Pennsylvanian sunsets, cigarettes, and country music | Performing Arts Sidebar | Chicago Reader

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Pennsylvanian sunsets, cigarettes, and country music

Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak's The Delicate Hour lives in the space between


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Molly Shanahan has been exploring the alchemy of transformation for several years. But in her new The Delicate Hour, inspired by sunsets she watched at an artists' retreat in rural Pennsylvania, she intentionally occupies an shifting, slippery space. This hour-long quartet for her company, Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak, explores the murky territory between light and darkness, gestural and abstract movement, the mundane and the sacred. Mime alternates with pedestrian passages (walking, running) as well as less definable motions and interactions. One sequence, resembling a suite of Renaissance figure paintings, consists of incrementally changing embraces that emphasize composition, point of view, and carefully selected details. Hand motions, whether indeterminate or mimetic (dragging on a cigarette, downing pills), are as expressive as the dancers' faces. The accompanying mash-up of music includes two countryish songs—Kenny Rogers's "The Gambler" and Brett Dennen's "Ain't Gonna Lose You"—as well as contemporary drone music by Stars of the Lid and Renaissance vocal and instrumental compositions.

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