In the mad scene in Akram Khan’s Giselle for the English National Ballet at the Harris Theater, the corps de ballet encircles the title character just after she has discovered that the man she loves is betrothed to another. They clasp arms and huddle about her, pulsing like a heartbeat. They lift her, and she seems to float above a billowing skirt before she drops back down into an ocean that overwhelms, soaks, and submerges her. They swirl, hunchbacked and abstracted, hiding and revealing her, sometimes making the image of hive or a home, other times a herd or a school of fish. They swarm, leaping into the air, a stampede. This moment encapsulates the work of theater: individual feeling amplified and understood through a community.
In Porchlight’s A Chorus Line, dancers wear the most unforgiving of costumes (shiny, synthetic, skintight), giving voice to what no audition or audience ever wants to know about the mass of moving figures behind the star: who these artists are and why they dance.
In The Quiet Hours, dancers smear their skin across the mirror at Dovetail, fogging the glass with sweat and skin cells, sending a frisson of horror down the spine of anyone who has ever cleaned a studio to get free classes. But what an image: bringing the residue of the living body into plain sight, complicating the idea that playing holds a mirror up to nature, as the mirror reveals an aspect of mortality at the same time that the image of it gets distorted. (Work-studies can breathe: they cleaned after themselves.)
One dancer sits outside the circle during Lucky Plush’s Rink Life, trying to find her “happy place” apart from the jingoistic singsong of the group—individuality at last achieved by a refusal to act.
The bright buzz of a forest of LEDs combined with dancers in Visceral Dance Chicago’s Synapse to show a vision of networked humans, part machine.
Bodies told stories more forcefully than words in Court Theatre’s Oedipus Rex, Bronks’s Us/Them at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and Lookingglass’s The Steadfast Tin Soldier.
Throughout the year, choreographers danced for each other in peer-led gatherings hosted by The Field, Break Free, DanceWorks Chicago, Jello, Chicago Dancemakers Forum, and others. Dancers taught dance, yoga, and Pilates, poured coffee and wine, brought your omelet, gave you a massage, and took your picture. Dance is a living art created on and by bodies living in the world—never alone. v