Visceral Dance Chicago reestablishes vision


Emma Yarger/The Daily Northwestern

Dancer Braeden Barnes bends over backward as he rehearses his solo for “Fall Engagement.” The show opens on Oct. 4 at the Athenaeum Theatre Chicago.

Emma Yarger, Reporter

With eight new dancers on board, Visceral Dance Chicago aims to showcase individuality and personality in different styles of dance through the company’s upcoming show, “Fall Engagement.”

Visceral’s “Fall Engagement” performance opens on Oct. 4 at the Athenaeum Theatre Chicago and will continue its tour in Monterrey, Mexico, Nov. 5. The show features strong technical and athletic elements, as well as audience engagement.

International choreographer Monica Cervantes worked with Visceral on multiple projects, and “Fall Engagement” will feature Cervantes’s brand new work alongside returning pieces choreographed by Nick Pupillo, Visceral’s artistic director and founder.

Pupillo said Visceral worked with Cervantes for two weeks and spent three weeks rehearsing the show. Despite the quick turnaround, Pupillo said he’s excited for the production and views it as a fresh start for the company.

“One thing about the art that we do is that it requires a lot of time, integrity and a lot of passion,” Pupillo said. “It’s personal. I look for individual artistry, so they need to be able to stand out, so I don’t want anyone to look the same, act the same, be the same.”

Meredith Harrill, who has been dancing with Visceral since it was founded, said the company is strengthened by the diversity of its eight new members. She added that the upcoming “Fall Engagement” is an opportunity for the ensemble to show the Chicago arts world what they can do.

“Visceral (has) 11 dancers, and we are our own unique individual dancers,” Harrill said. “We’ve learned how to combine our own talents and styles to make this cohesive company, but we haven’t lost our individuality.”

According to Harrill, the most rewarding part of the process is manifesting the choreographers’ vision onstage. For instance, the opening number of the show, “Impetera,” allows dancers to express their own styles in the movement to achieve Pupillo’s goal of showing dancers’ personalities.

Harrill said she hopes to impact the audience through her performance. The dancer added that she appreciates the audience’s capacity to take away different messages and emotions from the performance.

“It’s very exhilarating,” Harrill said. “You feel almost out of body. You are conveying all these emotions but not only are you conveying them to the audience, you’re going through them yourself. It’s emotionally and physically exhausting, but in the best way.”

Original company member Braeden Barnes said the value of Visceral as a company is its ability to surprise an audience with different styles of dance. He said the performance encompass a variety of genres, from ballet to contemporary.

According to Barnes, the dancers dive into opposing emotions in each piece, embodying both aggression and empathy in their movements. He said, as he dances, he focuses on portraying Visceral’s values to the audience.

“We do a lot of new work and we like to push the boundaries of art and dance,” Barnes said. “Everyone leaves feeling something unique at the end of the show.”

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