lumino magazine dance review of “Ostensibly Past”

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Written by BARMEY UNG / Photos by Mike Maravilla
Friday, 30 April 2010
Written by BARMEY UNG / Photos by Mike Maravilla
Friday, 30 April 2010
At a loft space temporarily called the Paulina Loft, there was “Ostensibly Past,” a dance performance by Thread Meddle Outfit in the heart of a unique word of mouth type of art scene happening here in Chicago. Choreographer and modern dancer Christine Betsill has been working since early October putting together this performance. Five months later, five dancers and sound designer Jason Araujo got together for an abstract performance themed around lines between past and present, death and rebirth, love and loss.

“Ostensibly Past” by the Thread Meddle Outfit
Dancers: Renay Aumiller, Christine Betsill, Laura Chiaramonte, Rebecca O’Connell, Johannah Wininsky
Sound Score: Jason Araujo


Paulina Loft
Chicago, IL
April 3, 2010

When I got there, a detached soundboard of a grand piano hung just off center stage where Araujo manipulated its sounds as well as other noises from his small bunker of electronic music gear. Some dancers would walk to the center to stretch as others blankly stared out into large floor to ceiling windows. The windows wrapped around two walls of the entire space and served as stations for where the dancers started and stopped.

In this way, they were interacting not only with each other and with sound, but also with the space. From the lack of a backstage or curtain, they decided to obscure the distinction between installation and performance. Araujo tells me that the warm-up itself is part of the performance. However there was an official announcement of when it started when Laura Chiaramonte thanked the sold out crowd for coming.

White noise also marked the official beginning that colored the otherwise initial thick silence, a silence so strong that people turned their heads when I flipped the pages of my notepad. Slowly, other noises worked their way into the composition and it was ambiguous where they were coming from. Speakers inside of PVC pipes directed the sound from different corners. Noises of the neighborhood, like dogs barking, bassy boom boxes pumping from drive bys, or beer bottles clanking from the downstairs neighbors were improvised into the musical score as well.

O’Connell began the show with slow, underwater like movements, stroking her window making subtle curved lines in the fog. There were juxtaposed moments of impulsive convulsion. It reminded me of poetic nonsensical movements out of a New York, Catherine Sullivan performance.

After dropping to the floor, they all began to twitch as if electrical impulses jerked their otherwise limp bodies. They awoke with a look of peace and surprise when the music changed to some plagal major chords with a Roland organ type of sound. Their eyes were wide open in a stoic amazement as if they were experiencing the world and each other for the first time.

A particular solo of Johannah Wininsky’s mesmerized me. She had smooth and sculptural features, and moved her upper body suggestively while her lower body seemed to struggle. It was as if each limb was learning its function as they tried to communicate with the each other. This dialogue and their vocabulary of movements continued to expand gradually until the end.

About forty minutes through, Araujo played the hell out of the prepared piano by hitting it and scraping all available parts with a violin bow making surprisingly melodic screeching tones. During this time, Betsill and Wininsky embraced each other on the floor in a duet, interpretatively helping each other get up as they rolled around trying to understand and cope with the moment. I will remember the image of them embracing each other for a long time!

The performance continued to evolve and take us into moods extended from previous themes. They all sang along with a Nina Simone track of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released,” with beautiful operatic harmonies. “I see my light come shining, from the west to the east. Any day now, any day now, I shall be released.” Betsill soon after sang a solo requiem and the performance winded down, each performer started to make their way back to their original stations.

I had no problem standing for the entire show as the pace of it all held my attention, and gave me just enough space for it to sink in. Following the show was an amazing reception; you can tell that the dancers really sought to care for their audience. The sold out crowd was kept to a modest thirty-some people when the space could have held much more. I appreciated the quality over quantity type of vibe so that we could all feel comfortable and special. I was told that one man broke into tears, relating the performance to his own troubles. As the night came to an end, I let a caption on the program settle in my mind, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” – William Faulkner.

Check out these beautiful photos of last weeks performance of Ostensibly Past . Thanks to Unscene Media!

Unscene Media Blog: Thread Meddle Outfit x Lumino Mag x UMG

Thanks to Unscene Media, this is what they had to say about the performance on their blog:
Thread Meddle Outfit x Lumino Mag x UMG
Switching gears a bit, I met up with Barmey from Lumino Magazine again to check out the Thread Meddle Outfit dance troupe perform over the weekend. From checking out their website briefly, I was super excited to get out to their performance and shoot.

Needless to say, I was left in awe of the performance – the choreography, the music, the thought processes behind the piece in itself. It all fit beautifully and unconventionally together in a way that echoed their rhythmic mission statement: “to generate original dance pieces that are created out of the desire to meld together two different artistic personas into one unique movement voice…with the idealistic belief that two contradictory elements can exist together.”

I felt a little guilty snapping photos because it was super quiet during a majority of the performance (and also because I just wanted to watch), but it was worth clicking and filming away to share these performers with you all. Here are some of the photos:

Click Unscene Media Blog for more photos: Thread Meddle Outfit x Lumino Mag x UMG

Ostensibly Past: A Must See!!

I am so proud and excited to see all of Christine’s hard work come to life! The dancer’s are stunning, the work is captivating and the music is beautifully hypnotic filling the space with supportive sensitivity! It’s been a short while since I’ve performed and can say that I am more then proud but honored to be a part . A must see! After each performance there will be a small gathering , with wine, to discuss the work! So, if you are free, stop by the loft this weekend. Please read the show information below and hope to see you all this weekend.

Christine Betsill presents with her Chicago-based company Thread Meddle Outfit. The work explores the layers of self that we hold in and throughout our bodies and the surreal world that revisiting our memories create. In the evening-length work, which takes place in an intimate Chicago loft, five distinctive women create a liminal narrative with their bodies and voices. Original soundscape by Jason Araujo.

Danced by Renay Aumiller, Christine Betsill, Laura Chiaramonte, Becky O’Connell, and Johannah Wininsky

Thursday-Saturday April 1-3, 8pm. Paulina Loft: 1049 N Paulina, #2F, Chicago, IL.
$15 Suggestion Donation. Due to limited seating, reservations are strongly encouraged. Please call (773) 495-1023 or email christine.betsill@gmail.com for reservations.