SOLUS by Visceral Dance review- 10 stellar dances/spotlight on Laura Mendes

Laura Mendes of Visceral Dance Chicago in CETO by Shannon Alvis; photo by MREID Photography
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From May 2- 5, 2024, Visceral Dance Chicago presented its 11th SOLUS program, Break Free, an array of all-new works set by Chicago-based choreographers on each of the dancers in the company’s ensemble. The show was held at The Ann Barzel Theater at Visceral Dance Center, 3121 N. Rockwell, Chicago, a capacious, comfortable space, to sold-out audiences. When in concert, Visceral creates an indelible impression of athleticism infused with virtuosity and often with wit. The performances, consistent with the Company’s mission, are powerful, personal, meaningful.

Nick Pupillo, Company Founder and Artistic Director, who acted as sound tech and lighting designer for the show, commented, “SOLUS means alone. In the context of this endeavor, each individual dancer is given the opportunity to star as a featured performer in a new work created just for them, to enhance their personal talents and special qualities. The scope of the program allows each of the artist/duets, crafter and performer, to engage the audience in their own unique way”. 

Alessandra DePaolantonio in VENI VIDI VICI by Abdiel Figueroa Reyes; photo by MREID Photography

BARRED, by Morgan di Fonzo, danced by Leslie Marfil to music of Erik Satie, Alexandre Tharaud, Frederick Lowe and Lyre le Temps, revealed a vision of upright perfection at the barre, an alternately facially vacant and insouciant dreamweaver, a showstopper with moves writ large, expressing “and always me and colored mine”.

EMERGENCE by Malcolm Maurice, danced by Gabriel Canepa, to music of James Blake, gave us a loose-limbed worldly movement aficionado dressed like a shlepper. He moseys, sashays, struts. He effortlessly elides, wrought of fluidity.

DON’T WALK AWAY by Kia Smith, danced by Erika Shi, to music of Ananas, Etta James, and The Flamingos, with sound design by Kia Smith, was a study in fierce humour, prideful ultramodern jazz, artistry in joyful tight control.

Tyson Ford in Break Under Pressure by Harrison McEldowney; photo by MREID Photography

 SOMETIMES, MYSTERY by Soyiga Eugene Peabody, danced by Javares Selby to music of Wax Tailor presented a bandit magician, commander of all he surveys. He leads his shadow on a chase up the back brick wall; he folds in upon himself.

VENI, VIDI, VICI by Abdiel Figueroa Reyes, danced by Alessandra DePalantonio to music of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Andy Stott, denoted a spectral vision waking from a dreamchair, fighting with her dreamself, a punchdrunk halfmad creature under her own spell. Backbending, frontpulling, she stretches shape into infinity.

MIST OF A DREAM by Hanna Brictson, danced by Nia Davis to music by Birdlegs and Pauline introduced an ecstatic, stunningly orange-clad woman infected with her own joyous beauty, surrounding us with high sweet universal selfsense.

GOING UP! by Movement Direction by Josiah Martinez in collaboration with and danced by Justin Bisnauthsing to music of The Ink Spots and Walter Wanderley and with narration by The Flight Safety Demonstration from American Airlines set forth a comic cosmic wayfarer, posing/inhaling blithely; with selfmocking strength he propelled across the space in a penumbra of authenticity.

AMO by Trae Turner danced by Katiana Medlock to music of Gafacci and sound design by Trae Turner was an intense, rapid selfconfident sinuous emotional barrage from a centered plumbline straight poised creature, utterly and conceptually persuasive.

BREAK UNDER PRESSURE by Harrison McEldowney danced by Tyson Ford to music of Freddie Mercury (a mashup) and sound design by Harrison MeEldowney portrayed an urban exploiter of self, a total break from brokedown woke. He canoodled with an audience member in chains of the spirit; the message of love and explosive expressionism was a fitting finale.

Katiana Medlock in AMO by Trae Turner; photo by MREID Photography


The 3rd piece on the program was CETO by Shannon Alvis, danced by Laura Mendes to music of Ólafur Arnolds with sound design by Jamy Meek. The ultratalented Mendes, veteran of numerous US and international intensives and awards, and featured in a plethora of commercial work and film, trajected across the stage filtered in smoky light, her presence a festivity of artistic achievement. Each limb taut as a bowstring, with the tensile strength of piano wire, she sinks to the floor positively cradled in a master class of Alvis’ devising yet crafted only by this artist. She embodied an intrusion of light into the darkened theatre.

In an interview on the eve of SOLUS, the dancer described the process of working with Alvis as “An awakening, a delight. The dance is underwater, all the thought and action is submerged, then re-emergence comes out of a wave. The concept is of moving in a sublime underworld atmosphere. I worked on displaying how the organic body would react in the gravity and vapour of this environment.” 

When questioned about the program, Mendes remarked, “Solus gave the choreographers a way to resonate with each Visceral dancer; it allowed us the energy and freedom to create our own universe. Together, we all correlate and yet we all make sense on our own”. 

Laura Mendes in CETO by Shannon Alvis; photo by MREID Photography

And her sense of self in this Company’s endeavor? “I embrace and celebrate my humanity by dancing”.

For information and tickets to all the great classes, initiatives and programs of Visceral Dance Chicago, go to


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