Experimental dance project Produce mixes and matches | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Experimental dance project Produce mixes and matches 

Artists get spliced together in this petri dish of a performance.

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The cast of this year's Produce

The cast of this year's Produce

Julie Ballard

It always seems difficult to describe exactly what was produced at Produce, an annual experimental dance and music collaboration now in its fourth and final iteration. That's because, despite the name, Produce (pronounced like the grocery-store section) focuses on process, not on product.

The project is a kind of petri dish in which dance writer Lauren Warnecke and sound designer (and Signal Ensemble member) Anthony Ingram engineer unlikely multidisciplinary pairings that play out on the spot. The result is messy, often nifty impromptu performance pieces.

On the first night seven dance groups present five-minute excerpts of the works they submitted for entry into the event. Next Warnecke and Ingram mix and match, injecting, say, the music gene from one dance and the costume gene from another into a third; the performers then improvise performances of between five and 15 minutes long. The second night starts with three-minute excerpts, leaving more time for the gene splicing and improvisation. Intermittent "talkbacks" allow the audience to weigh in on the mutations.

Warnecke says in the first year some Produce choreographers were so loath to see their work tampered with that they threw tantrums. In contrast, this year's cast includes seasoned improvisers like Jessica Marasa and Ben Law. That plus Warnecke and Ingram's solid eye for comedic possibilities and outrageous personas should once again push the doings into the realm of entertaining, evolving happy accidents.

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