Going to Ground

kate corby & dancers, digging @ chicago cultural center, 24 October 2013.

If Kristina Isabelle Dance Company’s The Floating City was about motion that perhaps hid a longing for stillness (see “Sinking In to The Floating World”), then Kate Corby and Dancers’ Digging, the first iteration of a developing piece, was about starting with a stillness that gave way to motion. In The Floating City, the movement energy seemed to seize the dancing bodies, to erupt upon them, to guide them away from interiority. Yet this left the viewer (at least this one) with a sense that the dancers were actually exploring, in a kind of negative space, a worry about what was actually inside, what came from within: where was the self, exactly, when set free, unfixed and floating, to explore the surreal cityscape of contemporary times?

Digging, by contrast, began from a very different place. Corby and troupe used 20 minute sessions of group meditation at the start of each rehearsal as a research tool, and the performance itself opened with six dancers standing in place in a diagonal formation for an extended duration. That they were standing and not sitting in cliched meditation poses presaged the dance to come, which was not about meditation in of itself, but rather seemed to be about ideas, gestures, feelings, statements of the self, and questions about relationships that might arise from engaging with stillness. Stillness here seemed to become, perhaps paradoxically, a force. It at once grounded the dancers. It kept them. Yet it also catapulted their bodies into the externalization, the expression, of what had been inside. Stillness was generative of motion.

Digging took its time to get going. Dueting dancers locked hands, forearms, and explored the weight between them, the push and pull. The motions were stiff, formal, poised, restrained. Things were tentative. Then, gradually, over time, the dancing grew more fierce, more free. At the temporal and thematic center of the work was Josh Anderson’s solo, in which his body’s slow, rigid posture gave way to waves of motion that shot through his limbs, up and down his torso. Where the motion had been linear up to that point in Digging, suddenly it spiraled. Anderson collapsed and rose again. Energy roiled through his muscles from fingertip to solar plexus and back out again. The other dancers followed in increasingly complex arcs of motion.

Yet it all came from a place of centered grace. As the final section of Digging combined various duets to culminate in a beautiful ensemble of repeated gestures given new life as they played off each other, we moved from individual to group, from self to society. It proved to be a meditation on how to trace the bodily line between the interior and the exterior. From this composed composition, this going to ground, something quite charged and electric took flight.


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