The Homeland in His Head | Performing Arts Sidebar | Chicago Reader

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The Homeland in His Head

RE|Dance cofounder Michael Estanich goes back to his Appalachian roots



RE|Dance Group's gentle new Homeland weaves darkness through the bright threads of a childhood in the country. Choreographer Michael Estanich, who leads RE|Dance with Lucy Riner, grew up in the tiny Appalachian town of Nemacolin, Pennsylvania, the son of a coal miner. That down-home milieu colors his 45-minute dance-theater piece—especially its music, which includes recordings by the newgrass Fiddlers 4 and folk-roots trio the Wailin' Jennys. A clogging section took me back to dancing I saw at an outdoor music festival in Virginia, with elders and children alike stamping on plywood laid over mud.

Despite his evident affection for his roots, Estanich maintains an outsider's distance here. He says that Homeland is not only about how we define home but how we "construct our own reality, our own memories." Dancer-narrator Daiva Bhandari does a beautiful job of delivering casually poetic texts (written by her, Estanich, and Kym Nolden) that give Homeland what might be called a broken through line, perfect for an imperfectly remembered past. RE|Dance's stage environments are usually detailed, but this one features just one bare-branched tree outlined in fairy lights. The texts do the rest.

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