It’s Visceral



by Judy Carmack Bross




Photo: Todd Rosenberg


“As a kid I was asked why did I dance, and often it was hard to explain. It’s an internal feeling coming from a very deep place, a visceral place.”–Nick Pupillo, Artistic Director of Visceral Dance.


Its compelling name, its powerful athleticism and the driving force of its founder Nick Pupillo ensure that Visceral Dance’s tenth anniversary performance, SPRINGTEN, at the Harris Theater April 28 spotlights one of Chicago’s most exciting contemporary dance companies. The one-night-only performance combines what Visceral Dance is best known for: its exceptional technicality, diversity, versatility, and athleticism.


Nick Pupillo          Photo: KT Miller Photography


“We will be showing what we are known for—being sexy in a unique kind of way,” Pupillo said. “I try to show each of my artists as human beings, where you think, wow, look at those people.”


Pupillo says that the April 28th performance will “really show who we are. Our mission is to do work that is meaningful and powerful.”


Photo: KT Miller Photography


“We will begin with Impetere, which I first choreographed at the Harris Theater 10 years ago. In addition to premiering two new pieces slated to show who we are and where we are going, we will present one of our true crowd pleasers, Marguerite Donlon’s Ruff Celts, created for Visceral in 2016, which shows the dancers’ unique personalities. She has the awesome sense of humor and a quirky way or rearranging things in a not so literal way. Lotus, a world premiere, comes from a dark place, showing that one has to develop resilience. At age ten we can show the hardships and challenges all artists have been through in the past few years, and it can be a time for cleansing and re-birth.”


Pupillo speaks of Visceral as intuitive, with movements based on action and reaction. “As a teacher I have often said, ‘Do the movement, sense the feeling and witness what happens.’”


Photo: Jim McNulty


Photo: KT Miller Photography


The company exemplifies his daring vision to explore the infinite possibilities of contemporary movement and present the best of emerging, established, and innovative choreographers. Aiming to appeal to a wide range of audiences, Visceral Dance performs over 25 times a year and provides education and outreach.


A graduate in dance from the University of Indiana, Pupillo first studied ballet, then tap, jazz and modern. He joined Giordano Dance Chicago on moving to the city. “There was a lot of physicality in that company and we were challenged to learn lots of different movements,” he said.


Photo: KT Miller Photography


“With Visceral we use complex partnering and a lot of athletic movement. We currently have 13 dancers in the company and six trainees. We inspire each other and grow together. Our repertoire has become widely vast, and we are always evolving, be it the work we are doing or the costumes we are choosing. I feel we have accomplished a lot in our first 10 years.”


Pupillo says his company starts with ballet warmup classes four out of five days a week, which emphasize technique.


Photo: KT Miller Photography


Photo: M. Reid Photography


Before founding the company, Pupillo began Visceral Dance Center, a pre-professional school with instructors from top companies and guest teachers. “We have students from 18 months to people in their 80s,” he said. “We want to share our resources and experiences; outreach is extremely important to us. Some of the youth, ages 14 to 18, in our pre-professional classes are focused on college for dance training and we help with the route. We also offer master classes in technique and movement for those who want to go directly into dance. Our students benefit from seeing the choreography of our performances live as we practice. I am no longer dancing but greatly enjoy directing and choreographing.”


“Dancers talk about going to both Chicago and New York. Even though Chicago is such a big city, it feels intimate to me; companies work together and we are all going through an evolution together. Chicago is an awesome city for the arts.”


Prior to the Harris Theater performance, Visceral will present excerpts from the SPRINGTEN program to Chicago Public School students.


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