Watching Karen Nelson conduct a workshop for some dozen performers, I could see why the words "laboratory" and "chemistry" are often used in regard to movement improvisation: individuals possessed of all kinds of physical and emotional variables are thrown together in situations with no predetermined path or outcome. On the simplest physical level, the projection and roundness of a woman's hip will affect the way it acts as a fulcrum for the rest of her body. When one dancer drapes herself over another, their shapes and heights will affect how the pose looks and feels. The dynamics that are mere logistical problems in choreographed duets--how to squeeze this dancer's long legs through the tiny space of this one's arms, because that's how the dance goes--are the very subject of improvisation, which explores the building blocks of movement in physical, emotional, and even metaphysical terms. Nelson and the other performers use verbal commands like "hold" (stop) and "play" (go) to direct the process; when one of the dancers in the session I watched asked whether "play" means "something new, or replay?" Nelson questioned whether anything can ever truly be replayed. In Even/Odd, an evening of improvised work by participants in Nelson's workshop--from Chicago, Seattle, Albany, and Minneapolis, among other cities--the dancers will "direct" themselves by calling out these and other commands. The results are unpredictable, and their preparation time--a week--was rather short. But Nelson says that these are "wonderful people" in whom she has great confidence. Link's Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield, 773-281-0824. Through June 10: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM; Sunday, 7 PM. $10. Note: Nelson will conduct a contact improvisation class Saturday, June 9, at 11 AM. $30. Call to register.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michelle R. Bates.