Margaret Jenkins Dance Company’s Light Moves | Preview

Choreographer Margaret Jenkins makes friends, and things you can’t take apart.

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Margaret Jenkins Dance Company: Light Moves

Margaret Jenkins Dance Company: Light Moves Photograph: Mark Palmer


“I’m usually the initiator,” dance maker Margaret Jenkins tells me by phone. I’d asked about the length of the credits list in programs for her San Francisco company’s shows. They’re more akin to what scrolls up after a film ends than the standard dance foursome: names of those who made the choreography, music, costumes and lighting.

This week at the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, the program for Jenkins’s latest, Light Moves, will cite a composer, three other musicians and an engineer; a poet and artistic adviser; a visual artist and animation assistant; a lighting designer; a costume designer; two voiceover artists; and, naturally, eight dancers, all of whom are also choreographic collaborators.

[node:15109045 noterms imagecache=field_image:timeout_245x152:image:0; cck=field_caption; cck=field_credits;]“Making work is the uncovering or discovery of something heretofore unrealized,” Jenkins says with professorial diction and nary an um or uh. “In order to do that, I need people to help me look in through different lenses at what my concept might be.”

Her concept for Light Moves, which premiered in November in California and is now on its national tour, reflects the ambiguity of its title. The creative team investigated “the absence or presence of light internally, psychologically, intellectually,” Jenkins explains, “and what it is to be in the actual light of a day. [Light Moves] is an adjective and a noun, and also a noun and a verb. It’s about letting light loose.”

The Initiator reached out to visual artist Naomie Kremer after seeing her first foray into set design: projections for Berkeley Opera’s 2008 production of Béla Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle. Jenkins invited the painter to create “a visual, kinetic character for [Light Moves], in the form of a set.” After the dancers all temporarily exit the stage, Kremer’s now-painterly, now-graphic, now-colorist abstractions get a solo of their own.

They echo Paul Dresher’s score in that you don’t always notice the projections change—you’re just surprised when you’re suddenly somewhere else entirely. (Dresher and Kremer collaborated once before, on an installation for San Francisco art-gallery-cum-restaurant Foreign Cinema in 2005.)

When I call Kremer, she mentions she’s already seen 3-D dance film Pina twice, and describes her fascination with William Forsythe’s use of animation to illustrate Improvisation Technologies, his video manual of post-ballet. Although Light Moves was her first time creating specifically for dance, Kremer muses that a common approach helped her and Jenkins merge disciplines in a way that, as the latter puts it, “doesn’t undermine or cancel each other out.”

“We’re both interested in layering and complexity,” Kremer says. “That’s what I do with paint, and that’s what I do with video. And we’re both interested in creating something that the viewer can’t pull apart [to] see what the components are, that’s too complicated. Because that’s my experience of the world…one of ambiguity and richness.”

Going on four decades of making dances, Jenkins adds one more to the list of credits before we end our call. “To extend the metaphor, I think [the audience] casts light on things that we didn’t even know we were doing. They’re really the final collaborator.”


Margaret Jenkins Dance Company performs Light Moves Thursday 9 through Saturday 11. Hear Jenkins, Kremer and Chicago-based artists talk process during the “Woman-Made Performance” panel on Saturday 11.

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