In her new work "Jiffy Pop", Jacqueline Stewart delves into a concept called "the gaze", which the web site Art and Popular Culture explains this way: "The concept of gaze ... in analysing visual culture is one that deals with how an audience views the people presented." More ominous, and more in line with Stewart's vision in "Jiffy Pop" is the Wikipedia article on "the gaze", which discusses how "the subject's autonomy is brought into question by the projection of her 'identity' on to an exterior object". If that sounds esoteric, wait until you see "Jiffy Pop", where Stewart propels her audience into a front-of-the-roller-coaster ride through the the image-obsessed madness of modern media culture.
Joshua Manculich began planning this work several years ago, building it out of a repeated awareness of how opposing forces in every life bind an individual, limit an individual, prevent an individual from breaking out of -- something. Could be anything, and in everybody's experience, it's many different things, which is why the title leaves both parts of the opposition blank. The essential idea is of determination and endeavor --- because Manculich is more concerned with what a person does about breaking free than he is with the specific challenge that binds them. In doing so, he also identifies one of the unique qualities of choreography among the arts. A painting of this subject, and there are many, would have to be deeply abstract, like music, or else literal and specific, like writing. But in voicing this study in the movements of ten dancers on a stage that is emblematic of their challenge, Manculich's choreography can remain focused while still being inclusive of all similar challenges.
Sharon Joyce Kung, whose new choreographic work “Just Before Now” will premiere this July at New Dances 2010, had an intriguing concept for this piece. In part inspired by the recent passing of her grandfather, and in part by the remarkable life journey of his mother (her maternal great grandmother), Kung wanted to explore some of the rich philosophical ideas of her heritage. Her great-grandmother struggled heroically to bring a young family (including her grandfather) safely out of the chaos of the Japanese invasion of China, settling finally in Hong Kong. Having a clear concept in mind is a great start, but to communicate that concept to those who must make the work with you while you yourself are still working out how to express your vision --- that can be a challenge. In Kung’s case it may have been even more complicated. When a subject is as rich as this, to express that concept in movement requires a delicate balance of commitment and flexibility.
JMT/JLS, the evening of choreography by Jessica Miller Tomlinson and Jacqueline Stewart, is one of those shows that’s really too good to miss. It runs one more night (Saturday, June 5 at 8PM) at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, and if there’s any way you can get to it, do. There aren’t too many other places where you could see such a wide-ranging selection of really imaginative work. It includes compelling ensemble pieces like Jaqueline Stewart’s “Re-directing Fear” and Jessica Miller Tomlinson’s “Let Me In”, a pair of mesmerizing duets (Tomlinson’s “Crimes D’Amour in the first act, Stewart’s “It’s Not Enough To Close Your Eyes" in the second), and five other intricately imagined and superbly executed works: “Aurora”, a solo danced by Cara Sabin, Stewart’s “Nice Women Don’t Crave Disaster”, Tomlinson’s “Forget What You Came For?”, Stewart’s “E-ffect”, and Tomlinson’s “Die Lieder Tanzen”.
Nathan Tomlinson is one of the most prolific performers in Chicago dance, but he’s only on stage before and after the shows. This Friday and Saturday, he’ll be on stage for the JMT/JLS programs at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts --- not in person during the performances, but in his multidimensional roles of lighting designer, technical director, and just-make-sure-everything-goes-right manager.
Tomlinson is especially respected for his dynamically innovative lighting designs. He is the Resident Lighting Designer and Technical Director for Thodos Dance Chicago and he also works extensively with independent choreographers (including Jessica Miller Tomlinson and Jacqueline Stewart at JMT/JLS). He can also be found in technical fields far from Dance, like lighting the City of Chicago’s annual Michigan Avenue Christmas Display. It’s not surprising that someone with the technical expertise to light dozens of the most high-priced city blocks in the world finds it easy to invent, innovate and explore new ideas in production lighting.
Extensions Dance Company’s 2010 showcase, which took place Saturday at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, was not only a great concert, it was in many ways a unique experience, the kind of experience that can be difficult to place in a specific category. It was a Dance Concert in the traditional sense, a presentation of dance pieces that each featured excellent performance and inspired design, and that flowed convincingly from one to another. It was also very much a showcase; the program provided an in-depth presentation of the abilities and accomplishments of the Company dancers, both individually and in ensemble works. It was also a celebration of the fifth anniversary of Extensions Dance, a celebration of a remarkably successful season for the Company, and a celebration of the contributions of two Extensions performers, Miranda Borkan and Natalie Pearson, both of whom will attend the prestigious Alvin Ailey / Fordham University partnership program in New York.
‘ohana Dreamdance’s “Time Now Choreography Mixes” release features both of the tracks composed for choreographer Lizzie MacKenzie. The full original score is the Time Now MacKenzie Choreography Mix; it’s an arrangement of the two original tracks “Time Now” and “Some Time” that ‘ohana Dreamdance producers Dan Agosto and Johnny Nevin wrote for the Extensions Dance Company performance. Besides the Choreography mix and the two original tracks, the release includes a four minute Piano-only version, which is now available as a free download from All Over The Place Records distributor IODA (the Independent Online Digital Alliance).
IODA runs a service called Promonet. It provides access to sample tracks from many IODA distributed labels, and makes them available to bloggers and review sites, as well as to IODA distributed labels, like All Over The Place.
The download is coming from IODA Promonet, and the link is pasteable into a lot of different social media locations: by all means copy any of the links (but especially the free download link) as much as you wantl. (In Windows, right-click, on a Mac, Control-click the icon and Copy Link. Here it is:
Extensions Dance presents its 2010 Showcase this May 29 at 6:30 PM at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts. It marks the completion of an exceptionally successful year for the Company, including most recently an astonishing set of awards at the American Dance Association Chicago Regional.
Jacqueline Stewart’s choreography has an unusual depth, an edgy complexity that can be difficult to describe. It’s as if her work conveys some of the dimensions of multi-media productions, even without the presence of explicit multi-media elements. In fact, she is proficient in a variety of different media; she integrates her own video production, graphic arts and photography into a variety of projects, including the promotional developtment for JMT/JLS, her collaboration with Jessica Miller Tomlinson. (JMT/JLS
happens June 4th and 5th at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts in Chicago.) Even when her work does not include multi-media elements, you can almost see this perspective in things like her inventive sense of balance-in-movement, or in the intriguingly creative titles for her choreographic works.
Extensions Dance, the Company founded and directed by Lizzie MacKenzie for exceptionally dedicated young dancers, would be what is normally referred to as a “preprofessional company” -- I think I’ve used that term in an earlier article, and it’s certainly accurate. None of these dancers are professional in the dictionary sense, where the most basic definition of “professional” means “to be compensated monetarily for work performed.” The term “preprofessional” actually has a very positive implication in the dance world, because it implies a level of commitment and ability in the company members that is characteristic of someone who will dance professionally.
I went to see Extensions Dance at the American Dance Awards competition at Governors State University last Saturday, and I’ve never seen a more professional demonstration (although that’s true every time I see this company anywhere, in rehearsal or in performance).