Back in July of 2014, the first collaboration between Elements Contemporary Ballet and Aerial Dance Chicago (ACD) manifested in the premiere of Surge, drawing sold-out crowds at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. A joint choreographic projects of Elements Contemporary’s Mike Gosney and Joseph Caruana and Aerial Dance’s Chloe Jensen and Karen Fisher Doyle, AYA expands on that first effort with a narrative  that constellates around a giant tree, spanning from mysterious subterranean depths to the distant sky. Made entirely from suspended aerial fabrics that are creatively woven and then manipulated by the dancers, the tree centers AYA’s story of life cycles, the tension between personal solitude and social engagement, and the struggle to find belonging.

The hanging aerial silks in AYA evoke tree vines, connecting the dancers to the tree’s wisdom and life force. ADC’s Chloe Jensen performs as the central character of the piece who begins aloft among the aerial silks, exalted but alone. But as the dance unfolds, she mobilizes and frees herself, eventually connecting to other dancers at the base of the giant tree. Through various conflicts and connections, symbolized by the duets and repertory pieces of ADC and Elements, she finds her place. AYA culminates in both dance companies performing a celebration of the surge of life flowing through the tree vines to earth and all its inhabitants.

The theme of connection brings the two companies together in AYA, underlying the parallel arc the two dance troupes have taken. Says Karen Fisher-Doyle, artistic director of Aerial Dance Chicago, “The inspiration for the work (AYA) grew as we discussed the old Chinese proverb of the Red String of Fate. We believed, like our connection through “The Trees," that the red thread not only mirrored the work we’d created but also represented the artistic connection between the companies. If our souls had awakened through Surge, then in AYA they would be taking a journey.”   

The themes in AYA develop over three acts. In Act One, ADC and Elements perform separate choreography that eventually overlaps, evoking the main character’s conscious life. The second act features the tree of woven black silks that the dancers climb up, evoking an alternate universe. Here, a loose red silk is introduced and used to cocoon dancers and tie them to each other or to the tree. The third act (a new version of Surge) resolves the character storylines within a sea of seven red hanging silks, representing a super consciousness or higher world.  

Performances of AYA, An Aerial Ballet take place Saturdays, October 10 and 17, 2015 at 8 p.m. at Athenaeum Theatre (2936 N. Southport Ave in Chicago).

For more information or for tickets, visit www.athenaeumtheatre.org or call 773.935.6875.

Elements Contemporary and Aerial Dance Explore Connections in Collaboration, AYA

AYA: An Aerial Ballet (photo by Topher Alexander)

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