Dwell premiere @ LINKS Hall in Chicago

Time Out Chicago / Issue 91: Nov 23–Nov 29, 2006

Home is where the art is
A duo of visiting artists creates special dances for special places

By Asimina Chremos

Dance artists Chris Aiken and Angie Hauser want to talk with you about where you live. On Tuesday 28, they’ll lead an informal discussion about “aesthetics, place and imagination” in advance of their performance Dwell, premiering at Links Hall next week. “We’re interested in talking about the integration of people’s lives with their aesthetic sensibility,” Aiken says.

The two are well respected in the worlds of contemporary dance and dance improvisation: Hauser (who recently taught at the Dance Center of Columbia College) dances for the revered choreographer Bebe Miller, and Aiken travels internationally as a teacher of contact improvisation. The two are also partners in life, a condition that has informed the creative process for their upcoming performance.

“Because we bought a house together about a year ago, we’ve engaged in a lot of dialogue about what goes into making a home,” Aiken says. They live in a rural area about 25 miles outside of Philadelphia, near Ursinus College, where Aiken is an assistant professor of dance.

Aiken says he’s been inspired by Hauser’s approach to setting up their digs. “More than anyone I’ve met,” he says, “she has an amazing sense of space and creating an environment. It’s very different than what’s called ‘interior decorating.’ ”

Aiken anticipates the discussion will lead to experiences of place and locale beyond the home, too. As touring artists, he and Hauser both see a lot of different places. “You learn pretty quickly how to orient yourself,” he says. “And it’s interesting to see what parts of a new town are lively and what parts are kind of dead. We started to wonder, What goes into making a place special and alive?”

Clearly, one thing the couple values is an awareness of the history that is held by objects and architecture. Dwell is created especially for the place in which it will be performed, Links Hall. As a venue for experimental performance since the late 1970s, Links has earned a place in the hearts of generations of performers and audiences. The hall itself is named after the building in which it exists.

Aiken and Hauser have been delving into the history of Links Hall by interviewing people who have a significant relationship with the building. They’ve tracked down the Link family, who originally constructed the building, and they’ve also been talking with Bob Eisen, a choreographer who ran the venue and used it for his own daily practice for almost 25 years before moving to New York a few years ago. Links’ current staff is also contributing: “We learned that Rachel Damon [Links’ resident lighting designer] has collected small things from each performance that she’s lit there,” Aiken says.

In terms of how all this information is synthesized in the performance itself, Aiken says, “We’re not making a documentary.” In a seeming contrast to all the “foraging” (Aiken’s language) the couple is doing through the history of Links Hall, the two also have a strong commitment to the kind of this-moment-right-now awareness that comes from the fact that their choreography is founded in improvisation.

Aiken likens his and Hauser’s compositional approach to Dwell to that of postmodern-dance icon Simone Forti in her News Animations, a well-known work in which Forti both speaks and dances. Before each performance, Forti collects the newspapers from that day and reads them. Then, bringing them onstage with her, she makes choices in the moment about what to say and do.

“We’ve done our homework,” Aiken says. “The piece is tailored to the space, and in the performance, we choose movements that fit with that moment and that audience.”

For details about the performance Dwell and the related discussion, call Links Hall at 773-281-0824, or visit http://www.linkshall.org.

Chicago Reader: December 1, 2006

CRITIC’S CHOICE

CHRIS AIKEN AND ANGIE HAUSER The improvisations by Chris Aiken and Angie Hauser–life as well as dance partners–that I watched on DVD were naturally marked by intimacy, by the fundamentally dramatic polarities of imitation/opposition and approach/retreat. But these informal pieces also showed a strong sense of composition, developing a theme and using the entire space creatively. That’s not surprising considering the dancers’ backgrounds: Aiken has performed with all-star improvisation artists Steve Paxton and Nancy Stark Smith, and Hauser is a member of the Bessie-winning Bebe Miller Company. She says their commissioned premiere here, Dwell, will not be contact improvisation but a 60- to 75-minute piece that combines principles of composition with the “aliveness of the current moment.” Cellist Stephen Katz of the Paul Winter Consort provides improvised music, and designer Rachel Damon is working on a palette of lighting choices whose use will also be ad hoc. As preparation for Dwell, an homage to Link’s Hall, Hauser and Aiken have spent a week in residency there and researched its history and surroundings. Fri-Sat 12/1-12/2, 8 PM, Sun 12/3, 7 PM, Link’s Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield, 773-281-0824, $10-$15. Contact-improv workshop Sat 12/2, 1-4 PM, at the Dance Center of Columbia College, 1306 S. Michigan, $30. –Laura Molzahn

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