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The Seldoms Are Always Brilliant

By Sid Smith / Chicago Tribune
February 6, 2009

These days, it’s the economy, be you stupid or a genius.

Carrie Hanson, artistic director of The Seldoms and as intelligent as they come, is among those pondering our uncertain financial times. Of course, for the artist, and the choreographer in particular, the term “economy” is laced with multiple meanings, suggesting all sorts of aesthetic standards and restraints along with concerns over fiscal fiascoes. Hence, her new work, “Thrift,” to be unveiled with two other premieres during the troupe’s engagement beginning Feb. 19 at the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, is multilayered.

“The economy is so pervasive right now, in everyone’s conversations and concerns, so it’s just something I was thinking about a lot,” Hanson says. “But, then, that’s in contrast to the way I consider economy in the physical practice of dance, the drive toward efficiency and the elimination of extraneous muscular force. Economy, efficiency and simplicity are all synonymous, things I emphasize in teaching class with students and company members.”

Thus, a nifty paradox. For the money markets, there’s no such thing as too much. For the dancer, less is very often more. “It has been very challenging to put those two things side by side,” Hanson admits of “Thrift,” a duet. “Because when I began working on a piece that demonstrates work and the weariness of those suffering an impending economic crisis, I confronted the real hardships people are facing, and it suggested characters or narrative. But the other meaning of the word ‘economy’ doesn’t feel narrative at all. It touches on the abstract.”

So how resolve the conflict?

“Mostly through sound design,” she says. She employs excerpts from actual lectures by famous economists as part of her accompaniment, lectures that actually reflect a conflict themselves, she found.

“The tone of the lectures is often conversational, informal, almost light,” she says. “There’s something intriguing about an expert who you’d like to hear take more ownership of a dire situation and not be so detached.”

The program also includes the premieres of Darrell Jones’ “Whiff of Anarchy” and Liz Burritt’s “Triggers.” Jones’ piece “references street dancing forms and a less codified dance vocabulary than my own work,” Hanson says, while “Triggers” includes “story and spoken word, dancers who sing and speak and suggest this odd little family, who’re spiky and slightly dysfunctional.”