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

By Archived 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.

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By Lauren Warnecke

Lauren Warnecke is a freelance dance critic based in Chicago, and a regular contributor to, Windy City Times, and Chicago Magazine. Ms. Warnecke is the sole content creator of, 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.

Last Minute Plans: I Am Logan Square Gallery Presents New Exhibit, Memento

By Archived Press

This evening, I am Logan Square presents a new exhibit entitled Memento. Visual artist Ashley Sullivan and dance film artist Nadia Oussenko have collaborated with dropshift dance to create an exhibit that, in the words of artistic director Andrea Cerniglia, “explores themes of memory distortion, perception, and recall, translated through the mediums of movement, short film vignettes, and graphic screen print design as well as painting on paper and canvas.”

Dropshift dance has received critical acclaim from TimeOut Chicago, who described the modern dance group as “enchanting and graceful.” The Chicago Reader called their work “serene and provocative.” Filmmaker Nadia Oussenko is also a trained choreographer, which gives her a unique perspective into the world of dance.”My artistry comes together in dance for the camera. I am fascinated with movement within the camera frame, and the relationship that the moving subject has with a moving camera. Using the medium of film, I provide a visceral experience for the viewers, direct the viewers’ attention and draw them into closer proximity and greater intimacy with the dancing body,” says Oussenko of her work. Artist Ashley Sullivan works in a variety of mediums, from prints to painting to jewelry. You can find her work on Etsy and at Sacred Art.

The combination of dance, film, and visual art promises to be a unique and mesmerizing evening. The opening runs 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. tonight at I Am Logan Square Gallery (2644 North Milwaukee Ave.). The work will include performances consisting of solo and duet vignettes. There will also be pop-up performances throughout the month on Dec. 8 from 2-4 p.m. and on Dec. 12, 14, 17, and 19 from 5-7 p.m.

Contact the author of this article or email with further questions, comments or tips.

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By Julia Weeman

Rogue Ballerina – dropshift dance explores memory through movement

By Archived Press

What is a memento? How do you define that? How does your perception change when you get further away from the source? These are some of the questions “artistic architect” and dancer Andrea Cerniglia asks in Catch and Release presented this weekend at The Hairpin Arts Center. In this new program, her company, dropshift dance, explores memory perception and recall by creating an interactive performance experience with dancers, roving musicians and textile artwork. The goal is to create a balance between the three disciplines, while letting the audience decide how they view the show.

This non-traditional platform altering how and what the audience sees by letting them control the watch time and viewpoint is something she’s been experimenting with recently during her ninth season with Zephyr Dance. Although she’s been with the local company since 2004, after stints with RTG Dance and Chicago Moving Company, Cerniglia, 32, started presenting her own work in 2010. “I have a point of view and to develop that, I have to produce my own work”, she said. “It was a gradual process, but it was the next logical step.” As director, or architect, she wears many hats, but is learning and growing in the process. An example is the much-dreaded deed of grant writing. “It’s tedious, but a necessary evil,” said Cerniglia. “You do so many edits that it forces you to be more articulate. I’ve learned a lot about myself and became a better writer.”

Along with Cerniglia in Catch and Release will be three dancers, musicians Weldon Anderson (double bass) and Bob Kessler (harmonica, acoustic and electronic loopers), moving through textiles/sets by artist Ashley Sullivan with costumes (and set consultation) by Heiki Dakter. “The way that the performance space is set up will allow the viewer to literally be caught in one moment, while having the opportunity to release themselves and go view something else,” she says. “At times, the audience will have to choose how long to stay with a certain part of the performance as overlap may suggest that they leave one part of the space to go see another.”

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Preview: Dropshift Dance, Catch and Release

By Archived Press

Andrea Cerniglia, artistic director of three-year-old Dropshift Dance, says that in her new evening-length Catch and Release she was curious “how to design the piece and arrange the dancers so that the audience would explore the center of the space, and go near the set pieces.” That led her to an explode/contract structure over the show’s two hours. “Sprawling” sections covering the entire room — the brisk ones threatening collisions with audience members, who’re invited to roam at will — alternate with more contained stretches that split up the four dancers and place them at one or another of the room’s three “resting place” installations.

Running Friday through Sunday, November 9-11, at the Hairpin Arts Center, Cerniglia’s piece will be set in a second-floor room shaped like a slice of pie, with windows covering the two long sides. “Light from the outside will bleed in,” she says. “The room’s like a blank canvas that takes on whatever’s installed there.” She asked lighting designer Richard Norwood to “keep in mind the set pieces and textiles” of Ashley Sullivan’s screen-print or hand-painted textiles, but the dancing “can happen outside the lit area.”

“It was important to me how the design would connect one space to the next,” says Cerniglia. “And how the set pieces would connect to the rest of the negative space. I wanted something balanced, with a through line of shapes or elements.” The gentle, subtle Catch and Release had its beginning in ideas of memento and family history. “Earlier I’d worked on investigating identity, which naturally involves where you come from,” says Cerniglia. “And the older you get, the more you accumulate and acquire. But a memento doesn’t have to be tangible, it’s a wide-open subject — that’s why I was drawn to it. Each person in the process had a very different idea of what a memento was.”

The motif of whispering emerges and re-emerges. “That just came out of us communicating with each other, the transfer of information, story, memento,” says Cerniglia. “But I worked hard to develop it into something a little kooky and offbeat.”

Musicians Weldon Anderson and Bob Kessler will wander the space, playing live, alternating with a sound design that includes a manipulated version of Johnny Cash’s “The Ways of a Woman in Love.” Heidi Dakter’s costumes are reminiscent of Japanese kimonos — unintentional, but Cerniglia likes their “formality.” Sullivan’s designs include unrecognizable words. The dancers are Cerniglia, her fellow Zephyr performer Colleen Welch, and two talented newcomers to Chicago, Chelsea Harkelroad and Weichiung “Coco” Chen.

Cerniglia’s project recalls Michelle Kranicke’s three-hour Allowances and Occurrences for Zephyr Dance at Defibrillator earlier this fall. How does Cerniglia compare her piece with Kranicke’s?

“There is some overlap,” Cerniglia says. “They’re related by the desire to give the audience variable experiences. The textile installations are the main difference — there aren’t a lot of heavy pieces, the set is lightweight. I wanted to get people close to these pieces, blow them apart in the space. I wanted to create a situation with multiple things happening at the same time. With Zephyr, the experience was sequential. Here, I wanted there to be something audible that the audience couldn’t see, so that they might leave one thing to watch another.”

“I wanted to provide viewers the ability to make choices. Basically, it’s Choose Your Own Adventure — in dance!”
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Andrea Cerniglia

Andrea Cerniglia is on her way

By Archived Press

It was just a year ago that Zephyr Dance member Andrea Cerniglia debuted her own company, Dropshift Dance. But this young choreographer already shows a rare confidence and self-possession—qualities she seems to have passed along to her performers. Dropshift’s “Push: New and Revisited Works” features a 45-minute premiere, Becoming, that opens with Cerniglia dancing an authoritative solo in a big, open performance area. But the focus soon shifts to a raised stage behind her, where four other dancers lie face down. One by one they begin a long, methodical approach to the audience, using a single repeated, hypnotic motion: still on their bellies, they flip up their hands, hoist their bottoms, then arch their necks and chests up—and scoot forward. Ever so slightly. They look like dolphins slo-mo surfing through waves. Eventually the four attain the apron of the stage, slide down from it, join Cerniglia, and begin to explore portraiture in movement. At once serene and provocative, Becomingmarks Cerniglia as a talent. A duet from last year, Mine, Yours, opens the program.
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Drop Shift Dance: Live review

By Archived Press

To compare dance with food—which I’m allowed, now that I no longer write for a publication that forbids it categorically—Zephyr Dance member Andrea Cerniglia’s choreography brings to mind Julia Kramer’s TOC review of Arami, especially the following sentence, which I’ve updated accordingly:

His Her presentations of raw fish spatial studies employ simple visual elements — a seashell, a precious flowerplays on opposites, formal rigor—to construct plates dances that are enchanting and graceful. And when he she goes beyond properly sourcing and cutting the obvious influence of Zephyr’s style, he she does so with sophisticated ease.”

Cerniglia launched a new group, Drop Shift Dance, last night with “In Between Ourselves,” a brief collection of premieres repeating tonight and Saturday 11. It’s billed as five pieces, but really, it’s two sets of pairs and a longer trio. Duets mine, yours and our run back-to-back, linked by a crossing of paths, as do light beneath my skin I and II, solos danced by Cerniglia and Nicole Scatchell, respectively. Trio undertow, for those two and Allyson Esposito, closes out a tidy hour.

Cerniglia doesn’t throw a whole lot of ideas at us, unusual for a choreographer’s first time out. There’s a restraint to how she’s testing the waters of her dancemaking skill, echoed by her titles’ total avoidance of uppercase letters.

The pair of duets is cleanly about opposites. To a spare violin-and-double bass score “produced and arranged” by Jamie Topper (musicians Ronnie Kuller and Weldon Anderson are credited, but there’s no composer designation), the two who dance mine, yours spend all but their final moments on the floor, sharing the same “front,” and executing cooperative tasks like a tricky little balancing of feet on feet. In our, a different pair begin by striding around the floor in perpendicular patterns and dancing phrases that are set 180 degrees to one another. Right matches right and left matches left—they’re not mirror images. So in both cases, the dances also contradict their titles, a satisfying garnish.

The solos that follow, to piano and electronics by German duo Swod, focus on color (purple and green in I, red and white in II, both beautifully lit by Rich Norwood) and two motifs: the grand presentation of a forearm, and the holding of one hip with both hands. Cerniglia, in the first iteration, looks confident and pleased, but muted; in the second, Scatchell’s eyes begin closed, then open and dart around the room, occasionally at us in the audience. (In a note, Cerniglia says the works are dedicated to her grandmother, “who remembered to always have a special twinkle in her eye.”) Scatchell repeats actions in various parts of the room, as though doing the right thing in the right spot at the right moment will unlock some cosmic door. She looks neither confident nor pleased. Again, different tones that play off each other, but subtly so. As with good sushi, the primary flavors are balanced.

undertow “tastes” somewhat off in comparison. The three begin by drifting in their own worlds, but fall into unison as though scooped out of water in the same giant net. (Norwood’s stagecraft is again an effective wrapper for the proceedings: Initially quarantined in separate boxes of light, the dancers’ containers disappear in unison with the appearance of unison.) During a central section, their weaving, crisscrossing patterns are walked, run and sort-of-speed-skated backward; I imagined these women were trying to untangle an enormous, invisible knot. In the show’s only use of text, they periodically speak numbers in turn. There’s a slight, building dissonance that suggests danger, but I can’t imagine being swept away in a more politely abstract manner.

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