Electric Visceral Dance Chicago “SPRINGFOUR” @ Harris Theater

Dance Review by Rebecca Curl

4 out of 4 stars

Visceral Dance Chicago has returned for their third mainstage Chicago performance of their fourth season with their incredibly electric and visually stirring SPRINGFOUR.  As always, Visceral Dance Chicago’s immense creativity and breathtaking talent filled the stage, creating an evening of artistic brilliance.  Founder and Artistic Director, Nick Pupillo, continues to share his unique visions with the Chicago arts community, and with each performance, his company solidifies their place of importance in our city.  

SPRINGFOUR included one of the company’s most striking pieces, Atlas (choreographed by Nick Pupillo).  Atlas presents the audience with a view of the difficulties we often face in our daily lives.  This work revolves around “the weight of the heavens upon one’s shoulders,” and highlights the ability we have to find beauty in even the most complicated of times.  Atlas teaches us that even though we may have a complex range of expectations and responsibilities constantly looming over us, it is still possible to fulfill our needs while remaining true to ourselves.  There is beauty in working towards that which we are passionate about it, and through dynamic, purposeful movement, Pupillo has reminded us all of this fact.  Nathan Tomlinson’s lighting design adds to the poignant air of the piece, particularly in the work’s final moments as only a small area of the stage is lit as water rains down onto the artists.  This “cleansing” is the most powerful moment of Pupillo’s piece and drives his point home that even during the toughest of times, there is hope and there is beauty, as long as you stick it out through the rain.

Bringing a new twist on the range of contemporary pieces frequently brought to the stage by Visceral Dance Chicago was the company’s premiere of choreographer Mark Godden’s Minor Threat.  Godden’s piece was a fusion of classical ballet and more contemporary movement, which brought a breath of fresh air to a genre that many have seen time and time again.  The decision to choreograph to Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, while also incorporating bursts of highly technical, modern movement created an exciting fusion of new and old upon the stage.  Ballet is one of the most beloved forms of dance in our society, but occasionally seeing a unique spin on it serves as a reminder that while embracing the new can be intimidating, the reward for doing so is more than worth the fear.  Godden’s piece did an excellent job of showcasing each artist’s unique abilities and range while still remaining one uniform work.  One can only hope that Minor Threat becomes a regularly performed piece in their growing repertoire. 

SPRINGFOUR also brought choreographer Mónica Cervantes’ stunning piece, Changes, back to the Harris Theater stage.  This piece is particularly striking due to its relatability and shameless portrayal of the turbulent nature of our daily lives.  Changes highlights the way in which relationships alter over time, as we grow and change due to the impacts these encounters have on our lives.  No one person will stay the same forever, and Cervantes takes us through this journey in an honest, poignant manner; she brings to light the bitter truth that not all of those who make an impression in our lives are meant to stay there forever.  Changes shows us that though some people may make us a home, there are many more who will just make us a brief stop on their own ever-changing journeys.  Brian Sidney Bembridge’s lighting design only adds to the emotional drama of this piece, helping to solidify Cervantes’ theme of the light and dark sides of change.

Synapse by Nick Pupillo. Photo by: Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth.

The final, most striking piece of the night was the world premiere of Nick Pupillo’s Synapse. This particular work was commissioned for Visceral Dance Chicago by the Harris Theater for Music and Dance with support from the Pamela Crutchfield Dance Fund through the Imagine Campaign.  Pupillo truly outdid himself with Synapse; from the LED lights featured on the stage to the intensely passionate motions of the artists, this piece is truly outstanding.  Nathan Tomlinson’s ability to create such a stunning light display with what appears as a simplistic series of hanging LED lights is remarkable; the timing of the lights reacting to the artists’ touch and movements was precise and clean, thus creating a flawless immersion of lights, movement, and sound.  The energetic beat of Darryl Hoffman’s music seemed to pulse through the artists as they poured their hearts and souls out onto the stage.  Synapse created one of the most exhilarating artistic displays I have ever witnessed upon a Chicago stage, and the gasps and commentary of other audience members during the performance proved that fact.  If Synapse is any indication of the direction Visceral Dance Chicago is moving towards, it is clear that their future will be a bright one.  A company brimming with so much talent should be truly cherished for all of the beauty and positivity they bring to our city.

Visceral Dance Chicago’s SPRINGFOUR once again reiterated the fact that Nick Pupillo’s company is among the best groups of artists in Chicago.  Their passion for dance is energizing and refreshing, and their ability to portray raw human emotions in such a beautiful, honest way is inspiring.  We can only hope that Visceral Dance Chicago continues sharing their creativity and talent with us for many years to come.

For more information on Visceral Dance Chicago and their upcoming performances and classes, please visit the company’s website: www.visceraldance.com.  Please visit www.theatreinchicago.com for more information on the Chicago arts community.

Rebecca Curl is a freelance wig and make-up artisan and writer based in Chicago.  She recently received her BFA in Wig and Make-up Design and an English Minor from The Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University.  Follow her on Twitter!