Fraction: Dance in Progress Provides a Peek Before the Unveiling

by Jacquelyn Thayer

T: Lizzie Leopold, photo credit Matthew Gregory Hollis. B: Enid Smith, photo credit Matt Glavin.

Most dance audiences see a work after it has evolved through months of behind-the-scenes effort. “Fraction: Dance in Progress,” a series hosted by Links Hall, pulls back the curtain on that effort, showcasing in-progress works to the public.

“Fraction” began in February 2012, with works from four local choreographers and an audience turnout around forty. In its third installment, set for Monday, September 24, the number of choreographers has doubled in size from that initial date. Coordinator Francesca Bourgault is hoping for a proportionate audience boost at the venue, which seats over 70. “This time as we have eight groups performing on Monday, I’m really hoping that we sell out.”

The works emphasize the diversity of Chicago’s modern dance scene. Lizzie Leopold’s “Sanctus Dominus Dressing Room,” accompanied by a Brahms String Quintet and set to premiere at October’s “A Correct Likeness” is an exercise in deceptive simplicity.

“The idea grew simply out of the action of dressing and undressing, which resonated with the idea of putting on a costume for performance – preparing for presentation whether that be on the stage or walking down the street,” says Leopold via email. “Staging these intimate, often private moments, was the impetus. It’s just that simple task and asking the audience to watch and think about it.”

Other pieces, like Enid Smith’s unfinished “Acre,” are premised on more complex scenarios. “‘Acre’ is my exploration of the way relationships are affected by property lines and land ownership,” says Smith in an email. “The music is a mix of Bill Frisell tunes, soundscape, and some classic country.”

The early presentation contributes some much-needed urgency to rehearsals. “It’s good to work under pressure sometimes,” says Smith. “I also think the showing will give me a feeling of where I stand with the work. I may feel on Monday that certain parts feel solid and near finished or that other sections felt a bit rough and that they need more attention. ‘Fraction’ provides a safe place for me to play with that.”

Bourgault and Leopold cite the links forged by participating artists as a highlight of the “Fraction” experience. “Being able to see those connections has been really rewarding. New connections and new collaborations that are starting to pop up – that’s been great,” says Bourgault.

“We benefit from the proximity to the other artists at ‘Fraction,’ sharing the stage and sharing ideas,” says Leopold. “The feedback and visibility are integral parts of responsible dance making.” Smith concurs: “One of the things I’m hoping to achieve at ‘Fraction’ is to get some feedback on my musical choices. It’s so valuable to get feedback from your peers when a work is in its early stages.”

For the audience, “Fraction” means the thrill of new work from local artists. For the artists, the audience means something more: “Practicing the presentation part, with the audience, is too often left out of the rehearsal process,” says Leopold. “We practice everything else over and over. Why not this part too?”

Fraction: Dance in Progress
Monday, September 24, 8 p.m.
Links Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield Ave., Chicago
Suggested Donation: $5

Participating artists include Silvita Diaz-Brown, Annie Beserra of Striding Lion, Lizzie Leopold Group, Ashley Deran, Stephanie Williams, Katherine Dreher, Enid Smith Dance, and Kristina Isabelle.

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