Live review | Aerial Dance Chicago | UnEarthed
“When I was a kid, apples tasted better,” says a man during one of the voice-over montages mixed into the soundtrack to UnEarthed, Aerial Dance Chicago’s new two-act currently playing the . If subjective, it’s the kind of specific, personal testimonial that drives the show’s point—that we need to get real about living sustainably, and quick—home more effectively than a dozen wispy pleas.
UnEarthed flies in and out of selling its concept: An Inconvenient Truth translated into plotless aerial dance, dance-dance and acrobatic choreography. For each moment of affecting, memorable poetry—its closing image is one, because it addresses us directly—another is just along for the ride, requesting no more than our awe at pro skills. It’s only when you peruse bulletin boards in the theater’s lobby that ADC’s achievement by example becomes clear.
There are no programs for UnEarthed; all of the show’s credits and notes are posted for audience members to read during the intermission. I learned that what little print materials were produced for the premiere (like tickets reusable as bookmarks bearing tips for greener living) used recycled card stock and non-toxic inks. Rigging and fabric was repurposed from prior shows, and transported to the theater by bicycle trailer. Befitting a dance company that rarely touches down, UnEarthed will leave a tiny carbon footprint behind its four-weekend run. I wasn’t the only person who saved these program notes “greenly” by snapping shots of them with my phone.
None of this would be discernible had ADC kept it quiet, although I appreciated UnEarthed much more knowing that it was produced with minimal environmental impact. Is it a transcendent work of performed art? No. The score taps 16 sources, not including the voice-overs, including Dead Can Dance, Thomas Newman and Liquid Mind; the care with which they’re edited together tapers off considerably toward the end. There are nine credited choreographers, and while it isn’t clear who designed which sections, it is clear that some are more experienced than others.
But the all-female cast of 11 is impressively strong across the board, and it’s great to see circus arts delivered with dancerly care. Each puts as much thought into simple steps and presence as she does into death-defying feats of entanglement. Jacob Snodgrass’s lighting design lends each act’s rigging setup infinite atmospheres.