The staff, artists, and board of directors of Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble condemn the systemic racism that has led to the deaths of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Laquan McDonald, Sandra Bland, and so many others. CDE particularly mourns the loss of Jemel Roberson, the son of Beatrice Roberson, a paraprofessional from Pritzker Elementary School. Jemel was killed nearly two years ago while doing his job as a security officer.
During this time, I am often speechless. I do not always have the words to comfort our students or artists, so I listen. And what I consistently hear is people are hurting, and they want action. We cannot always effectively make change on a nationwide scale, but we can at the community level. We can continue to hire artists and teachers of color, and uplift Black voices and Black stories in our produced work. We can continue to bring books into classrooms to educate our students about race and equity. We can seek to teach empathy and compassion and show students how to use their voices to bring change in their communities.
In President Obama’s recent statement, he says that if we want to bring about real change, “the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform.” We can make a change in our communities by electing local officials who can systematically make change. Read more:
CDE’s vision for Chicago is that all residents are inspired to make our community and world a better place by exploring important social issues in an artistic setting. We aim to build a platform for the voices of the diverse communities we serve. We ask you to stand with us in supporting Black lives, Black voices, and Black stories. They matter.
- Ellyzabeth Adler, Founder and Executive Director
Tonight, May 8th 2020, would have been opening night for What We Carried, a night I have been looking forward to for a year. But tonight we cannot celebrate with you in person or dance with Jean Parisi’s breathtaking art installment. Tonight we cannot show you what we so desperately want to share, to highlight the struggles and successes of immigrants.
But what I am choosing to focus on is the day that we will share this work with you. When we can dance for you and share this collection of stories. The days of Togetherness.
This work would have been dedicated to my grandmother who immigrated from Columbia in the mid 1900’s and worked as a nurse before passing away at a young age.
Today I still want to dedicate this work to my grandmother, one of many whose story of immigration was lost - and in extension, I also want to dedicate this day to our frontline workers and heroes during this pandemic - our nurses, our grocery workers, our doctors, our cooks. To the ones putting their lives at risk for us all. The days of Togetherness will come, and I can’t wait to share this work with you all once we have made it there.
- Maggie Robinson
Interim Artistic Director, Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble
A phrase from What We Carried.
I’ve spent months thinking about what this performance means to me, and what it might mean to its potential audience.
Growing up as a queer artist in Indiana, it wasn’t uncommon to get somebody’s shit thrown at me from a passing car, along with a shout of “what’s up Fabio,” or “look out, faggot!” You couldn’t dress too fancy, “present” as too effeminate or artistic, and I learned, over time and repeated abuse, including from my own family, to blend in.
As a white male living in Chicago, it’s not uncommon to be sneered at by people in what are ostensibly my own queer communities, assuming I’m just another cis male, not queer enough to fit into the gay or trans communities, told to go live in my “privilege,” (which I do no doubt have), and again, forced back to blending in.
Intolerance is everywhere. I started working in an ensemble after making a series of performance works about toxic masculinity and white supremacy, and my impulse was to somehow try and codify the refraction of our belief systems as we move through the distortional and dissociative effects of these forces on our minds.
That ensemble, called Mirrorglass, is also an interrogation of the “blinkering” and fragmentation that occurs in any instance of emotional or personality disordering, or in any instance within which subjective, lived experience is fragmented beyond recognition. Similar to how art is not inherently inclusive. It has to be wrested into meaning.
I’m so proud to work with the dancers forming this ensemble as they move in and out of Mirrorglass, and to finally see myself, reflected in our efforts at a salutary artistic collaboration, so thank you to Viginia VanLieshout for dancing this with me, Tate Glover for providing choreography, Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble Artistic Director Maggie Robinson, Marketing Coordinator Sophia Sinsheimer and to the tolerant of this world.
- Michael Workman
Michael Workman is an artist, writer and reporter, choreographer, dance, performance art and sociocultural critic. In addition to his work at the Chicago Tribune, Guardian US, Newcity magazine, Workman is also Director of Bridge, a Chicago-based 501 (c) (3) publishing and programming organization. His choreographic writing has been included in Propositional Attitudes, published by Golden Spike Press, and his Perfect Worlds: Artistic Forms & Social Imaginaries by StepSister Press was released in October 2018 with a day-long program of performances at the Museum of Contemporary Art and SITE/less Chicago.
Come see Michael's work in The Queer Landscape, playing March 20th and 21st at Ebenezer Lutheran Church Auditorium!
I didn’t realize I was gay until I was in my late 20’s, and even then, it was a long, painful journey to accept my own identity. There were so many layers of cultural learning and expectations, forces both internal and external shaping who I thought I “should” be. “How Did You Not Know” is an exploration of the many iterations of myself I went through in those years.
Dance has always helped me to process and reflect on my feelings, learning about my own perspective through the work I set: the creation of a piece being an integral part of understanding my own experience. In this work, I have reset and re-imagined pieces I created during my long, hard journey to self-acceptance, allowing the pieces I set during those periods to be a guide to my mindset and perspective at the time of its creation. By linking these old pieces together, my evolving world-view can be tracked through those years - my journey away from the church and religion, my slow gain of self-reliance and self-worth, and the realization of my sexuality. It is also a high-level view of my evolving style and skill - I grew a lot as a choreographer and storyteller in the 5-year span these pieces cover.
It is a little daunting to put such a personal work on stage in front of an audience - it’s a little like reading my diary aloud. It can be embarrassing to look back at what I thought was true in those times, what I thought was real, who I thought I was. But through the years of this journey, and the process of creating this piece, I’ve learned that I have always been the woman in these pieces, and she will always be a part of me. I didn’t quite know who she would be later, who the integration of these disparate parts of myself would end up being. Turns out, she’s me.
- Paula Ward, Lucid Banter Project
Paula Ward (Artistic Director, Lucid Banter Project) is a dancer, choreographer and producer from Madison, Wisconsin. She was a youth company member of the Madison Ballet, danced in Hope College’s modern and jazz companies while earning her BA in Dance and Chemistry, and spent a decade with the Joel Hall Dancers in Chicago, Illinois. She directed the Joel Hall Dancers Youth Company and Le Ballet Petit School of Dance before forming her contemporary dance company, the Lucid Banter Project, which is currently in its fourth year. Lucid Banter presents in many non-traditional spaces and stages, as well as on film.
See Lucid Banter Project's "How Did You Not Know" in The Queer Landscape, March 20th and 21st.