It's common for dance companies to collaborate. What's fantastically uncommon is for two companies to train together so methodically for six months that discerning which dancers originated with which company becomes a thrilling game.
But that's exactly what artistic directors Mike Gosney of Elements Contemporary Ballet and Karen Fisher Doyle of Aerial Dance Chicago have accomplished. In their joint project Surge, no one among the 21 seamlessly integrated performers is exclusively up in the aerial silks or down on the floor.
The feat's all the more impressive given the disparate companies. Aerial Dance Chicago's nimble acrobats are like otters or dolphins—one senses the earth isn't their natural habitat—while Elements is stocked with rigorous, powerfully grounded ballerinas. What the companies serendipitously share is a neoclassical background bereft of mime, theatrics, or gaudy displays of virtuosity.
The placid center of Surge is a half-up, half-down duet between Joseph Caruana and Chloe Jensen, a spry, soft, shy performer with a quiet intensity and sensitivity not unlike that of the Balanchine dancer Tanaquil Le Clercq. Jensen's extreme care is most palpable as she gently picks her way through this partnered section; suspended from a rope harnessed to her belly like an umbilical cord, she meticulously rocks and surges while Caruana smoothly climbs her.
Offered one night only, "Silk & Steel" shows off its parts before combining them, opening with repertory works from both companies: ADC's Symbiotic and unEarthed and ECB's Angels and Curiosity, the latter choreographed by Gosney.