Driving into Chicago with friends to see the September 8th COUNTER BALANCE IX: The Power of Integrated Dance performance at the Center on Halsted, Hoover-Leppen Theatre, 3656 N. Halsted, I was curious about the venue that was new to me and how this would impact the dancing. I have not been to a Counter Balance performance for several years and wondered what this program would present.
Entering the building we were impressed with the fresh clean look and noted that it has a door that accesses the Whole Foods next door. As we rode the elevator to the third floor, we learned that several people had come in from some distance, Waukegan, IL, and from even as far as New York and Washington DC. Other people commented that they were wait listed and were not sure they would get in. Everyone did get in.
Stepping off of the elevator the room was crowded with people greeting one another and picking up tickets. Before long the auditorium was opened and we were seated. I was very impressed with the consideration offered by usher Sydney Erlikh. She carefully placed the people who were in wheelchairs where they could see and took care of walkers that people used so they were not in anyone’s way.
The performance was introduced by Stephanie Clemens, who along with Ginger Lane form the Production Management. As Stephanie concluded her introductions, she became visibly upset and then made the shocking announcement that Access Living Founder, Marca Bristo, had passed away this very morning and this performance was dedicated to her memory. I believe this performance would have pleased Marca Bristo very much.
The program featured integrated dance choreography and performances by accomplished artists with and without disabilities. This, the ninth consecutive year, featured works by 3Arts Award Winners, Ginger Lane, Sarah Cullen Fuller, and Anita Fillmore Kenney & Kris Lenzo; a premiere by MOMENTA’s incoming executive director, Sarah Najera; and two works by acclaimed choreographer, Alice Sheppard. The concert also presented two integrated dance companies from outside of the U.S.: Vertigo-Power of Balance (Jerusalem, Israel), and Light Sound Friends (Seoul, Korea), and featured original music by James Falzone, and Tiny Desk Contest winner, Gaelynn Lea.
Over the years Counter Balance has grown to include guest artists from around the U.S and abroad. The representation from Light Sound Friends from Korea and Vertigo-Power of Balance from Israel gave this performance an International reach. The program was varied; several group numbers- I Belong to You, Queens, Flow, Re-Membering a World to Come, two solos, Sentio andMoon, Flower and Light, three duets –Duet in C Major, Indecisionand An Intimate Duet. Breatheincluded a video and two dancers, and the finale, Community II included all the performers.
Live music by way of a Korean 12 string zither in combination with a recording accompanied the dance in Moon, Flower and Light. And James Falzone played multiple instruments in combination with his own recording as part of Re-Membering a World to Come.
The dances were contemplative and sensitive as in An Intimate Duet, but it is only in integrated dance that one sees the energy and power of a wheel chair flying across the stage or bodies flying on another body moving on a wheel chair to the delight of the audience, while the beauty of dance in its shape and form presents itself. This performance was enhanced by the stage itself, staging, lighting and the very appropriate costumes, as well as live music.
From an obituary in the Chicago Sun Times by Tom McNamee some words that seem to apply to the power of this kind of dance, “Marca’s talent was in building bridges between the “abled” and the “disabled” by making us see there is no need for bridges at all. We’re all on the same side of the river. We all have strengths and limitations, capabilities and incapabilities. We’re all of equal value. We all deserve the same rights and opportunities, no more but no less.”
Access Living is a nationally recognized leader in advocacy and direct services to people with disabilities since 1980. They are committed to independence and inclusion in all walks of life, and are at the forefront of the disability rights movement. Access Living’s Arts and Culture Project showcases the work of artists with disabilities in exhibits and performances throughout the year –Access Living
Bodies of Work is a consortium of more than 50 of Chicago’s most recognized cultural, academic, healthcare and social service organizations, and are housed in UIC’s Department of Disability and Human Development. They are a network of artists and organizations whose art showcases and celebrates the disability experience, advances the rights of disabled people, and widens society’s understanding of what it means to be human – Bodies of Work
3Arts is a nonprofit organization that advocates for Chicago’s women artists, artists of color, and artists with disabilities who work in the performing, teaching, and visual arts. By providing cash awards, project funding, residency fellowships, professional development, and promotion, 3Arts helps artists take risks, experiment, and build momentum in their careers. 3Arts