At the conclusion of its dance performance season, Visceral Dance Chicago (VDC) puts on a special program called Solus. ‘Solus” means “alone” or “unaccompanied”. Using the talents of 10 choreographers to set off the talents of each Company member, this program is a testimonial to the dedication and clear vision of VDC Artistic Director Nick Pupillo, demonstrating his belief in each and every member of the troupe, and giving them a unique opportunity in the spotlight. This year, marking VDC’s 5th season, Solus 5 took place May 17th-19that The Chop Shop and 1st Ward, 2033 W. North Avenue, a comfortable, casual and welcoming space. The hour-long talent-saturated program gave audiences an insight into the myriad meanings of the number “5”. Pupillo had selected a section from a numerology book and given it to the 10 choreographers, who utilized segments of it in preparing each premiere; the dancers intoned each of the chosen selections as they traversed the stage between the solo performances. Each of the pieces was beautifully developed, well-suited to the dancer’s strengths, and each was performed with the talent, proficiency and enthusiasm that is a hallmark of VDC.
1) of the flesh, danced by Joel Walsham: choreography by JOSHUA BLAKE CARTER, a member of Giordano Dance Chicago and a multi prizewinning choreographer;
Music by Rufus Wainwright;
“The most common downfall for the 5 is a tendency to experiment with sex, drugs, alcohol and other weaknesses of the flesh. A desire for instant gratification can be her downfall; add to that a sense of invulnerability, lack of discipline and restraint, and you have a recipe for disaster.”
Joel sometimes seemed like an extension of a machine, cranking himself about, sometimes an extension of himself or an extension of dance extension. He alternately rose, isolated, emphasized, subsided.
2) The Weight of Sound, danced by Noelle Kayser: choreography by STEPHANIE MARTINEZ, an award-winning dance artist with 30+ years of performance experience;
Music by John Hurt, Abel Korzeniowski and Monolake;
“Five walks on the edge of liberating personal freedom and reckless non attachment. The prevailing number in nature, Five can be as destructive as she is kind.”
Noelle was the embodiment of a reluctant Elizabethan messenger. She was a prima ballerina caught in the headlights like a deer, a frozen satyr, a nymph become electric. The sheer exquisite strength of her!
3) I remain, danced by Mario Gonzalez: choreography by JAMY MEEK, a former performer with both Hubbard Street Dance and Nederlands Dans Theatre; as a teacher he concentrates on clear, strong technique;
Music by Tomaso Albinoni;
“5” is the sum of the first female and male numbers 2 + 3. Divine is one, divine is the other; their virtues are equal”.
Mario resembled Samson; he perched weightless as on the point of a feather. He appeared as a biblical figure in an incantatory state; every move was fluid and strangely ballistic.
4) Freyr!, danced by Hanna Brictson: choreography by FLORIAN LOCHNER, a Hubbard Street Dancer, now a member of their guest faculty;
Music by Peter Broderick;
Excerpts from Florian’s inspiration:
“The 5 is versatile, adaptable, smart, progressive and tolerant. Anything conventional bores her, while she is drawn to the eccentrics and misfits of society. She is a social creature, funny and uplifting, and very good at making others feel comfortable around her.”
Hannah was a creature absolutely feline- she was feral, elastic, anguished and composedly reckless. She undulated with big gestures and a sensual laziness.
5) Soul, danced by Braeden Barnes: choreography by SHANNON ALVIS, formerly a dancer at Hubbard Street Dance, and Nederlands Dance Theatre, Alvis was a recipient of the Joffrey Ballet’s Winning Works Choreographic Competition;
Music by Olafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm;
“The dominating trait of 5 is an uncompromising demand for freedom in thought and action. When then weighted down by responsibilities of adulthood, a late night run-in with your five year old self reminds you of what once was… And what could still be.”
Braeden is sensorially taut, a figure of demonstrative grace, touchingly open, emotionally stricken. He was wrought of steel, fraught with emotion, ultimately in charge.
6) The Continuum of Change Part. 1 The Precipice, danced by Riccardo Battaglia: choreography by SARITA SMITH CHILDS, a classically trained dancer, choreographer, educator and fitness instructor;
Music by Break of Reality;
Excerpts from Sarita’s inspiration:
“ In Part 1 we encounter a figure dominated by the traits of The 5, tall, good-looking, a risk taker, always in constant motion, dynamic, passionate and opinionated. He is facing change that must occur, due to the innate nature of The 5, but also due to the cycle of life.”
Riccardo appears as a Promethean pillar; he IS the continuum from leaps to turns ; he is questing, he is anguished, he is glorious and triumphant.
7) Force of Nature, danced by Paige Fraser: choreography by EVELYN RICE, Founder and co-director of The Exposure Movement, she teaches at Visceral Dance Chicago;
Music by Luniz, Kanye West, Lauryn Hill, Maya Angelou, Beyonce, Jay z, and Michael Jackson;
Excerpts from Evelyn’s inspiration:
“The number 5 is the most dynamic and energetic of all the single-digit numbers. It is unpredictable, always in motion and constantly in need of change. 5 is a symbol of dynamic motion. The 5 is random energy, elastic and constantly in motion.”
Paige is fearless, modern, an urban Valkyrie, a hip-hop goddess, a guerilla amused by her acolytes. Her insouciant attitude is matched by her deft fluidity.
8) piezas de papel, danced by Prince Lyons: choreography by EDDY OCAMPO, an internationally renowned choreographer;
Music by Amon Tobin;
Eddy explained to this reviewer, “ For the concept, I took 5 ideas and put them on separate pieces of paper, then placed them in a small bag and picked them one by one for each choreographic phrasing: 1. Masculinity 2. Venerable 3. Identity 4. Art 5. Acceptance.”
Prince is, on every level, in every movement, grand, outsized, pushed to the limits of expressiveness. He is smooth, touched, primal, perfect.
9) Five Sides: Undefined, danced by Meredith Harrill: choreography by LIZZIE MACKENZIE, the founder and director of Extensions Dance Company and Center;
Music by Dustin O’Halloran and Serena Ryder;
Excerpts from Lizzie’s inspiration:
“The 5 is extremely independent in mind and soul. But perhaps the most dominating trait in the 5 is her uncompromising demand for freedom in thought and action.”
Meredith begins as a newly-hatched angel and ends as the Queen of the Pantheon. She flows inexorably up from the stage, discovering her powers as she transcends to the ether.
10)Time Out Mixology, danced by Caitlin Cucchiara: choreography by HARRISON MCELDOWNEY, known for his theatrical work, for the 1992 Summer Olympics Closing Ceremonies and the recipient of the Prince Prize and numerous awards;
Music by The Dave Brubeck Quartet;
Harrison’s inspiration was not specified, but Nick Pupillo has noted:
“The 5 is surprisingly loyal. The 5 may break off a relationship due to her restless nature, but while in a relationship she will not deceive her partner.”
Caitlin, a natural comedienne, clad in a 50’s dress with crinoline and heels, is the tipsy Vanna White, the glorious Lucille Ball, every magician’s ideal assistant with ice cubes down her bodice. She is flawless, whether shaking things up or stirring our emotions.
The program was an inspiring and exhilarating end to a great Fifth Season. For information and tickets to all the great classes and programs at Visceral Dance Chicago, go to the visceraldance website
Unless otherwise noted, all photos by M.Reid Photography