Sunday, November 23, 2014

In Concert: A Dance and Music Collaboration

Movement is the basis of reality, because it organizes time and space into experiences that have meaning.  For this reason, dance — the art of movement — inhabits the largest possible creative medium, where the rewards (or demands) for an audience involve a complete experience of watching, listening, feeling and of course, moving.

More than twenty artists from Elgin and beyond brought it all together in a dance and music collaboration entitled In Concert at the intimate Elgin Art Showcase Friday night. Produced by Side Street Studio Arts in conjunction with Chamber Music on the Fox, the program featured six performances, including multiple premieres.

Three separate pieces consisting of a dancer-and-musician duo examined the politics of couples, the tension of two-mindedness, and the relationships between passing, sitting still and being noticed. In all three, the movements of the musicians were used to poetic effect, echoing the remarks of choreographer and curator Erin Rehberg: "When I witness live music, I see dance."

In a standout premiere performance, musician-dancer Rachel Elizabeth Maley explored the sound and movement of breath in a piece entitled "Peace Breathing." Her meditation of mostly wordless musical chants rose and fell with each lungful of air, ending in a soft cadence of body percussion.

Megan Beseth, Christine Hands, Sara Nelson, Tiffany Philpot,
Ashley Strickland and Cassie Walker of Core Project.
The artists of Core Project Chicago premiered Children, a work of amazing scale in five parts, incorporating six dancers and seven instrumentalists. Dancing solo at times, in pairs or in unison, the ensemble played off each other in episodes of kinetic development that spoke of friends and enemies, safety and experimentation, fidgeting, and flights of innocent discovery.

They used the entire space, including the floor beneath the orchestra while it was performing Child by David Lang, whose music provided a design of sound that struck the right balance between background and foreground. The same can be said for the lighting effects throughout: done so well that they weren't distinguishable from the rest of the performance.

Sara Sitzer
In the concert finale, five dancers costumed in black worked through the perspectives of Rehberg's Transient Views, set to the unaccompanied cello music of J.S. Bach performed by Sara Sitzer. The dance juxtaposed vertical with horizontal, order with accident, and direction with rotation in a counterpoint of expressions that dared us to focus on any one thing.

The concert ended with Sitzer's dramatically lit solo performance of an excerpt by Bach, reminding us that there is no music without movement, and no movement without creative impulse.

Shifting their roles from arts administrators to artists, Rehberg and Sitzer are using their professional depth and personal gravitational force to produce first-rate performances deserving of much larger audiences, and leading the way for an emerging arts culture in downtown Elgin.

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