By Judy Carmack Bross
If you have ever sat in an audience and pictured yourself on stage, take advantage of Pivot Arts’ participating promenade in The Memory Place June 1-11 at the Edge Theater in Uptown. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, Pivot Arts is a grassroots organization showcasing adventurous and multidisciplinary arts, including dance, music and video pieces which invite guests to draw upon their own memories. No performing necessary!
We asked founder and director Julieanne Ehre, recognized as a true force in Chicago’s dance world, how this works.
Julieanne Ehre Photo: Joe Mazza, Brave Lux Chicago
“Guests, approximately 30 people at a time, move through the space as if in a gallery or museum setting, with separate performances revealing varied cultural experiences with time for interaction and reflection,” she said. “I am directing it in such a way that I hope each guest will have a personal memory prompt.”
Ehre, who almost single-handedly has produced major events for Pivot Arts the past 10 years, told us recently:
“The performance is both a celebration and living monument of memories from groups that have too often been left out of the public narrative about our collective past, whose cultural memories has perhaps been culturally erased. The Memory Place will create a powerful collective experience through stories, dance, music, and interactive events. It serves the goals of Pivot Arts: to be a multidisciplinary, multicultural, inclusive space that brings people of all backgrounds together in community.”
Following two years at the Goodman Theatre, Ehre became a free-lance director. “What Chicago needs in an all purpose arts center. New York has the Kennedy Center, there’s BAM in Brooklyn. It is hard at times to find performance specific places.”
Ehre, a Hyde Park native who grew up in Oak Park as well, told us, “We are all about innovation and I am always looking for unusual places. I want our performances to be highly adventurous and entertaining. I love historic buildings and have chosen landmark locations in Rogers Park and Uptown. We even did a Japanese dance in a swimming pool.
Tap dancer and choreographer Davon Suttles Photo: William Frederking
Ehre wanted variety in The Memory Place, choosing five different groups to tell their stories. Memories of Puerto Rican experiences are shared in You Can’t Cover the Sky with Your Hand. Another speaks to Japanese internment camps in World War II and how this is related to today. Famed tap dancer and choreographer Davon Suttles explores queer relationships and religion in Past the Heavens, told through original gospel music, tap dance, and mixed media.
Polish director Wojtek Ziemilski Photo: Alicja Szulc
Wojtek Ziemilski, an internationally recognized Polish director based in Warsaw, presents The Grounds, a video exploration of his apartment building and the histories that lie beneath the surface. Ehre, who has been fascinated by history and story telling throughout her life, studied in Warsaw last year as part of an American artists exchange. “I saw that Jewish young people want to talk about their past and feel like it is a tie to the same feelings that Native Americans have across the ocean in our own country.
“The biggest challenge in this country is that the arts are so under supported. In Poland, the government funds artistic directors. Here, we spend 70 percent of our time just trying to raise money. “
Andrew Carr Photo: William Frederking
Pivot Arts has adapted its Live Talk series to a new podcast platform, which includes short performances, interviews with artists and experts, and a featured music artist.
On Wednesday, June 7 at 7 p.m., there will be a free discussion, Cultural Memory, Monuments, and Memorials, at The Edge Theater. Among the topics is examining how history is told.
“We like to think of Pivot Arts as the hub, working for maximum creativity, not just dance or music but a variety of art forms,” Ehre said.
For further information visit: pivotarts.org