There is a continuum…this continuum places within our reach: young people, elders, black, white, mixed, Asian, Latin/Hispanic & all of the above, dynamic & virtuosic, poised & sophisticated beings. All on the same stage. A world class stage. For all to see. And feel deeply what they saw. And tell others what they love. How they loved experiencing a reflection of their city expressed through the dance panorama that took place last night as part of the Chicago Dancing Festival. A reflection of Everyday Chicago articulated by Everyday Chicagoans. The dance eclectic? Yes: hip Africa post modern contemporary release idiosyncratic balletic cha-cha lyrical character defiantly undefinable. The dance electric? Most certainly. Like static cling, it clung to us. Hair raised on arms at times. Defying gravity. Residing still within my recesses.
It begins with a Touch of Soul. Because that is how the evening began. And what a beginning…the dancers eclectic, their dancing electric.
One of my foci to blog for the festival, i had the pleasure of meeting with Chicago Dancing Company commissioned choreographer Nicholas Leichter and some of the crew from After School Matters’ Hip Hop Culture Dance Ensemble : Shannon Brown, Dorian Rhea, William Harris and Kaina Castillo. Prior to the performance, we gather in the dressing room to discuss this communal exchange. Within a few minutes, i can already sense the communal synergy between choreographer and dancers. Though, at times, that distinction was blurred; as Nicholas is quick to admit how these young people threw in their own kinetic thoughts, shapes, moves into the composition. Throughout their process he encouraged, insisted that their artistic voice be heard. Be honored. Challenged. And he diligently cultivated it inside the rehearsals and within their “presence”. Any artist within the performance field knows how difficult it can be to be ‘present’. To be keenly aware of what’s & who’s around you at all times during a live performance exchange; such that if someone bumps into you or throws you off, the moment is still infused with your crafted spontaneous creativity. That takes skill. And hearing these young dancers speak about how inspiring it was to have Nicholas as a mentor, a reflection of what they desired to become, you got the feeling his presence only enhanced their luminous presence. Indeed, Nicholas wanted to make his ‘presence’ known in Chicago as well. He spoke briefly with Lar Lubovitch [one of Chicago Dancing Festival’s Artistic Directors] about the project and heard a little about the After School Matters program, but had yet to truly discover the kinetic possibilities within these Chicagoans. Then came the first rehearsal…”First day we didn’t know what to expect!” Shannon proclaims, the others immediately concur. “All the hype” they had heard about him, what they pulled from the internet, didn’t compare to seeing Nicholas preparing in the studio for the initial rehearsal. “Nic was feeling it!” As they watched him moving to the music, they got more excited. Even more nervous. “Before Nic came, i never knew i needed to work on my sassy, fierce, stuff” Kaina professes. “…How to throw myself [into the dance] and be able to whip my hair“. All with technique and control i might add. Nicholas succinctly and brilliantly conveys that in his detailed choreographic aesthetic. More than just a ‘hybrid’ the vocabulary defies the boxes it supposedly exists within. ‘Hip-Hop’ Urban? Even contemporary doesn’t seem to capture the multi-layered legacies he explores with his company of dancers in Ny; now with his ‘company of dancers’ in Chicago. To him it’s all about vibing off what’s/who’s in the room that informs the creative impulse inside the compositional landscape. With two working weeks, he takes them through an exhilarating experience heightening their kinesthetic abilities; utilizing everyone who wanted to be part of this process. By the end of the process, he has delivered a potent message to these artists; one that continues to resonate for them. “A new vision…Nic’s notion of ‘staying out of the box’….to come up with your own labels” (Kaina). “Recreated…[to be able to just] switch it up” (Shannon) [While]”After School Matters has given alot of teens a voice, an outlet, a chance to be heard”(Dorian), Nicholas has offered to them “a new box of crayons… So now [i] can go home and create [my own] picture…” (William)
more to come on A Touch of Soul and Bolero Chicago’s premiere last nite at Chicago Dancing Festival…