Nick Pupillo’s Visceral Dance Chicago Review - Bold and Progressive

Nick Pupillo’s Visceral Dance Chicago performed on October 10, 2015, at the Harris Theatre in Millenium Park, 205 E. Randolph Drive, Chicago, for their third season of contemporary dance. The program, called “Fall Engagement”, included the world premiere of “She Three,” by Pupillo,  and the company premiere of “Bate”, by Fernando Melo, as well as three pieces from the company’s first and second seasons, “Hadal Zone”by Brian Enos, “Duet Mabul”, by Ohad Naharin, and the return of Pupillo’s own “Sum Noir”.


Hadal Zone by Brian Enos, Photo: Todd Rosenberg


 Pupillo, founder and artistic director, launched this repertory company in 2013. After obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in Ballet from Indiana University, Pupillo joined acclaimed Giordano Dance Chicago in 2001, and toured both nationally and internationally with them, before developing the Visceral Studio Company in 2006 to train and mentor young dance talent. One year later, in 2007, he went on to found the Visceral Dance Center, giving Chicago a new venue for artistic and technical growth in dance. Pupillo has received much praise and important awards for dance choreography, including “The Dance Chicago Outstanding Choreography Award” in 2005 and 2012 and “The Cliff Dwellers 2013 Choreographer of the Year”.


Sum Noir by Nick Pupillo with Caitlin Cucciata, Photo by Todd Rosenberg


This company, “dedicated to a bold and progressive world of movement”, stirred and thrilled the sold-out theatre audience. Opening with a trio of  ballerinas  lying recumbent and facedown  in “She Three”, they slowly half rise and then rise fully to dance solo in an eerie light. The three then alternate joining and separating, twining their arms around each other and themselves; they appeared as otherworldly visions of half-light and shade. The piece was erotic, technically spot-on and imbued with radiance and artistry.


Bate by Fernando Melo, Adam McGaw, Karl Watson, James Barrett, photo by Cheryl Mann


The hilarious and ultra-modern “Bate”, which means heartbeat in Portuguese, the creation of Brazilian choreographer Fernando Melo, was first performed on an American stage in 2010.  A work primarily for five male dancers, it combines elements of French farce with the wry wit of “Yellow Submarine”. The piece begins with small-curtained window-like openings framing everyday household objects, or, alternatively, parts or pieces of interaction between the dancers, with light casting effects, moving quickly, jerkily, and the dancers responding with light  herky-jerky moves, the end resulting in a shower of pinkish-red rose petals.


Sum Noir by Nick Pupillo with Karl Watson and Caitlin Cucchiara, photo by Lewis P Kopp

“Hadal Zone’, by Brian Enos, Artistic Director of Saint Louis’ The Big Muddy Dance Company, is a full-company work which has been described as taking the dancers “on a powerful surging ride”. The hadal zone, also known as the hadeopelagic zone and trench zone, is the delineation for the deepest trenches in the ocean; it is found from a depth of approximately 6ooo metres to the bottom of the sea. Its choreographer, who absolutely captured the feel of descending to and arising from the depths, has been called “a wonder kid of contemporary ballet”, and aspires to “engage, inspire, and entertain both audiences as well as the dedicated and beautiful dancers he is so fortunate to work with every day in the studio”. His success at both was apparent at the Harris Theatre.


Sum Noir By Nick Pupillo with Karl Watson and James Barrett, Photo: Todd Rosenberg

The enchantingly lovely, brief and dazzling “Duet Mabal”, was crafted by Ohad Naharin,a former student at the School of American Ballet and Julliard. He is a contemporary dancer, choreographer and dance company artistic director with the Batsheva Dance Company, since 1990.He has often been referred to “as one of the world’s preeminent contemporary choreographers”.


Sum Noir by Nick Pupillo, Photo: Todd Rosenberg

Finally, the stellar series of dances ended with the full-length company piece “Sum Noir”, from their second season. The dance diverged from the classically felt, balletic-style precise movements to the broader and wider stylized motions of lyrical modern, accompanied by almost impossible immovability. It is raw and sensuous , accompanied by an equally unusual spate of musical accompaniment; Pupillo has described the piece as an exploration of Albert Camus' statement, “Life is a sum of..choices”.


She Three by Nick Pupillo, Caitlin Cucchiara, Paige Fraiser, Noelle Kayser, Photo: Cheryl Mann


She Three by Nick Pupillo with Caitlin Cucchhiara, Noelle Kayser, Paige Fraiser, Photo: Cheryl Mann

More information on Visceral Dance Chicago’s programs and classes.

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