Controlled chaos is an oxymoron. The word chaos could be a synonym for anarchy meaning away from all of the “archs” that have defined how humankind lives. Monarchy, oligarchy, plutarchy, etc. Booms Day is a dance about having to make choices and the nature of human bonds. Chicago Dance Crash does not fit the mold of traditional or more established dance troupes in Booms Day. This is a story of tribes, choices, and mates—room, soul, or best. This work is choreographed and directed by Jessica Deahr with the story and narration written by Mark Hackman. Together they have broken the traditional rules of dance and made something that will get your adrenaline pumping.
The central character of Booms Day is Girl played by KC Bevis. The narration leading the show is the voice of a young girl telling a story to a deep voiced man. I presumed it was portraying a father listening to a story from his daughter’s imagination, but Booms Day is set in a post-apocalyptic world, so it is Girl voiced by Molly Harris and The Asker voiced by Christian Castro. Girl is in search of her family and has her boombox as her companion. Bevis is a wonder in motion as is all of the Crash Dance troupe. Dearh’s choreography is a blend of martial arts, freestyle, hip-hop, and breakdancing. It is very similar to Brazilian Capoeira with its graceful movements and intertwining of dancers.
The improvisational nature of breakdancing and hip-hop gives troupe members collaborative choreography credit for some of this dance in two acts with 16 pieces/scenes. This style of dance does not move to a 4/4 or 3/3 beat. These dancers have an inner metronome that ticks off the beats in between the beats. Most of the movements are not to a clear-cut rhythm or beat, but an intertwining and separating of bodies- from a kinetic jumble of limbs to a dancer seemingly landing on a feather. There is an economy of movement in what appears to be free-for-all battles between warring tribes.
Jimmy Weeden is another dancer with choreography credited for the “There are Baddies” scene. Weeden has an electric stage presence as he prowls the stage as the Mean Man. There is a sense of “come with us or perish” energy that I could feel as an audience member. Mean Man is not proposing a utopian state but a takeover with strength in numbers. One of the themes in the narration is about choice and not having to make them as a central tenet of freedom in the post-apocalypse. Girl’s Boyfriend (Logan Howell) chooses to join the Baddies and Girl fights for him with all of her might before realizing that she has to choose, and therefore relinquishes him.
Booms Day is more audience interactive than other dance performances I have covered. Vocal appreciation is encouraged and Deahr encourages the audience to clap, whoop, and shout because it feeds energy to the dancers, and in turn the audience gets that energy returned. The other audience participation is closing their eyes when told by the voiceover narration of Girl. We were also told when to open our eyes. It is a brilliant way to segue to another scene but also to signify a boom with a blinding light accompanying it leading us further into the destruction.
The music selected for Booms Day is a fantastic mix curated by director Jessica Deahr. Leonard Cohen’s “You Want It Darker” feels as if it was written for this performance. Sounds from Trent Reznor, Kanye West and mixes by DJ Shadow are featured. On two songs the lead vocalist is singled out giving the sound an otherworldly feel. Only Sting’s voice is heard on “Every Breath You Take,” and Skip Martin from Dazz is featured on “Whip It.” One of the most surreal moments was hearing The Carpenters’ “Top of the World.” It is a skip through the daisies moment for Girl and Boyfriend in the midst of literal trash heap scenery. Deahr’s mix of music is as cool as the choreography.
Booms Day is the story of a hero’s journey starting with the trauma of loss, finding a tribe of fellow questers with their own motivations. There is conflict and more trauma to either triumph or succumb, but there is a return to home, which is not always a place but a state of consciousness. The hero/heroine gets to show what they are made of and pull strength from those also on the journey. Yeah, I got all of that from Booms Day. This is a collaboration of dancers who undertook a hero’s journey ending with this performance, and it was an excellent trip.
Booms Day is playing at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn St. Performances run Fridays and Saturdays at 7pm through September 10. Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for children 12 and younger. The Ruth Page Center requests that you wear a mask—so bring one. Do not expect every place to supply them. We are still in a pandemic and the performers are risking all to bring new art to a culture-starved world. Keep them safe and your fellow audience members too
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