BONEdanse’s bully.punk.riot: Preview

BONEdansers Cheryl Cornacchione and Nicole Scatchell in "bully.punk.riot." Photo by Carl Wiedemann.

A lesson in moshing, a debate on electronic equipment, a lecture on moral hypocrisy, a futball duet, a cattle-like corral and a urinal test. You get all that and more in BONEdanse‘s bully.punk.riot + REBELLION  EVENT running for two weekends at the new Links Hall/Constellation starting tonight. The fearless Atalee Judy teams up with choreographers Melissa Ganser and Megan Klein for this intelligent, intense trifecta of turbulent tension encased in fervent, physical, female fierceness. Come prepared for a riotous rebellion and some damn fine dancing.

Judy saw Ganser’s and Klein’s work while they were studying at Columbia College and thought they spoke the same language, so she asked them to collaborate on a show. “They’re smart, really athletic and very thoughtful without over-thinking,” Judy said. “They’re very physical in a visceral kind of way. We bonded immediately. I didn’t want to just do a show by myself, so it excited me to bring them in.” A book she was reading – Herd: How to Change Mass Behavior by Harnessing Our True Nature by Mark Earls – provided the impetus for the show’s theme. Klein chose to explore violence in gangs and riots, Ganser wanted to address bullying, while Judy went to her knowledge of the punk scene and mosh pits. Those three takes became bully.punk.riot. “Why not make it really transparent? It’s charged, It’s powerful,” Judy said of the title.

The three main theme sections are broken up by what Judy calls “herding transitions” inspired by tests in the book. One of these transitions is the futball duet which tackles (ha!) the herding mentality in sporting events complete with referee hand signals and wrestling take-downs.  Judy, who also did all of the costuming and sound design, has the two dancers clad in all-white costumes with football pads on their hips. (See pic.) “I’ve always liked how football players looked in their white pants and I thought girls would look great in them too,” she said. “It’s so perfect. They make this clapping, crashing sound. It’s definitely a commentary on the herding trends in football and wrestling, but the switch is the fashion industry. These are haute couture, even vogue-y kind of female divas. The put their shoes on their hands and do boxing things to get into that competition feel.”

While those costumes take things to the extreme, another costuming choice tacks simple. In the bully section, Judy has the dancers in plain white underwear (which as a recovering ballerina, I found terrifying). “I thought of the white underwear because they have this vulnerability to them. I wanted to show vulnerability without being stupid, sexy, girly,” she said. “The perfect icon, for me, is when men strip down, ‘are you wearing boxers or briefs’? It’s that iconic, vulnerable place. Everybody takes a shit sitting down. It makes a level player out of all of us. Later on in the piece, we do put pants on. Everybody puts pants on one leg at a time. It just brings us all to this level playing field. Plus, I really like tighty whities. It’s the most comfortable cotton.”

The super-charged, emotionally energetic show also boasts some great music – if you like punk rock. Dead Kennedys, FEAR, The Young Gods and Trent Reznor (head of Nine Inch Nails) are just some of the rebellious music you’ll hear throughout the soundscape. “This is not just a dance trance monster,” said Judy. “There’s a lot of really great music and really awesome energy to feel and get into. It’s a group of really strong women doing great stuff. It’s been a great process.”

BONEdanse presents bully.punk.riot at Links Hall/Constellation, 3111 N. Western Ave., Thursday-Sunday, June 20-23 and June 27-30 at 7 pm. Tickets are $18-$20 and can be purchased here.





Dances Made To Order: Chicago Edition Premieres TODAY!

Three films from Chicago dance artists premiere online today for the Chicago series of Dances Made To OrderThe Dance Center of Columbia College curated the May round of the film series created by Dances Made To Order co-founders Kingsley Irons and Bryan Koch.  Local artists Kaitlin Fox, Atalee Judy and Nadia Oussenko had about two weeks to create dance films utilizing three concepts (clocks and paint, struggle against biology, repulsion/desire) voted on by members.  Fox’s Origin features one dancer (Gretchen Soechting), covered in what looks like mud, in a black and white setting of shadows and boxes set to New Age music.  Judy’s Wasteland shows off her trademark punk style as she adorns and destroys alarm clocks (is the clock belt a reference to her biological clock?) to Barry Bennett’s frantic drums.  Oussenko’s Dance of the Queer Tide Faeries takes a fun turn with three dancers (Oussenko, Rachel Damon, Christopher Knowlton) clad in primary colored crinolines playing on the lakefront.

You can watch all three films online for $10.  For more information, visit:

Read my preview here.

Girls On Film


Three local dance artists are taking their talent to the screen.  The Dance Center of Columbia College is curating this month’s edition of Dances Made To Order, an online film series created in 2011 by LA team Kingsley Irons (dance maker/producer) and Bryan Kock (filmmaker) that features a different city’s artists each month.  Columbia College peeps Colleen Halloran, Richard Woodbury and Bruce Sheridan chose Kaitlin Fox, Atalee Judy and Nadia Oussenko as the three artists to represent Chicago.

Here’s how it works:  pay a one-time membership fee, $10 for one month (if you only want to see the Chicago films) or $50 to see all the films created this season online.  Once you sign up, you can vote on the themes the filmmakers will be required to use.  Voting – which is FREE – for the Chicago series started yesterday and runs through May 10th at midnight. (I just voted and can’t wait to see what these lovely ladies come up with!) 65% of the revenue raised goes back to the artists.

Besides dance, choreography and filmmaking, Fox, Judy and Oussenko have something else in common.  All three received an email from Columbia College Dance Department Chair, Onye Ozuzu.  “Onye sent me a cryptic email,” Judy said.  “I was a little cautious, because I’d never heard of it.  They’ve got a Netflix kind of thing going on, but with a different concept.”  Fox and Oussenko had never heard of the series either, but all three warmed to the idea quickly.  These lovely ladies have dabbled in filmmaking before, so the process isn’t new, but new challenges will be thrown at them.  For one, it’s difficult to plan a shoot if you don’t know what the film will be about.  Five themes will be voted on taken from questionnaires the artists and their collaborators filled out earlier in the year.  Three of those five themes will be incorporated into each film.  “We can start to plan, but we really don’t know,” said Oussenko.   Fox said she’d been trying to make a dance that would incorporate all five themes, but that plan has been put on hold.  Since graduating from Columbia in 2010, she admits it takes a bit longer to get that “creative kick”.  “I’ve been trying to find ways to expand creatively,” she said.  “This should be a good learning experience.” And Judy said, “I’ve been thinking about it, but it’s futile.  There are certain things you can’t prepare for.  We’re going to wing it and hope to be inspired.”

While, the trio is concerned about the time limit of two weeks for filming, production and editing, some of the rules may help with the process.  “It helped simplify,” said Fox.  “It allows us to scale back.”  Oussenko worries about scheduling.  “You have no idea how hard it is to just get five people together,” she said.  Judy thinks the time frame is “doable” since she’s done a series of film shorts called Danse Skitz for her company BONEdanse, but she’s clearing her schedule for those two weeks, just in case.  The range of freak out is “kind of scary” to “half excited, half nervous” to “I’m terrified”.

For dancer bios and more information or to sign up and vote, go to


Out of Mosh Pits & Mash Ups

BONEdanse. Photo by

Under the muscle and punk rock exterior, Atalee Judy is a true beauty.  Piercing pale blue eyes, refreshing honesty and self-awareness tinted with humor are what you get one-on-one.  She’s fierce, cool and definitely one-of-a-kind.  Her background is as interesting as her look.  Judy grew up on a horse ranch in Mansfield, Texas.  After her father died when she was 12, she ran away to New York and lived with three punk bands, serving as a techie and housekeeper. Her uncle, a rich Republican that lived in the Chicago suburbs adopted her and she ended up in an all-girl Catholic high school which happened to have a terrific dance program.  “I was on the basketball team…and the basketball coach was inspired by the football players taking ballet and dance to get better coordination.  We got thrown into dance class and I pitched a fit about not wanting to wear pink tights.  I didn’t want to take ballet, so she put me in this modern dance class.  I insisted on wearing my basketball jersey.  I was such a fucking tomboy.  I fell in love.  From that point on, I was doing talent shows.  The nuns loved me.  I had the shaved head, Sinead O’Connor look with my combat boots and little Catholic girl uniform.”  A brief stint as a bio chem major led her to realize that dance was her passion.

As Artistic Director of BONEdanse, the new incarnation of  her brainchild Breakbone Dance Co, which she started in 1997 after graduating from Columbia College’s dance program, she’s tackled social and political issues with tenacity and creativity.  She’s also codified her own technique – the Bodyslam Technique – that she teaches in the Chicago area dance scene.  “At Columbia, I realized that this whole falling stuff that I’d been working on was very interesting to them, but also confusing,” Judy says over coffee and some very hot tea.  “They didn’t know what to do with me.  When given a choice to improvise, instead of using classical technique stuff which I didn’t have an interest or want to do, I’d be doing prat falls and things I thought were exciting or energetic.”

For This is a DAMAGE MANUAL, four dancers (including Judy) and a sock puppet named Earl take the stage for a two-week run at Theater Wit starting Thursday.  The evening-length work takes its cues from 1950s self-help records mixed with some 80s themes and a little psycho-analysis and self-reflection.  Characters (a stressed out housewife, a dysfunctional ballerina, a Hitler-esque figure with a cold that under hypnosis becomes an Elvis impersonator) born out of last summer’s 12-week video project Danse Skitz are brought to life in problematic glory while trying to “fix” their damage via hypnosis and outdated advice.  I sat down with Judy in mid-January to talk about the show.

From punk bands to dance, it seems an unlikely transition. 

I was choreographing early on.  It felt like something that I needed to get out.  I’m a doer.  I’d just do, not knowing what I was doing.  When I was a kid, I would sketch the horses an try to make them move as opposed to static pictures.  I was always watching them, how graceful and gorgeous they are.  When you’re up on a balcony and looking down on a mosh pit, that kinetic energy going on and the whirlpool that happens…I’ve always wanted to bring that to the stage.  I want a mosh pit on stage.  I’ve always said there’s a lot of fall and recovery in the mosh pit.  You really have to know where your weight is or else you’re going down to the ground and get a boot in your face. 

Why the name change?

A lot of cumulative things.  Some are kind of trivial, some are deeper, but I really feel personally trapped when I get categorized too much or defined…even when I feel obligated to be something that I don’t want to be or I’m not all the time.  I think Breakbone started defining itself and me as this one thing and that’s all I did.  I wanted to fold and just create something else that had a little more leeway and a little more play with it to where I could do anything I want, so I wouldn’t be defined by it.  Oh, she falls a lot.  I didn’t want to be the one-trick pony.  It started getting to get to where I was demanding this of all my dancers.   A lot of dancers don’t think they are athletes. I couldn’t keep working on the psychology of their issues.  Either you’re an athlete and you believe it and you go to the gym and work out and build your muscles or you atrophy.  It’s not enough just to do the movement.  I was projecting a lot of my values onto them and I hate when people do that.  I dwindled it down to people I really wanted to work with, because they offered different skill sets.  And the other thing is the trust issue, making sure that I trusted their skill sets to be more collaborative.  I used to come in with all the movement, all the concepts, all the answers – not in a control freak way, well they may have thought it was – they wanted to be fed and I would have all the answers for them.  They just had to implement.  Things have changed the trajectory.  It feels more open, a little bit freer…less defining.  One of the other elements is I feel like I said everything I wanted to say with Breakbone.  We had a lot of social issues, political stuff that was very ragey, some controversial.  I’m not going to top any of that.  I think I’m done talking about that.  The new trajectory it’s getting into a more psychological level of evaluating my own issues as well as things that I’m sharing with the company right now.  It’s deeper versus reactionary. 

Tell me about DAMAGE MANUAL.

I don’t know what I’m sitting on with this show.  There’s a solo I do that’s so fucked up that I don’t even know if it’s funny.  It’s just wrong.  The whole show has a mash up feel.  I saw Jyl Fehrenkamp perform this solo once for a show with Winifred Haun and it blew me away.  It was about Women’s Stress Disorder. When we were working on this show, that idea kept coming up.  I commissioned that from her.  We’ve been working on a ten-minute chunk from last spring that we did it for the Other Dance Festival.  My partner Karl has an old collection of self-help records from the 50s.  Oh my, are they creepy.  The records have all the glitches and skips.  Somehow the 80s was coming in so I just went with it.  There’s a therapist’s office, a ballet studio, a bathing suit section with a Crisco can, bathing caps and tanning bed goggles, a bullet bra…a mash up. 


BONEdanse presents This is a DAMAGE MANUAL, Feb 2-5 & Feb 9-12, Thurs-Sat at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm

Theater Wit, 1229 W Blemont, 773.975.8150, $15-$24