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« Hubbard Street Dance Spring Series Takes the Stage This Weekend Thom DeVita Solo Exhibition: American Folk Art$ @ Great Lakes Tattoo »

Dance Mon Mar 16 2015

Choreographer Winifred Haun's Promise Will Deliver

By Kim Campbell

GB-Promise 2015-2.jpg
Photos by Kim Campbell.

Promise, opening next weekend for two nights only at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, is the brainstorm of acclaimed modern dance choreographer Winifred Haun. She created the current adaptation after reading and deconstructing John Steinbeck's opus East of Eden. She says she decided to revise the work after producing several sections of Promise in 2006-2009, in order to focus on developing two of the female characters from the book (Cathy and Liza) because she wanted to explore their motivations more deeply. Haun says, "Steinbeck did not, in my opinion, fully flesh out his female characters." Her goal, she explains, is to look at themes through motion and relationships and to give the women a more three-dimensional role.

There will be light circus elements revisited in this production. Zada Cheeks, the company's rehearsal director and male lead, will perform as Adam on straps, along with his partner Ariel Dorsey, who plays the female lead Cathy. The opening night introduction will include a solo on stilts by Kristina Isabelle as well. Haun estimates that her new production has added 15 percent more straps work, an art form she says she loves because it is so ethereal and allows the dancer's whole form to be visible while using it. The other key players, such as April Falcon (who plays Liza Hamilton), Timothy Bowser and Jessie Housington (who play Cal and Aron) will also have brief interludes on the straps throughout the show's two acts.

The entire cast numbers around 20, including a section of community dancers. Haun says she includes children and older people in parts of the production to show how the women were immersed in their community and emerge from it to tell their story. This emerging is done quite literally on several occasions as dancer Dorsey walks across steps formed by the clasped hands of her fellow dancers. Haun explains "My work is sometimes a narrative and sometimes abstract. There are instances where sections relate directly to the narrative of the story and times that relate to the philosophical things that Steinbeck was going for in the book."

GB-Promise 2015.jpgEven if you haven't read the book lately, Promise will entice you with its stunning visual feast, sketching flowing patterns with group dynamics like swirls, lines, claps, hugs and the ever-present straps that hang in the center of the stage, a symbol for life, beckoning each dancer to engage them and be released, however briefly, from the gravity of their own story.

One image that stuck with Haun as she choreographed the performance is the light and dark mountain ranges of Salinas Valley, described by Steinbeck so clearly. The concepts of light and dark, good and evil, and free will hold up well in the story, conveyed so clearly by movement and body language. Other emotions like envy, greed, regret, sibling rivalry, fear and love make appearances in the nuanced motions of Promise, but Haun explains why free will is her ultimate ending point for the work, much like Steinbeck's: "We are all given these short lives and it's not about what happens to us really. It's about what we do with it," she says.

To get a sneak peak of the show, you can read associate dancer Heather Marotti's blog posts or take part in a pre-show master class with Zada Cheeks, featuring choreography from Promise on Saturday, March 21, from 5 to 6:30pm. The $25 fee includes a free ticket to Promise.

Promise runs at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn, Friday, March 20, at 7:30pm, featured "Opening Dance: Kristina Isabelle"; and Saturday, March 21, at 7:30pm, featured "Opening Dance: The Leopold Group." Tickets are $30 or $20 for ages 6-18. Kids under age 6 are free. Tickets can be purchased online.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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