DINNER DANCE by A House Unbuilt
A House Unbuilt is a conceptual dance theatre company based out of Chicago, Illinois. Working with dancers, writers, and object-makers, the company acts as a mobile, open structure that advances and produces new and visionary work in live performance, film, improvisation, publication, site-specific creation, and socially-engaged choreography.
The creation of DINNER DANCE, a series of actions, labors, and engagements leading to three events, has A House Unbuilt keeping new company with Chicago-based artist Hannah Sabri Reed. Together, she and artistic director Victoria Eleanor Bradford are working to co-host and choreograph DINNER DANCE, v7— for the Chicago Artists’ Coalition Gallery, et al.
Six guests, the company:
a sous chef
Six stages, the sites:
(to be modified in response to the gallery and its surrounds)
the back stairwell
the main space
the auxiliary rooms
Six Courses, the meal:
DINNER DANCE began as a series of intimate dinner parties meant to bring colleagues together to explore the possibilities of A House Unbuilt’s new Northside Studio in Chicago, Illinois. By virtue of it’s own generative nature, DINNER DANCE has become a well-honed method for collaborative interdisciplinary performance, a workshop structure of six guests, six courses, and six stages.
At six o’clock in the evening the company for dinner gathers and becomes the night’s dance company. Between the six courses of the meal, all the company members rotate through the six roles (above), and six dances are choreographed. Having danced through the dinner, at midnight we perform these productions for and with each other.
DINNER DANCE uses the formality of a six course meal to both disorient us from our daily routines as well as give reverence and respect to the creative process. Generosity is the stage for experimentation and the generation of unexpected material. At this convivial table, all are able and asked to work. Life is a dance, and we all need a little company.
At DINNER DANCE we can gather, and the conversation happens across the table, through our movements, and on each stage from the kitchen to the front door. With headphones set on fine china, a dinner table set on a Marley dance floor, packages of creative prompts set on each seat, tools set out for each role, ingredients for the meal measured, and dishes stacked, the guests arrive and the dance begins.
As of the 8th of December 2012, four DINNER DANCES (v1-4) have been sponsored, hosted, and delightfully consumed and produced. In late December a Patron’s DINNER DANCE will be hosted in the home of the first sponsor in southern Louisiana. Two additional DINNER DANCES are slated for the House Unbuilt Northside Studio in Spring 2013 as well as a gallery version of DINNER DANCE at the Chicago Artist Coalition from June 7-27, 2013.
As we look toward the gallery as a new framework for DINNER DANCE, we plan to make use of the art world’s built-in “programming” features. For instance, to mount the show at CAC, a House Unbuilt will stage three events during the three-week exhibition:
1. an opening reception (or audition),
2. a private reception (or dinner dance), and
3. a closing reception (or performance for the public).
From the outset of the exhibition, the gallery space will be filled with objects and artifacts, both “set material,” i.e., a dinner table, chairs, a makeshift kitchen, and so on, as well as “remains,” i.e., the remnants and residue left behind by past DINNER DANCE guests, whether choreographic scores, photographic documentation, modified objects, the six-hour audio track that captured the evening, or the log book with jottings of smoke signals and SOS calls from dinner guests gone astray. These items will be staged in such a way as to perform the past—the guests now absent at this new dance in this new space.
In addition to the three main events (auditions/dinner dance/public performance) auxiliary performances such as planning the meal, gathering ingredients, scoring the space, cleaning, writing thank yous, etc. will become opportunities for one on one or small group performances with participants other than the 6 dinner dance guests. We’ll need a deviant for scoring the space, or a documentarian for shopping, and a sous chef during food prep. These actions, labors, and engagements will bring DINNER DANCE not only to the gallery audience, but also to the circles of communities with which the gallery connects. DINNER DANCE, v7— will be provide the opportunity to expand the project to consider these new and perhaps surprising elements in our practice of socially engaged choreography.