To be the founder of a Dance Company requires a vivid balance, because it's a challenge that juxtaposes two kinds of artistic effort that are, if not explicitly contradictory, at least a little paradoxical. On the one hand, the undertaking would be unthinkable to anyone with less than a profoundly individual sense of motivation. Directing a Company is a daunting enterprise, and like any artistic beginning, it demands a compelling personal vision, a clear but always-unfinished visualization of art that should be created but hasn't been yet. But unlike the artist who approaches a blank canvas or an as-yet unwritten musical score, the individual who sets out to begin a Dance Company immediately embraces an unpredictable and unending series of challenges and limitations to their individual vision, because the process of Dance is inevitably so collaborative. Collaborative with the performers who must present a choreographer's composition, but just as importantly, in all of the logistical and financial challenges that come with funding, staging, and administration.
Margi Cole and her company The Dance COLEctive celebrate an impressive achievement with the fifteen year anniversary of the founding of the Company (January 20-22 at The Ruth Page Center for the Performing Arts), an occasion which offers an especially rich opportunity to experience The Dance COLEctive's unique balance of individual and collaborative imagination. As a choreographer, Cole can cover a wide expanse of texture and territory, and the show, which is titled "Balancing Act", opens with her second collaboration with choreographer Jeff Hancock. In a work entitled "Chocolate and Dynamite", Cole and Hancock (who also perform the work) create a duet that explores the expansion of movement vocabulary with theatricality, voice and text. Arriving at their collaboration from disparate experience sets, the two follow up their previous collaboration IMe, an ensemble work of very different proportions. Liz Burritt premieres a new work, "I", a stark journey through the experiences of five women, "falling into and out of themselves, weighing in on failure and being failed". The program includes two other works by Cole, "Maelstrom", performed by guest artists Menz Dance of New Trier High School, and "Pull Taut", a driving, tense ensemble work that features an original score by Philip Elson.
The unique dynamic of The Dance COLEctive is by no means an accident; it's the expression of a philosophy, the materializing of a vision, as expressed at their site dancecolective.com: "The Dance COLEctive aspires to challenge assumptions about how dance is presented..." Maybe more telling though is the specific declaration of how they do this --- through "cutting edge choreography" and "innovative collaborations". Considering the single-minded vision it takes to get an independent Dance Company through fifteen successful years, to do it all the while with an emphasis on collaboration must be quite a Balancing Act.