On an industrial strip of Rockwell just off Elston, beyond a white door with numbers painted in red, past a makeshift bar, through a dark curtain lies a white brick room filled with smoke. Through the haze, folding chairs line each wall, leaving bare an expanse of concrete, above which soar long sheets of white fabric. Long prisms of light slice across the space, confining the darkness, opening angular apertures for action.
Every seat in the house has a front-row view of Visceral Dance Chicago’s TAKE, with choreography by founder and artistic director Nick Pupillo, lighting by David Goodman-Edberg, costumes by Moriah Turner, and sound design by Johnny Nevin.
Through 5/22: Fri-Sat 8 PM, Sun 2 PM, also Thu 5/19, 8 PM; Visceral Dance Center, 3121 N. Rockwell, 773-772-1771, visceraldance.com, $40-$60.
First to enter is Meredith Harrill, whose commanding presence focuses attention to the center of the space, then opens the floor for the rest to follow as if storming a runway, in costumes that are simultaneously futuristic and retro, Jean Paul Gaultier-meets-The-Matrix. The mood is aggressively energetic, the movement throughout a dazzling display of flawless technique in episodes dramatically and spatially partitioned by shifts in the light.
The light drives the story: in a blistering solo, Andres Castillo Gomez is pulled by its force—then, immediately following, Meagan Cubides is pushed in all directions by a bright beam wheeled around her and across the floor by Brandon Talbott. Duets and trios materialize within bright polygons defined by their contrast with the darkness surrounding. From their geometric masses, Michelle Meltzer is lifted up and passed from hand to hand, peering down from the air like an exquisite extraterrestrial. The company clusters in a corner, shadows looming out the length of the long diagonal, throwing patterns far larger than humans can reach on the floor.
For all our proximity, the dancers stare stoically above our heads and hardly seem to make eye contact with each other; the effect makes viewers into voyeurs, almost close enough to touch but never to really make contact. Until, abruptly, on a single count the focus shifts: the dancers gaze upon us, arms outstretched, commanding us from our chairs. We are drawn into the center of the space, then abandoned there for a serenade by a single string player, Nicole Watson, who paces through the maze of bodies playing a simple melody.
The dancers return, hoods pulled down over their eyes, marching like warriors to an unseen enemy. The hoods fall, exposing faces and trembling hands. Then, with the light, the space changes again, brightening and expanding to the walls beyond, upon which supported dancers delicately step, as if discovering a new gravity—and by extension the audience, which is now within the confines of this new border. We are invited to join them in a last joyous dance as white petals fall from above.