Sunshine pours through three pairs of windows in the Rogers Park studio where choreographer Julia Rae Antonick rehearses Commissura for a two-weekend run at the Fine Arts Building. The title means joint, seam or suture, and as I watch a run-through of the almost-completed quartet, examples of doubles jump out at me from all over the room.
It’s bright enough in the studio that three pairs of light fixtures, holding one pair each of long fluorescent tubes, are switched off. Four pairs of French doors are half-open and two pairs of wooden platforms on casters lie casually on the floor. But by the time Commissura opens on Friday 22, these platforms will hold four pairs each of swivel chairs so that, as their seats drift through Curtiss Hall, pushed by dancers and extra stagehands, audience members can rotate to follow the action.
Antonick and Jonathan Meyer, a couple offstage as well, dance to a first-time collab between experimental music composers Dan Mohr and Joseph St. Charles. The latter sits with a mallet in each hand, drumming on two metal goblets, while Antonick and Meyer dance toward Benjamin Law and Jessica Marasa (also roommates and partners). The men’s blue sweatpants almost match, and both women wear sleeveless black tops, but they’re all just rehearsal clothes, similar by coincidence. On the back of Meyer’s jersey is the number 77.
When the two couples collide, they switch partners and pair by gender. Each man throws the other’s body past his own, in turn pulling the thrower past the throwee. They tumble across the room like the rope-and-weight boleadoras South American gauchos use to capture runaway cattle.
By phone before rehearsal, Antonick explains that key research for Commissura happened in Buenos Aires, where she and Meyer spent two weeks last spring. Guided by suggestions from their tango instructor, Nina Tatarowicz, they immersed themselves in lessons and milonga culture. Tatarowicz also hooked them up with accommodations at a casita owned by a tango musician. “It was like a little hotel, with maybe eight rooms, and everybody who stayed there was [in Buenos Aires] to tango. So it was really easy,” Antonick says, to navigate the city in groups and compare notes about different milongas.
“I don’t know how it happened,” she continues with wonder, “but the classes and milongas we found just gradually got harder and harder. It all turned out perfectly. Which is funny, because I tried to plan everything in advance and couldn’t, which really stressed me out.”
Back in Chicago, the couple’s freshly sharpened skill set sank into an athletic contemporary style developed through [node:84056 link=their previous collaboration;], Tacit, last year. “It’d gotten to the point where I would have to try not to [reference the tango], because my body just knows it, now, just does it,” she says. Tacit’s moving audience platforms—a frequent source of its vertiginous thrills—carry over, although Antonick says this time they’ll move more gently. “Like continental drift, maybe coming together at times, like Pangaea.”
Her takeaway from the long-term duet study she calls Duologue—Commissura finishes the project, which encompassed Tacit as well—is the essential oneness of pairs. “That’s what I like,” she says. “When it’s not like”—lowering her voice into a dramatic, conspiratorial whisper, “Hmm…how do I put these two things together? I like when you lose track of beginnings and endings.”
Commissura comes together at Curtiss Hall beginning Friday 22. Contact Tatarowicz for tango lessons via her website, tangoelixir.com.