In Their Element

Dancers Gabrielle DeRe-Ashley and Joseph Caruana in "Hadyn". Photo by Matt Glavin.

Earth, wind and fire…and oh yes, water too.  Elements Contemporary Ballet incorporates themes of the natural elements in their classes and choreography.  Founded in 2005 by Artistic Director Mike Gosney, Elements builds on his unique movement and teaching structure to create a cohesive, yet organic unit.  This Saturday, April 9th, the company will present its sixth Chicago concert with four of Gosney’s works at the Anthanaeum Theatre.

After teaching extensively for 20 years, Gosney has developed his own style.  Early on, while also studying astrology, he used the elemental energies to organize his classes.  Intrigued, I asked him to give examples of how the elements are woven into a ballet class structure.  “Air is the element surrounding thought, line and balance,” he explains.  “In this class much time is spent on understanding extension and organization/alignment of the bones.  Earth is the element surrounding hard work repetition and patience.  In this class we build and stretch muscle, very much like Yoga and Pilates.  Water is the element of mystery, spirituality and sexuality.  In a water class, the lights are dimmed, music never stops and the dancers are guided through structured improvisation.  Fire is the element for passions, performance and energy.  In this class my dancers attain endurance, speed and learn a lot about themselves as reliable performers.”

His approach led naturally to choreography.  This weekend’s one-night-only performance will showcase four powerful works:  Haydn – a neoclassical tribute to the composer set to Cello Concerto No. 1 in C, Curiosity – where the dancers physically embody questions, Grey – set to choral Tchaikovsky music, is a spirtually-inspired reflection on the color, and Great and Small – which uses the full company with apprentices to comment on nature and what earth might be like without man.

These four pieces represent the natural elements and the Elements dancers.  “It has been a gradual process gathering a group of dancers that appreciate classical line, but are willing to experiment with them the way I do,” says Gosney.  “With these dancers, I am able to show Chicago where this company is going.”  If you are interested in seeing where Elements will take you, go see the show this weekend.  I am.  Tickets are still available.

Elements Contemporary Ballet -Saturday, April 9th at 8 pm

The Anthenaem Theatre, 2936 N Southport

Tickets:  800.982.2787 or

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