Thinking Dance Meets Committed Physicality in SPRAWL

This week MaryAnn McGovern and Dancers returned home to Chicago to present McGovern’s SPRAWL at Hamlin Park Fieldhouse Theater (Thursday, August 16 & Friday, August 17, 7:30pm). MaryAnn, a graduate of the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, moved to Seattle, WA last year, and continued making work on the West Coast. The first iteration of SPRAWL premiered in Chicago last summer as a part of “Fresh Dances” at Links Hall, alongside works by the Laboratory Dancers, We Stand Sideways Dance, and Emily Miller’s Get Down/Pick Up Company. MaryAnn continued working with the idea behind SPRAWL once she moved to Seattle, and it eventually became the evening length work that premiered a month ago at Seattle’s Velocity Dance Center.

McGovern has brought her core group of 5 dancers from Seattle, and has a community cast of  9 Chicago-based dancers.

The work itself is poignant, personal, clinical, historical, guttural, physical, and just plain smart. McGovern uses spoken text, ambient sound, live singing, and recorded speech to set the sound environment in which the dance lives. She draws upon her own personal experience, as well as that of her dancers to keep what could be a heady and intellectual work personal and relatable.

The movement ranges from subtle gesture to large, sweeping phrases of dancing, to complex partner work. Each dancer in the cast has their own way of articulating the movement, and McGovern capitalizes on this asset to create a rich sensory experience for the viewer.

MaryAnn is not one to veil content from the viewer. The way in which the space is used speaks directly to the content. The text and sound, which on more than one occasion include the title of the work, give the audience further information about McGovern’s perspectives on suburban sprawl, white flight, government housing projects, and the cultural politics of living in and around cities in the US. In no way is McGovern spoon-feeding us her message, but her opinions and concerns are clear and leave us questioning our own contributions to these social phenomena.


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