When worlds collide

By Brianna Wellen

Chicago’s Wrigleyville neighborhood was swarming with shouting Cubs fans searching for a place to celebrate their home team’s first win April 12. Making their way through the crowded streets were a select few who trickled up to the second floor theater at Links Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield Ave., to enjoy an evening of improvised music and dance as a part of the collision_theory series curated by Links Hall’s Artistic Associates program.

The program has been in place since spring 2005 to allow artistic associates to curate a monthlong series of performances based on the expertise in their specific fields. Collision_theory, curated by Rachel Damon and Dan Mohr, is the first series to span six months and has experienced surprising success since its premiere in October.

“It’s like this little jewel of artistry amongst alcoholism,” said Damon, an artistic associate of Links Hall and a co-curator of collision_theory. “It feels like a small rebellion.”

Collision_theory was created from Damon’s dance background and Mohr’s music background. They realized dancers and musicians rarely interact with each other, but instead stand as two separate entities of a performance. By adding the improvisation aspect, each group is forced to acknowledge the other in an extremely detailed way in order to create an experimental performance art form.

“It’s trusting that by really paying attention [to] what’s going on, you’ll be influenced by what you noticed,” said Jennifer Kayle, who performed with improv dance group The Architects at the April 12 show.

The name of the series refers to a scientific theory that particles must collide in order to cause a reaction. Only a fraction of these collisions can result in success, which is the experience Damon and Mohr wanted to create with the series. They admit some of their experimental pairings work better than others.

“The title, to me, makes room for all that,” Damon said.

With two events left in the series and the Cubs’ season in full swing, the collaboration may merge the sports world of Wrigleyville and the art world. According to Damon, people looking for other venues sometimes wander up the stairs to the hidden theater, see a performance space and stick around for the show.

“We’ve really had people from varying backgrounds who take away different things from the performance,” Damon said.

Both Damon and Mohr said even upon the closing of collision_theory they hope they can keep the collaboration between dancers and musicians alive and continue to expose the world of improvisational art to Chicago.

The dancers and musicians who participated in the April 12 performance agreed that to them, the experiment was a success.

The two groups entered the space without speaking to or seeing each other before the act, in an intimate setting with audience members filling up the three surrounding sides. The music group, an underground trio called Zelionople, went into the performance not only under these constraints, but with little improv experience.

“It was really challenging,” said Mike Weis, Zelionople’s percussionist. “It’s active listening and responding quickly with taste. The dancers gave us the confidence to be more challenging.”

For both groups, the excitement of the experiment was letting go and getting lost in the performance, just seeing where it would take itself—the exact feeling Damon and Mohr have been hoping to instill throughout the series.

“It’s not about controlling the work; it’s about collaborating,” said Lisa Gonzales, the second member of The Architects and a Columbia faculty member.

The final two events in the collision_theory series are planned for May 10, and June 14, both at 7:30 p.m., with a retrospective screening of video from each collision shown after the final performance.