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Architectonic Dynamism: A Preview of Dropshift Dance’s “The Remains” at Defibrillator

By | Press

By Michael Workman

Humanoid, geometric forms shift against walls, foreshortening the perspective of long, narrow halls. People squeeze between them as they move from one room to the next, temporarily becoming part of the shapes and movement. It’s unsettling and oddly arousing, a satisfying shift in social conventions for how we interact with one another. The fourth in Dropshift Dance’s “Imposters” series, company artistic director Andrea Cerniglia has brought together a range of committed dancers with varying levels of experience, including Cerniglia, Weichiung Chen-Martinez, Jill Moshman and Ali Naranjo.

“The artists involved have been a part of my creative process for some time. Each collaborator has contributed to past ‘Imposter’ productions, and most I have worked with for at least two seasons or more,” Cerniglia says. “These creative relationships are integral to the work and its development, so that with each new production we can push the process further and we are continually working from a strong foundation of previous collaborations.”

In progress since September 2016, this installment, as with each past edition, is intended to respond site-specifically to the architectural features of the space in which it is performed. Defibrillator presents challenges: no Marley flooring, many raw spaces.

“The sprawling nature of the spaces allow for a journey—this is a new and exciting opportunity for my work,” Cerniglia explains. “It continues to question how we consume art by pushing past traditional formats and placing audience members and performers in situations that require thoughtful action and spontaneous choices and responses.” It will be interesting to see what elements of the gallery they choose to engage, not least of which due to Cerniglia’s tendency to have dancers wear large, padded costumes that modify the space within which her dancers operate. The clunky Franken-cushions, originally designed by Amanda Franck and modified with burlap and moss by Collin Bunting, provide yet another layer of architectonic dynamism that, at times, results in direct interactions with members of the audience. Rounding out the collaborative effort, Luke Gullickson provides soundscape design, Nadia Oussenko, video installation, and Richard Norwood, lighting design.

Dropshift Dance at Defibrillator Gallery, 1463 West Chicago, $20-$25, (773)609-1137 or dfbrl8r.org. Aug 16-18.

dropshift

Narrow basements and collisions with dancers in ‘The Remains’ at Defibrillator

By | Press

By Lauren Warnecke
Chicago Tribune
August 17, 2017

Wednesday’s heavy summer rain left the Chicago sidewalks steaming as guests filed into the new Defibrillator Gallery space in Noble Square, just a few blocks southwest of the gallery’s longtime home on Milwaukee Avenue. It was one of those rains that makes the city feel hot and gross — not the kind that refreshes and restores, or brings a cool breeze.

And so, instructed to explore any and all of the Defibrillator’s spaces for the opening of the Dropshift Dance quartet “The Remains,” a trip to the gallery’s musty, dimly lit basement only raised my internal body temperature. It was just light enough to see dancers Ali Naranjo and Jill Moshman tumbling across the dank concrete floor, lit by a few fixtures and the white glow of Nadia Oussenko’s hypnotizing video projected onto one of the small room’s bleak walls — the one that led to an amber-lit, brick-lined hallway. I observed that the dancers’ feet were filthy — it’s a basement, after all. Despite the invitation to go anywhere, the rest of my group and I lacked the courage to explore down that long, narrow hallway while Naranjo and Moshman’s tumbles frequently clogged up the entrance.

Venturing upstairs, I came to another mini-performance in progress. Weichiung Chen-Martinez and Andrea Cerniglia, tangled up in a massive, clumpy tuffet of pillows (by Amanda Franck), move slowly and methodically together until Chen-Martinez takes flight out of the mass of fluff, tossing herself in the air to land, and roll, and do it all again. The four dancers, dressed in costume designer Collin Bunting’s exquisite long, billowy black skirts and rust-trimmed collars that are, at intervals, hauntingly pulled over their heads like a half veil, eventually meet in the upstairs gallery space. It’s about 45 minutes into the evening, a notable transition to “the main event.”

Per usual, these dancers care little (and don’t appear to notice) if they bump into you. Like ghosts, they go about their business dancing exactly as prescribed, whether audience members have chosen to sit or stand in their way or not. They dance into, not around us. Of primary interest to Dropshift director and “Remains” choreographer Cerniglia is an investigation into whether and how audience members react to such collisions and interactions, a concept she’s been working with since 2014, when the first episode of her four-part Imposter Series “Imposter/Malleable” premiered. This latest, “The Remains,” follows suit, with viewers’ experiences of the dance totally dependent on where they choose to be.

Click Here to visit Original Link

Lauren Warnecke is a freelance critic.
Photo Credit: Nadia Oussenko

dropshift dance looks to the feminine for ‘FloatBrilliance’

By | Press

By on June 14, 2016

FloatBrilliance, premiering this weekend at Links Hall, is the third installment of what Artistic Director Andrea Cerniglia calls the Imposter Series, a multi-year project consuming at least half of her company’s history. In dropshift dance’s six seasons, Cerniglia’s aesthetic has gently, steadily pulled away from her roots in Zephyr Dance, but her commitment to multiple mediums with equal attention to the sonic, visual, and kinesthetic environments has never wavered.

Each of the works in the Imposter Series is a stand-alone entity, with little resemblance to the others. The common thread is all about the audience. When given free reign, what are the choices we make about interacting with performance? Are we willing to get close to it? Are we willing to let it happen around us and be observed by others with our bodies and behaviors becoming a part of work?

As with her other works, audience seating is unconventional, but FloatBrilliance imposes a few more guidelines. Guides will gently encourage audience members to sit very close to the performers at the start, though it feels less and less possible to remain close as the piece evolves. Compared to the others in the Imposter Series, FloatBrilliance is “softer and rounder,” said Cerniglia, but it’s also decidedly dancier with sweeping passes of physicality that will likely push audience members to the perimeters of the space.

Andrea Cerniglia and Weichiung Chen-Martinez in FloatBrilliance | Photo: Rosa Gaia
Andrea Cerniglia and Weichiung Chen-Martinez in FloatBrilliance | Photo: Rosa Gaia

References to nature abound, in the mossy knoll on which the four women in the piece both perch at attention and lounge, and complementary projection designs by Rosa Gaia and Jeremiah Jones. But this and the other elements — Cerniglia’s soft and round movement vocabulary, the underlying hum of composers Elliot Cless and Luke Gullickson’s score layered with conventional instrumentation and subtle electronica, and Collin Bunting’s flowing, blush colored costumes — allude more to the feminine mystique (or to Mother Nature herself?) than toward any sort of direct comment on trees and grass and butterflies. The eyes are often closed; when they open the women are coy, demure, at times skeptical. What arises from the dance is the sense that these four women (Cerniglia performs with Colleen Welch, Weichiung Chen-Martinez and Jill Moshman) support and console one another as sisters, but (like sisters) also question and challenge each other. Kind of like Cerniglia’s audience experiments, with agency comes accountability.

Click Here to Visit Original Link

FloatBrilliance premieres June 17-19 at Links Hall, 3111 N. Western Ave. All performances are at 7:00 pm. Tickets are $20-25, available at the door or online. Audience format is fluid, however persons with disabilities or impaired mobility will be accommodated.

Lauren Warnecke is a freelance dance critic based in Chicago, and a regular contributor to SeeChicagoDance.com, Windy City Times, and Chicago Magazine. Ms. Warnecke is the sole content creator of artintercepts.org, and has written for nationally reputed dance blogs such as Dance Advantage and 4Dancers. Ms. Warnecke has worked in the dance community as a dancer and choreographer, sound designer, production stage manager, and curator. An experienced educator and administrator, Ms. Warnecke holds degrees in dance (BA) and kinesiology (MS), and is a Certified Personal Trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine. Tweet her @artintercepts.

‘FloatBrilliance’ a thing of beauty but not a joy forever

By | Press

Laura Molzahn

By Laura Molzahn

You almost feel you’ve stumbled into a bridal situation, with yards of tulle draped here and there, flowers littering the perimeter of the space, many glittery surfaces, and four nymph/bridesmaids in long peach gowns, seated or lying in graceful repose, waiting.

Beauty marks Dropshift Dance’s new “FloatBrilliance,” which closes Sunday at Links Hall, beauty in the design and in the dancing. Gentle, patient, searching, it starts in psychology, in the wholeness of an individual or of a relationship, but veers into philosophy, embodying the principles of action and reaction, control and its loss, affection and antagonism. Consistently divided into duets, it suggests symbiotic relationships — which can be beneficial or destructive, and sometimes both at once.

Live and recorded ambient music by Elliot Cless and Luke Gullickson creates a sonic wash of various intensities and allusions: Though strings and piano can sometimes be heard, so can electronic simulations of what seems like a jet taking off and the sounds of water — rain, a wave crashing. Projections of a sunrise or sunset, of lightning flickering in darkness, of a watery surface dotted with boats appear now and again on a billowy, sparkly curtain.

At least, I think that’s what these images were. The audience was seated on cushions arrayed around three sides of the space, and I was at the far end of one side, very near but almost behind the settee/bed/altar that was the set’s focal point.

As directed by Andrea Cerniglia, the fluid, integrated movement of “FloatBrilliance” intentionally blurs the line between volition and passivity. For many minutes early on, Jill Moshman and Colleen Welch sit side by side facing into a corner, their drooping heads relaxed together; from a perspective far behind them, a footlight burning into their faces created a glow. A slight motion, perceptibly initiated by neither, eventually turns into rocking, a pendulum.

Meanwhile the focus is on Cerniglia and Weichiung Chen-Martinez, who form a riveting relationship with each other and, rarely, with the audience. Intimacy, trust, care — each closes her eyes at points to be manipulated by the other — come across most forcefully, but there’s also something impersonal, even antagonistic, about their interactions. As Cerniglia repeats the motion of crooking an elbow and flicking a hand, Chen-Martinez watches like a cat about to pounce, aiming to interfere with or control the movement.

About midway through “FloatBrilliance,” Moshman and Welch begin their more kinetic but less intense duet; it’s as if all the movement dissipated feeling. At this point my attention began to flag, except during an almost comical musical-chairs sequence on the settee for all four dancers, with gestures traveling from one to another person: gazing into a palm as if into a mirror, fists brought to the mouth in mock horror.

“FloatBrilliance” is exceptionally well made, knitting together all the symbiotic nuances of relationship, whether between two people or between parts of the self. But it begins to feel airless, even claustrophobic. Like a 19th century, well-made play, it is a closed system. Actions become predictable; the long, slow, inevitable finale, which brings the work full circle, is a slog. It doesn’t help that the audience is asked to sit on the floor for nearly an hour and a half. That would detract from anyone’s experience, anytime.

Click Here to Visit the Original Link

Laura Molzahn is a freelance critic.

Dropshift Dance / “FloatBrilliance” – 3 STARS

When: 7 p.m. Sunday

Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Where: Links Hall, 3111 N. Western Ave.

Freelance contributor Laura Molzahn has written about dance for 25 years at publications including the Chicago Tribune, Dance Magazine and the Chicago Reader. A native Minnesotan, she attended Carleton College, UIC and Northwestern University, where she earned a doctorate in English. She tells herself she likes the challenge of verbalizing nonverbal art forms.

Sensory Immersion – A Preview of FloatBrilliance

By | Press

RECOMMENDED

Third in the critically lauded Imposter series from Andrea Cerniglia and her group dropshift dance, “FloatBrilliance” bows at Links Hall this weekend. Much effort goes into producing the immersive performance environment from the video installations of Rosa Gaia and Jeremiah Jones, whose work Jones describes as “experimental documentary.” Simultaneously sculpture and environment, the projections unify the various other set elements, including a “flowing river of fabric that hangs overhead, leading to a shimmering screen. Islandesque, rocky surfaces on the ground function as seating and stage, screen and structure.” Music composed by Luke Gullickson and Elliot Cless will set the pace and frame out sequences within the performance using “folk-inspired acoustic instrumentals, lo-fi electronica and environmental sounds,” with performers outfitted for the environment by celebrated local designer Collin Bunting. And, as with past installments in the series, the audience integration remains central to its overall design, with dancers often moving in close proximity to attendees, at times even interacting directly, guiding them throughout the environment. “I would describe it as immersive and textural rather than ‘interactive,’” explains Cerniglia, commenting on the expected limits of the audience involvement in the production, in which she will dance alongside Weichiung (Coco) Chen-Martinez, Jill Moshman and Colleen Welch. This one’s a must-see. (Michael Workman)

FloatBrilliance at Links Hall, 3111 North Western, (773)281-0824. Friday-Sunday, June 17-19 at 7pm. $20-$25. Tickets at linkshall.ticketfly.com/event/1134369-dropshift-dance-chicago.

Photo Credit: Weighing (Coco) Chen-Martinez and Andrea Cerniglia: Rose Gaia

dropshift dance’s dream team (review)

By | Press

June 1, 2015 – Art Intercepts

In her fifth season as an Artistic Director, Andrea Cerniglia continues to “go big or go home.” As a 21st Century Diaghilev of sorts, Cerniglia has called on some of the best collaborators in the business for the creation of Imposter/Contained, continuing a series that began last year with Imposter/Malleable.

As with the first, this Imposter is an immersive installation full of eye candy. The audience is given instructions to wander and move about the space as we wish, choosing our vantage point within the three-dimensional dance space. We must make decisions about where to stand and, once we decide, what to look at, because things are happening all around us. The choices we make have a direct influence on what we experience and how we interact with the work, or don’t. As the evening progresses, the impact of our decisions as viewers became quite clear.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Coming into a dropshift show is a bit like entering a museum. We wander and pause, wander and pause, sip our drinks and then wander some more. Three women are strewn about the room (Cerniglia, Colleen Welch, and Julie Brannen) surrounded by an intricate set and video installation by Rosa Gaia Saunders and Jeremiah Jones. On the risers of Links Hall’s white space are two projection surfaces on easels, and the fourth performer, Weichiung Chen, with heavy black makeup and a gorgeous, ruffled, low-backed gown. Per usual, Cerniglia has created a quartet of women, however Chen never leaves her post. She is a dance within a dance that, even by the end, does not interact with anything or anyone else. When I took the time to gaze at her and away from the trio, it was all loveliness and intrigue, but did little to enhance the work as a whole.

In the main performance area, Saunders and Jones’ seemingly unstable wooden jungle gym is embedded with triangular projection screens. Christopher Fisher-Lochhead’s piano score is played from within a translucent triangular room built into the space. The environment is a balance of natural and unnatural materials, warms and cools, beautifully complimented by Richard Norwood’s lighting and Collin Bunting’s exquisite costumes – a patchwork of alternating stiff and soft fabrics in gray and mauve tones. It is a perfect blend of mediums, however Cerniglia’s desire to create cross-disciplinary, multi-media work doesn’t distract from the fact that dance is her home. Unlike performance artists who incorporate movement into their work, Cerniglia’s work clearly rises out of dance. Her dancers are crisp, clean, and technically sound (Welch and Brannen have never looked stronger).

Cerniglia is really good at waiting. Waiting to start, waiting to finish the idea, finding the right spot to change, move, arc, etc. This Imposter is less playful than the last; the score and the dance are screaming for a major chord so we can feel some sort of resolution. The performance simply fades out – the performers didn’t even emerge for a bow. It’s a resolution we never get, and maybe that’s the point. Though the work has moments of levity to break up the ominous tone, one wonders if these moments are provided by us, the audience, and vary from night to night. I mentioned that our choices mattered, and on this particular evening (Friday), the dancers found themselves sandwiched between audience members for a particularly cheeky section of gestures. Coincidentally, Cerniglia was squeezed in between her former Zephyr Dance coworkers Michelle Kranicke and Anne Kasdorf, who both gazed up at her with coquettish smiles. They are perhaps the only two audience members who might have been willing to live in that uncomfortable space for so long; others ran for the hills when they saw the dancers approaching. This gestural section dissolved into an intentional, contagious case of the giggles as the dance descended toward its end. I have no idea what Imposter/Contained is about. It feels neither deceitful nor contained. It is beautiful and frustrating. I loved it, but I can’t identify why.

Oh, art.

Click Here to Visit the Original Link

By Lauren Warnecke

Lauren Warnecke is a freelance dance critic based in Chicago, and a regular contributor to SeeChicagoDance.com, Windy City Times, and Chicago Magazine. Ms. Warnecke is the sole content creator of artintercepts.org, and has written for nationally reputed dance blogs such as Dance Advantage and 4Dancers. Ms. Warnecke has worked in the dance community as a dancer and choreographer, sound designer, production stage manager, and curator. An experienced educator and administrator, Ms. Warnecke holds degrees in dance (BA) and kinesiology (MS), and is a Certified Personal Trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine. Tweet her @artintercepts.

 

Dancers and audience are free to roam in ingenious offering

By | Press

Imagine you’re wandering around an art gallery—and all the art is moving too: changing places around the room, shifting composition within works. At times you feel you’re the one hanging on the wall, and the art is looking at you.

That’s something like the experience of viewing Dropshift Dance’s ingenious, immersive “Imposter/Contained” (third in a series), running at Links Hall through Sunday in celebration of Dropshift’s fifth anniversary.

Multiple containers define the stunning set, by Jeremiah Jones and Rosa Gaia Saunders. A translucent box encloses the barely visible pianist-composer, Christopher Fisher-Lochhead. The audience risers, stripped of their chairs, entrap a performer (Weichiung Chen) who wanders her keep like the mad Lady Macbeth. Huge canvases contain video “paintings,” while a towering wooden frame near one wall encloses whatever is visible through it. If it fell forward onto the floor, it would define the “stage.”

But director Andrea Cerniglia’s point seems to be that artistic containers of all kinds are artificial, limiting.

Unlike the trapped Lady Macbeth, the other three dancers (Cerniglia, Julie Brannen and Colleen Welch) are free to roam the space. So are we: Audiences can roam at will, or sit. That means we become part of the performance—and often these accidental additions are among the work’s most beautiful moments: the man sharing the spotlight with Lady Macbeth, watching her; the tall woman peering up into the forest canopy of splintered wooden sculptures. Fisher-Lochhead’s repetitive yet varied music—it can sound like a march, meandering cool jazz, a tragic symphony—provides most of the structure, introducing new sections and moods. The movement alternates between poised stillness and frenetic momentum, between effort and collapse, as the dancers come increasingly into relationship with one another, and with us.

One after the other, the three dancers slammed into the wall I leaned against, inches away. Or danced, arrayed front to back at varying distances from my face: A foot away, four feet away, 10 feet away, they made for a dizzying perspective, as if I’d been dropped into a photograph.

Such moments thrill, but the constant energy required to try and get our theatrical bearings can be wearing, while all the existential wandering contributes to a lack of direction and sense of purpose. Though power structures, the ostensible subject, can sometimes be glimpsed in the dancing or sensed in the topsy-turvy audience-performer relationship, ultimately no particular point of view emerges.

More thematic structure—and at the same time more emotional lability, like that of the cooing, chortling baby in the audience—might have benefited the challenging balance of limits and freedom in “Contained.”

DANCE REVIEW: Dropshift’s ‘Imposter/Contained’
3 STARS
Laura Molzahn is a freelance critic.
ctc-arts@tribpub.com
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, 6:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Links Hall, 3111 N. Western Ave.
Running time: 90 minutes
Tickets: $20-$35 at 773-281-0824 or linkshall.ticketfly.com

Click Here to Visit the Original Link

dropshift dance aims to immerse and interact, and wins (review)

By | Press

Upon first glance, one might consider Andrea Cerniglia’s four woman troupe dropshift dance (intentionally uncapitalized) to be a spin off of Zephyr Dance. Cerniglia is a long time dancer/collaborator with Zephyr, and the influences of Michelle Kranicke (and formerly Emily Stein too) are undeniable. Yet there is something very different about this four woman company that distinguishes it from Zephyr (another four woman company). Cerniglia has smartly created her company by capitalizing on her lineage with Zephyr and simultaneously branching out on her own. In the end, she stands apart from her history, and her latest work Imposter/Malleable, ironically stands apart from anything else I’ve seen her create.

Showing at Links Hall this weekend, Imposter/Malleable is set up like an art installation; the audience is instructed to sit and view from wherever we like, to come and go as we please. Playing with audience orientation isn’t new, and personally I rarely engage in these sorts of invitations (particularly because I’m toting a big yellow notebook). In this case, I wish I had. My only complaint with Imposter/Malleable at a length of 90 minutes, is the sheer amount of stamina it takes to get through it. Had I done as the program suggested… gotten up, stretched my legs, refilled my wine glass, and returned refreshed, I might not have been so anxious for an ending. Cerniglia, on the other hand, shows dedicated patience, and had I made another choice this could have proven exceedingly satisfying.

Cerniglia has a clear hold on a genre that is weird. And beautiful. And weird beautiful. And beautifully weird. Her sometimes playful / sometimes alluring assortment of phrases, gestures, and scenes are paid compliment to by Richard Norwood’s exquisite lighting and intricate costuming, props and set from Amanda Lee Franck. Never has such an immersive environment been created within Links Hall’s four white walls, at least in my experience, and that’s in large part to Norwood’s sensibility (and, perhaps his personal inventory of additional lighting equipment).

The dancers (Cerniglia with Julie Brannen, Weichung Chen, and Colleen Welch) are wildly committed to this strange world – un-phased by shifting audience members. They twist and contort their faces into exaggerated expressions and fearlessly stare us straight in the eyes.  Also supporting the effort is musician Chris Fisher-Lochhead, who occasionally creeps from his audio table to assume the roll of a viola-playing minstrel. He is sometimes alone, sometimes with dancers, sometimes accompanied by recorded sound, and always a compelling addition to the highly feminine mystique of the work. Throughout Imposter/Malleable,  the audience members are concurrently witnesses and participants on a journey that, I think, we aren’t really meant to understand. The program instructed me to design my own experience, and in this case, I chose to sit with total immersion and lack of understanding; what an interesting and uncomfortable place to be.

dropshift dance presents Imposter/Malleable continues through Sunday at 7pm at Links Hall (3111 N. Western). Tickets are $18/20 available at the door and online.

Click Here to Visit the Original Link

By Lauren Warnecke

Lauren Warnecke is a freelance dance critic based in Chicago, and a regular contributor to SeeChicagoDance.com, Windy City Times, and Chicago Magazine. Ms. Warnecke is the sole content creator of artintercepts.org, and has written for nationally reputed dance blogs such as Dance Advantage and 4Dancers. Ms. Warnecke has worked in the dance community as a dancer and choreographer, sound designer, production stage manager, and curator. An experienced educator and administrator, Ms. Warnecke holds degrees in dance (BA) and kinesiology (MS), and is a Certified Personal Trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine. Tweet her @artintercepts.