The Dance COLEctive (TDC) dance company, based in Chicago, recently performed a show called “Written on the Body,” a mix of humorous, intense and melancholic dances about a pretend superhero, pull and push dynamic and an exploration of life and death, respectively.
The show began with “Supergirl,” a comical one-woman dance and show performed by Margi Cole, TDC’s Artistic Director, about a woman who pretends to be a superhero. With the stage set with a pink bed and a white chair, Cole entered wearing an all-pink ensemble of a bathrobe, head wrap and furry slippers. Timing her overdramatic gasps and laughs and exaggerating her enunciation, she began to play the role of a movie star in training, saying to the audience, “I want to age with grace.” Her over-the-top displays of theatricality received laughs from the audience, for example when she made squishing sounds as she stomped on the floor.
Soon, Cole’s mood changed from overdramatic to more subdued, as she said “You mean you can’t see me?” Cole took her robe off, revealing her superhero persona of “Supergirl,” completing her costume detailed with an “S” insignia by putting on her mask. As a cheesy, 80s-like theme song played, she lived a day in the life of a superhero: fending off attackers by using her chair as a shield, making laser-blasting noises, “flying” by lying on her stomach on the floor, lifting her legs and wiggling her body while wind sounds played. When Cole announced that she was going to continue to move like a superhero, “all of this in slow motion, of course,” she got one of her biggest laughs from the audience. She ended her show by donning her original pink clothes and saying, “I wouldn’t offer to be invisible,” as the Supergirl theme played.
After Cole’s comical “Supergirl” was “Pull Taut,” an intense piece featuring almost all members of TDC interacting with each other, creating a push and pull dynamic throughout the piece. Dancers stood in evenly spaced intervals with one another in the beginning, and the lighting was synchronized with the music fading in and out. They started to move in different ways, often in pairs, playing off each other while struggling to gain or regain control. The music intensified and the tempo picked up as dancers jumped, pushed and kicked each other throughout the piece. These actions gave momentum to the other dancers, propelling movement as they dove to the floor, pulled on each other and ran off the stage. After a standoff between two dancers with others surrounding them, they soon returned to their starting position, swinging forward and backward slowly, bringing back to mind that push and pull dynamic.
The final piece, called “Written on the Body,” incorporated a giant screen and elaborate costumes resembling clothing from the 1800s. It showcased a dance that seemed to move through time as a journey beyond life and death. On the projection screen was footage of a stone path as dancers dressed in period clothing and black suits began to move to the melancholy string music. A map superimposed on the stone path created a fascinating image, beckoning the audience to begin a journey until the map was the only object on screen. The dancers often reflected what was on the screen, such as when a written name appeared onscreen and a dancer began to write on the floor with her finger, gradually increasing the speed of her writing.
Other scenes on the screen were blurry at first, making it difficult to discern any particular image apart from the blending of green and gray. One scene looked like it could have been a graveyard and dancers illustrated mourning while rocking back and forth in a fetal position while others become corpse-like, lying on the ground. Continuing this motif of death and death-like positions, dancers carried each other as if the group was made up of pallbearers and the person being carried was the casket, stiff while folding her hands across her chest.
The previous image of the stone path appeared again, but this round of images was clear instead of blurry, which was surprising at first. Dancers lying on the ground as if they were corpses soon got up, and were replaced by other dancers in a cycle that resembled death and rebirth. The dance ended with the haunting image of a lone dancer stepping forward, trying to wrap her arms around a figure but only grasping air.