Visceral Dance Season Four Review- A Triumphant Presentation at the Harris Theater

On October 1st, Nick Pupillo’s Visceral Dance opened it’s 4th season at The Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph, with four super works, two previously presented in the Spring program and- happily- brought back for an encore, and two world premieres. The stage was lit by Nathan Tomlinson, who always creates a unique aura for this company of strong athletes interpreting with lyrical grace.

Visceral Dance Artistic Director Nick Pupillo; photo courtesy of Kate Miller

First on the stage was the world premiere of  “Atlas”, choreographed by Pupillo, an ode to the feeling of “wearing the weight of the world on one’s shoulders”, inspired by the passionate needs of humanity to manage the expectations and experiences of our lives. Set to the complex music of the Turin String Quartet, 3 couples in distinct  black-clad duets, sometimes swirling in smoky light, create a sense of effort, of relentless striving and sinuous movements. In certain portions of this ever-so-graceful modern ballet, the dancers appear as shadows behind one another. Other times, light pours down like rain onto and between them. One dancer must drag and carry another- as in life, when our strength dos not meet our obligations.

Visceral Dance in"Atlas" by Nick Pupillo; photo courtesy of Leni Maana Hoppenworth

Next on the bill was Marguerite Donlon’s “Ruff Celts”, a piece for 10 dancers wearing stiff white Elizabethan collars, the ladies in black strapless leotards, the men in black kilts, designed by Donlon herself, set to exuberant skirling music. Eerie and otherworldly shouts, calls and exhalations, including fictitious spitting and the signature Visceral capability of smoke-wafting hands accompanied the writhing, modified Riverdancing/Moonwalking, leaping and turning dancers. Their shadows rise behind them, and they are reflecting the moves of each other! This very strong piece is imbued with a sense of Africanesque rhythm, of humor, and of vigorous gender-shifting stomping figures in an ancient mystical land. One feels the primeval forest is very close.

Visceral Dance in "Ruff Celts"; photo courtesy of Cheryl Mann

After the intermission, the full house was treated to another world premiere, the darkly humorous “Tethered” by Erica Sobel. The extremely clever stage set mimicked in the costumes by Maggie Jarecki reveal 5 vividly patterned drapes in the background as 5 dancers, clad in pajama-like “onesies” much like shorty prison pajamas perform to the loud rock and soul-ballad music of Ragnar Kjartannson and Peggy Lee. The sense of this piece is a brilliant counterpoint to the theme of “Atlas”. The dancers are seemingly tethered to each other, to the stage, to the ideas brought forth by the music. They are, like all of us, bound by our desires, the needs of our lives, and despite the sturm and drang, they clutch the chains that shackle them. In the end, after extremely animated effort, they collapse onstage to the tune of “I Only Have Eyes For You”. The mesmerizing effects included the patterns from drape and costume surrounding the stage!

Visceral Dance in "Tethered", by Erica Sobel; photo courtesy of LeniMaana Hoppenworth

Finally, the full company performed “Vital”, a beautiful dance choreographed by Nick Pupillo with spare white costumes by Branimira Ivanova. A unique tall silver sculptural installation by Marguerite Donlon flanks David Lang and Peter Ferry performing live on stage. The lighting is clear as are the sounds of bells chiming. As the dancers  triumphantly celebrate the pulse of life the sound of ringing is like the surging of blood in the veins.The individual dancers demonstrate flawless technique. They leap and turn, and like gazelles caught in the headlights, freeze on the instant.

Visceral Dance in "Vital" by Nick Pupillo; photo courtesy of Lewis Kopp


For information on and tickets to this wonderful company, go to


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