Downtown Evanston will be bursting with rhythm and movement on two Sundays this fall, when eight dance troupes put their best feet forward to fête their hometown on its 150th anniversary.
“On Site: Putting Dance on the Map” promises to be an extravaganza of original choreography. Each site-specific work has been created by a different dance company for a particular public space in the heart of the City. The dances, seven to 10 minutes in length, will be performed on Oct. 6 or Nov. 3, all of them free of charge and most out-of-doors.
There will be tap dancing outside the American Apparel store and clattering drumsticks in the First Bank of Evanston parking lot on Oct. 6, and on Nov. 3, structured improvisation and dance in the style of West Africa at Fountain Square and running, rolling and jumping on the ramp to the Evanston Public library.
In the course of an afternoon, organizers say they hope “to connect audience members to a community where dance abounds and is a viable and prevalent art form.” All the performing groups live, work and/or rehearse in Evanston and say they are “proud to be honoring a community which demonstrates strong support for the arts.”
Béa Rashid, the director of Dance Center Evanston, is also co-artistic director of the Evanston Dance Ensemble, (EDE), the group curating the program. Ms. Rashid appeared in an on site work at Northwestern University in 1978 and says she has dreamed ever since of staging another such event.
“There is nothing more fun than dancing outdoors,” Ms. Rashid says.
Each day’s program will begin and end at Raymond Park with two dances performed by the 38-member EDE. The 14-18-year old dancers in this pre-professional company are selected in spring auditions from among their peers at Dance Center Evanston. Typically, EDE dancers take five to eight classes during the week and attend Saturday and Sunday rehearsals before performances.
EDE Co-Artistic Director Christina Ernst says the company will open “On Site” at 2 p.m. with a piece she choreographed around the chairs in Indira Johnson’s “Conversations” sculpture. Then they will transition to Ms. Rashid’s number, performing to music by her son, Robert Rashid, as they move around Raymond Park. “On Site” will end at 4 p.m. with EDE repeating these dances.
Dancing In The Streets
She and Ms. Ernst “spent time in [Raymond] Park exploring,” says Ms. Rashid. Paula Sjogerman, EDE company manager, admits that dancing outdoors can be “challenging” but says EDE al fresco rehearsals “attracted attention and interest” from passers-by. And that is the point of On Site. All three of the EDE staff say they are excited about “bringing dance to the people,” or, as Ms. Rashid puts it, to “dancing in the streets.”
After their first Park appearance, EDE dancers will divide the audience into several groups and holding colored flags, lead them to one of the other “stages” no more than a five-minute walk away.
On Oct. 6 one audience group – and anyone who comes upon the “On Site” performance by chance – will be the first to see the Cartier Collective at 950 Church St. But everyone who completes the circuit will be treated to the high-energy, precision tap work the Cartier ensemble, like all participants, will present four times – at 2:30, 2:50, 3:10 and 3:30 p.m.
Be the Groove, a rhythm-based performance company, will make the parking lot of First Bank and Trust their stage. Onlookers will find it hard to resist the compelling beat the dancers create using their bodies – snapping fingers, clapping hands, thumping chests and stomping feet – as well as sticks and drums as percussion instruments.
Seventh- and eighth-grade members of ede2, younger sibling company of EDE, will dance in the sunken garden at the Rotary building on Oct. 6. The audience will watch the Leopold Group from above as they dance indoors, on the landing of the Evanston Public Library. Director Lizzie Leopold, who is writing about dance for her Ph.D., says she loves the idea of bringing dance “into a place full of books.”
Rain figures in the choreography of the LakeDance piece for Fountain Square on Nov. 3. The dance “tells a story about the site, about cement and the consequent urban flooding,” says Clare Tallon Ruen, who directs the group of eight young Evanston dancers, ages 9-13. “Fountain Square is a very concrete location in Evanston with a past life as a wetland.” Matching choreography to a site is nothing new for LakeDance. In two previous years, Ms. Ruen says, the company danced at the beach and “each time told a part of Lake Michigan history.”
Also on Nov. 3, six members of enidsmithdance company will undertake what Ms. Smith calls a “highly athletic” dance in safety-yellow costumes with running shoes and knee pads. Enacting an apparent struggle to reach the main doors of the library, dancers will toss someone up the ramp only to see that dancer “fall” back down. Their vigorous moves are set to attention-grabbing electronic music.
Elements Contemporary Ballet has chosen Lake Street Church to preview their ballet-in-progress, “The Sun King.” Though not Versailles, the “gorgeous” church has a sense of the “artistry and richness” of Louis XIV, says Joseph Caruana, resident choreographer.
The six dancers of Striding Lion Performance Group will wear exercise suits for “Slip,” a piece created by founding artistic director Annie Arnoult Beserra to illustrate a phenomenon called “inattentional blindness.” Based on a Harvard study that shows what people can miss when narrowing their focus, “Slip” will challenge the audience “to engage actively” in watching and “offer theatrical surprises to those who pay close attention,” Ms. Beserra says.
Evanston can expect the unexpected as these Evanston dancers step onto their unconventional stages. Not only will “On Site: Putting Dance on the Map” showcase the many styles of dance endemic to Evanston, but, as Steve Rashid said when he scouted locations with his wife, it may let audiences “see [Evanston] spaces in a very different way.”