Flyspace: A Dance Consortium

Four women: founders, directors, choreographers, administrators and artists. Four women working together to elevate the visibility and grow audiences for their perspective modern dance companies. Four women: Jan Bartoszek, Margi Cole, Michelle Kranicke and Joanna Rosenthal. These four women are launching FLYSPACE, a strategic partnership and consortium, with two weekends of shared performances at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Hedwig Dances and Same Planet Different World share the closed-in, outdoor stage this weekend followed by The Dance COLEctive and Zephyr Dance next weekend.

FLYSPACE has been flying around the media recently, garnering tons of press for its unique approach to sharing resources. A meeting with Arts Work Fund director Marcia Festen between eight local female company leaders sparked the conversation and inspiration for the consortium. The discussion revolved around how to share resources and knowledge to help each other, which in turn would help each individual company. As mid-career, female, acclaimed artists, why are the economics not aligning with your accomplishments? Why are you still struggling? Obviously the economic downturn had a say, but a shift in funder focus to new and emerging artists added to the problem. “There’s a shift that happened, which kind of left us standing in the wind with our pants down,” said co-chair Cole.

Energized by the conversation, but realistic about the challenges, the group eventually shrank to four partners and FLYSPACE really took off. “To everyone’s credit, there was a real commitment,” said Kranicke, also a co-chair. “I think those that opted out did so because they realized they couldn’t give to the partnership the amount of energy that it was suddenly becoming clear it would need. It’s like taking on another job.” The group quickly discovered that technology would be a key factor in their success. “We recognized that our challenge is that we’re a one-man-show, for the most part,” said Cole. “Our audience walks up and buys a ticket. They don’t buy in advance, so it’s really difficult to get information. If we’re lucky enough to have them fill out a survey, who is going to enter all that data? I am. I’ve got grants to write and dances to make, so maybe technology is the way to solve the challenge.”

Cole and Kranicke make it clear that this is not an artistic collaboration, but a consortium with a shared interest. “The intention of the shared show and the launch is to showcase what we do,” said Cole. “We are dance companies. We are all different. Kranicke adds, “Our interests are strictly business. We operate to try to advance and extend our visibility and enhance our marketing, but we maintain our individual aesthetics.” The ladies of FLYSPACE have set goals with hopes of creating a national model for similar artistic entities and look to expand the FLYSPACE group in the future. “It is not an exclusive organization,” Kranicke said. “We are at a point where we’re still developing certain parts of the partnership, so we aren’t looking for new members at this time, but that won’t always be the case.” Cole said, “We want to have a solid structure before we bring more people in. We put an awful lot of time and energy into it and I’d like to see it sustain itself whether I’m sitting at the table or not.” A running joke between the partners is that between them they have over 100 years of arts administrative experience. With that kind of experience beneath them, other companies will look to them as inspiration and perhaps as future partners.

FLYSPACE Dance Series: Hedwig Dances and Same Planet Different World, Friday-Saturday, April 5-6 at 7 pm and Sunday, April 7 at 5 pm. The Dance COLEctive and Zephyr Dance, Friday-Saturday, April 12-13 at 7 pm and Sunday, April 14 at 5 pm at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, 201 E. Randolph St. Tickets are $15, visit flyspacechicago.brownpapertickets.com.

dropshift dance explores memory through movement

dropshift dance's Andrea Cerniglia. Photo courtesy of Dear Prudence Photography.

What is a memento? How do you define that? How does your perception change when you get further away from the source? These are some of the questions “artistic architect” and dancer Andrea Cerniglia asks in?Catch and Release presented this weekend at The Hairpin Arts Center. In this new program, her company, dropshift dance, explores memory perception and recall by creating an interactive performance experience with dancers, roving musicians and textile artwork. The goal is to create a balance between the three disciplines, while letting the audience decide how they view the show.

This non-traditional platform altering how and what the audience sees by letting them control the watch time and viewpoint is something she’s been experimenting with recently during her ninth season with Zephyr Dance. Although she’s been with the local company since 2004, after stints with RTG Dance and Chicago Moving Company, Cerniglia, 32, started presenting her own work in 2010. “I have a point of view and to develop that, I have to produce my own work”, she said. “It was a gradual process, but it was the next logical step.” As director, or architect, she wears many hats, but is learning and growing in the process. An example is the much-dreaded deed of grant writing. “It’s tedious, but a necessary evil,” said Cerniglia. “You do so many edits that it forces you to be more articulate. I’ve learned a lot about myself and became a better writer.”

Along with Cerniglia in Catch and Release will be three dancers, musicians Weldon Anderson (double bass) and Bob Kessler (harmonica, acoustic and electronic loopers), moving through textiles/sets by artist Ashley Sullivan with costumes (and set consultation) by Heiki Dakter. “The way that the performance space is set up will allow the viewer to literally be caught in one moment, while having the opportunity to release themselves and go view something else,” she says. “At times, the audience will have to choose how long to stay with a certain part of the performance as overlap may suggest that they leave one part of the space to go see another.”

dropshift dance presents Catch and Release, Friday-Sunday at The Hairpin Arts Center, 2800 N. Milwaukee Ave.? Friday – Sunday, Nov. 9-11 at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $20, students and seniors $15, visit brownpapertickets.com.