In 'Witness,' the Leopold Group and Space Movement Project turn dance into a spectator sport | Bleader

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

In 'Witness,' the Leopold Group and Space Movement Project turn dance into a spectator sport

Posted By on 03.26.14 at 10:00 AM

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  • Gregory Hollis
Dance doesn't have much of a pedigree as a spectator sport, unless you count hip-hop battles (duh!). "Witness," a split program by the all-female troupes the Leopold Group and Space Movement Project, says "watch me" with a slather of props and costumes, then, once you're hooked, peels back the spectacle so the dance can command your full attention. And while the dancers don't exactly urge fans to pick a team and let loose a mob roar, the production evokes an arena by seating part of the audience onstage, tapping into the vicarious pleasures of watching other people watch a show.

In Lips of Their Fingers—the title is an expression for body language—the Leopold Group kicks off with a mock half-time show on an enormous strip of Astroturf set to a Beastie Boys soundtrack. Tuxedo-clad cheerleaders execute rhythmic rolls, unison splits, and goo-goo-eyed boudoir poses before removing their overcoats in a striptease down to athletic trunks. The final solo clears the onstage spectacle with sweeping, open movements—high kicks with flexed feet—after which the dancer lies on the turf and slowly wraps herself in it.

While Leopold Group turns on the flash then sweeps the stage bare, in The Dismantlers, the Space Movement Project is more interested in natural demolition. These women too wear layers of clothing so they might remove their mantles—a pun. But mostly the dancers are forces of unstoppable doom: termites destroying houses and tornado winds sending household detritus crashing into broken, splayed shapes. When they rocked together to and fro on their bellies, I worried the floor would rattle open like the lid on Pandora's box.

Fri-Sat 3/28-3/29, 7:30 PM; Sun 3/30, 3 PM, Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn, 847-702-5493,, $20-$30.

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