With much excitement, Visceral Dance Chicago has begun its fourth season of performances, and offered a fall engagement at the Harris Theater in Chicago’s Millennium Park on October 1. Although this performance included audience favorites such as Vital by Nick Pupillo and Ruff Celts by Marguerite Donlon, the anticipation for the world premiere works of Atlas by Pupillo and a newly commissioned work by Erica Sobol was strong. As the Founder and Artistic Director of Visceral Dance Chicago, Pupillo told Dance Informa about the process that went into creating Atlas and what inspired him most while working with his dancers.
“Atlas is a work based upon ‘the weight of the heavens upon one’s shoulders’,” Pupillo said. “We all live our lives striving for something of importance, and there is a responsibility and expectation that comes with this thing we hold so high.”
Pupillo went on to explain how through this journey of striving, three things are revealed: strengths, sacrifice and beauty. Throughout the discussion of his vision, Pupillo focused on various subjects that would embrace the idea of Atlas further.
Pupillo said, “We talked about religion and how it controls and guides most of our lives. There are certain absolutes that are required in order to make it to ‘heaven’. We talked about relationships and the obligation of being a good partner through life. We also talked about our career and, in my situation, my passion and the pledge I have to my students, the artists and the community of Visceral.”
Because all of these things come with great weight and necessity for the greatness of each, according to Pupillo, there comes a point at which we all forget about taking enjoyment in what we hold on to and the relief of knowing what we have. By giving the dancers a series of phrase work and imagery and emotions to work out throughout the creative process, Pupillo strategically choreographed each duet in his work with two parts.
“I purposely choreographed each part with different couples since each journey we take with religion, relationships and careers often have two or more paths,” he explained. “Each duet transitions as life often does, and we explored a range of emotion, catalysts and motivations which each of them has experienced. Their human responses have led to the final product.”
With these tools in place, it made the experience a very personal one for Pupillo and the dancers involved. Each dancer was able to incorporate his/her own experiences while still taking into consideration the overall motivation for the work.
With great admiration, Pupillo shared, “Each dancer of Visceral is technically strong, dynamic and full of personality. They are all so unique, and each voice inspired me to develop and create.”
One can only imagine how captivating a work like Atlas is for an audience member, especially since it plays to so many raw emotions that people experience day to day. Pupillo summed up what audiences can expect to see when watching Atlas in two words: human expression.
“Audiences will experience getting and giving support — the practical, physical manifestations of the infinite ways people experience passionate needs and the striving for something of importance,” he said. “Each duet in Atlas explores emotion and experience to which each member of our audience can relate. It is intimate, real and visceral.”
In addition to Atlas, Pupillo had the honor of watching his dancers work with Erica Sobol in her newly commissioned work. Sobol’s work is described as telling a “human story”, and this theme shows with the dancers involved in her piece as well.
“The relationship she established with the dancers was immediate, warm and created a drive to explore and take risks,” said Pupillo. “Colliding inspirational poetry, artwork, emotional intention and syncopated musicality, Erica tells a human story.”
According to Pupillo, “Visceral is about experience. Visceral is about real experience, and Erica is about both of these.”
With two new works that push to explore beyond its comfort zones, Visceral has evolved significantly this season already. This season thus far has seen collaboration between dancer and choreographer.
“Seeing the dancers in Erica’s new work, the blending of personal style, technique and pedestrian movement is beautiful,” said Pupillo. “This show is all about the business of being human, and the dancers have lent themselves — emotionally and physically — to the creation of the work.”
As it goes through its fourth season, Visceral continues to pursue a national-international presence in the dance world. Bringing global choreographers to share their voice and perspective with the company and audiences is an essential aspect of Visceral’s mission.
Pupillo concluded, “We strive to share fundamental human truths and to broaden the human responses in our work.”
Visceral Dance Chicago’s next performance, Within, will take place November 3-5, at the Visceral Dance Center. Tickets will be available soon. For more information, visit visceraldance.com.
By Monique George of Dance Informa.
Photo (top): Paige Fraser in ‘Vital’ by Nick Pupillo. Photo by Cheryl Mann.