PORTLAND — On June 30, the Portland Performing Arts Festival will premiere a new dance work by iconic American choreographer and Brooksville resident Alison Chase. Chase co-founded and directed the revolutionary dance companies Pilobolus and Momix. Chase has been developing her new company, Alison Chase Performance, for several years. The world premiere of the new work “The Handsomest” at the festival marks her return to dance work for the stage after a hiatus of several years.
“The Handsomest” combines dance with videography, music, and photography and is presented as a part of the Portland Festival’s Saturday evening program on June 30 at Merrill Auditorium. “The Handsomest” will be the second half of an evening-long presentation that will also include shorter works (“Tsu ku tsu,” “Ben’s Admonition,” “Femme Noir” and “Devil Got My Woman”) from Chase’s earlier repertory.
“This is a big launch, a stepping out,” Chase said recently. “People will see the new directions I’m going to pursue.”
Acknowledging the past few years spent working in nontraditional collaborations, she said that audiences would see that “I’m returning to the proscenium ... but this is a departure from the work of mine they’ve seen before.”
Chase is an iconic figure in contemporary dance. She taught the Dartmouth dance class that led to the founding of Pilobolus Dance Theater. As the company’s co-founding artistic director she helped to change the direction of American dance, creating works that used the human body in unpredictable ways and helping to create a uniquely recognizable and inventive corpus of dance works that have been seen by audiences around the world for over 35 years.
Chase’s work has been recognized by many awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Maine Arts Commission Individual Artist Fellowship in the Performing Arts. After parting ways with Pilobolus in 2006, she spent several years exploring creative opportunities at home in Maine, resulting in such projects as “Quarryography,” a large-scale, site-specific work that combined dancers with choreographed earth-moving equipment.
Developed over the course of the past three years, “The Handsomest” was inspired by Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s short story “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World.” It features projected photography by Sean Kernan and video by Derek Dudek working in concert with Chase's choreography for live and filmed dancers, expressing the tale's realm of magic realism.
A visual meditation that combines dance and performance art, and film and live theater, the work is the first chapter of a planned longer work. It features an original score by Grammy Award-winning Maine composer Paul Sullivan and costumes by Angelina Avallone.
“I saw this piece coming together in an early workshop performance and thought it was breathtaking,” said Festival President Kara Larson. “Alison is a major figure in the dance world, and the festival’s board agreed that it would be a shame to let some New York presenter have the premiere of her first new work in years.”
Tickets run $32-$52 per person. Reserve seats through through PortTix at tickets.porttix.com. More information about all the festival performances is available at www.portlandfestival.org.
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