The Chicago Philharmonic/Visceral Dance Chicago Review- "The Dream" reimagined at The Harris Theatre

“The Dream of a Ridiculous Man” is a short story by Fyodor Dostoevsky, 1877, which describes the experiences of a man who feels that the world has become valueless. He is filled with anguish, and is impelled toward suicide. He wanders the streets of St. Petersburg, thinking about how ridiculous he has always been. He has purchased a revolver some months ago. He gazes heavenward and sees a single star. Suddenly, a little girl rushes up to him; he shakes her off, returns home, and struggles between his impulse to shoot himself and his feelings of guilt about his behavior toward the child.

The Chicago Philharmonic and Visceral Dance Chicago in "The Dream"

He falls asleep and has a very vivid dream. He has shot himself, has died, is buried. His grave is opened, he is pulled skyward and spaceward by a shadowy figure. He is placed on a different Earth, on an idyllic island, and discovered by sinless, beauteous, blissful people with whom he lives for a long time. By accident, he corrupts the others; factions and war develop; science takes over emotions; happiness is forgotten.

Paige Fraser and Riccardo Battaglia in "The Dream"

When the man awakens, he has been irretrievably altered. He is grateful for his life, convinced of his and the world’s potential for love and happiness, and dedicated to teaching love in general and in particular, to finding the little girl.

Brandon Coleman and the Visceral Dance Company members in "The Dream"

Last Sunday, March 5,  in a transporting joint vision, The Chicago Philharmonic and Visceral Dance Chicago with guest vocalist Martha Guth launched a stunning version of “The Dream” at The Harris Theatre for Music and Dance”, 205 E. Randolph Drive.

Conductor Scott Speck, The Chicago Philharmonic and Visceral Dance Chicago in "The Dream"

The one hour long performance was set to a complex array of music, selected by The Philharmonic, in a diverse but consonant range from John Cage’s “Dream” to Tchaikovsky’s “Elegy”, from Thom Yorke’s "Creep” to Osvaldo Golijov’s “Muriel”, and with ethereal vocalizing by Canadian soprano Guth, known for her intuitive and sensitive phrasing. Ravishing gilt, sexy black, sometimes hatted, umbrellaed and caped costumes by Kim Kernodle set off the traditional elegant black worn by Conductor Scott Speck and the Philharmonic in ensemble behind them on the stage. The tale was dressed perfectly in alternatively serious, clever, and sensuous ways. Subtle lighting, including brilliant bulbs descending over the dancers, signature soft drapery and blown smoke by Nathan Tomlinson completed the ambience. The audience was transported in turn from an armchair in an empty room through the pedestrian travelled thoroughfare of mid-nineteenth century Russia to Utopia and back again.

Kendall Scott and Brandon Coleman in "The Dream"

Paige Fraser, Caitlin Cucchiara, Brandon Coleman, Noelle Kayser, Ricardo Battaglia, Hanna Brictson, Giordan Cruz, Mario Gonzalez, Terra Kell and Owen Scarlett, of the Visceral Dance Company, with Kendall Scott of The Visceral Studio Company as the little girl, enacted a non-linear but perfectly intelligible reimagining choreographed by Nick Pupillo, Artistic Director, Visceral Dance. The ballet opened with Brandon Coleman, stage right, in an armchair. Very quickly a surpassingly inventive, distinct and instantly recognizable arm/hand gesture was introduced which was to be reinstigated throughout the performance: the man places his arm on his head in a controlled yet uncontrollable way. This signal of internal/external struggle, used by all the dancers save the child, denotes the eternal self-defeating, self-regarding impulses that compose the central human longing for transcendence. Dostoevsky’s work is always about the mystical vs. the mundane, the drive for success vs. the longing for deliverance. In "The Dream", this dichotomy was perfectly enunciated.

Brandon Coleman in "The Dream"; lighting by Nathan Tomlinson

The dancers movements, polished, lyrical, in solo work and duets, was in remarkable sync. Even their facial expressions, clues to the plot, were in accord. And what remarkable visages they were! Shining with supplication and spiritual intensity, alight with anger and passion, the 10 members of the troupe in their remarkable lithe athleticism, lifting effortlessly, created a saga of salvation and innocence restored. Kendall Scott was wonderfully agile and a testament to her fine training. Noelle Kayser gave a many-layered performance as  the Guardian. Paige Fraser's leaps and turns dropped jaws. Brandon Coleman was a man transformed from self-loathing to self-determination, through the magic of splendid music, great literature and fine choreography.

Noelle Kayser and Martha Guth in "The Dream"

This production was a delight to the senses that deserves to tour and be seen by many. The audience loved it.


All photos by Quinn Wharton


For information about classes and tickets to upcoming dance performances at Visceral Dance Chicago, go to the

Visceral Dance Chicago website


For information about and tickets to all the programs, go to  The Chicago Philharmonic website






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