes a delicate hand.”

“A Delicate Hand” is presented by RE|dance group and runs March 7 – 15 at Hamlin Park Fieldhouse, 3035 N Hoyne Ave. All performances begin at 7:30pm. Tickets are $15-$30 available at or by clicking the event links below.