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IMPRESSIONS: ∞therside collective / Sarah Chien in “You Are In My Everywhere,” Presented by Gibney

IMPRESSIONS: ∞therside collective / Sarah Chien in “You Are In My Everywhere,” Presented by Gibney
Sarah Cecilia Bukowski

By Sarah Cecilia Bukowski
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Published on May 22, 2023
∞therside collective; Photo: Alice Chacon

Choreographed and Performed by: Agata Gregorkiewitz (Poland), Sarah Chien (USA), Susanna Grob (Switzerland), Sokratis Votskos (Greece), Caitlin Cawley (USA)

Lighting Design: Beaudau (Bo-day) Karel Banks

Supporting Collective Members: Mirko Lancerotto (Italy), Francesca Caselli (Italy), Alessio Bettoli (Italy), Vicky Angelidou (Greece)

∞therside NY Tour Production Team: Sarah Chien, USA Host and Producer, Jolie Saltiel, Associate Producer, Lauren Hlubny, Advisor and Volunteer Coordinator, Sarah A.O. Rosner, Strategy Consultant, Theo Armstrong, Marketing Assistant

Improvisation comes in many forms, with wildly varying levels of structure, direction, and intention. It can be contained and purpose-driven, meandering and uninhibited, or anywhere in between. It can use the familiar as a touchstone to veer into the strange. It is a learned skill that requires sensitivity, virtuosity, daring, and curiosity. Improvisation is the instantaneous alchemy of internal processes and external forces, inspiring expression that blurs the line between the two and merges artist with art in the very moment of creation.

in dim light one dancer in loose fitting pants and a midriff top stands in profile while lifting one arm to the ceiling, in front of her are two other dancers in grey tops of varied sleeve length and dark pants,one dancer attempts to pat the back of another dancer whose lower body lays on the floor, while her upper body arches and twists supported by her arms, in the very back is a musician playing a flute
∞therside collective / Sarah Chien's You Are In My Everywhere; photo by Alice Chacon

For the members of ∞therside collective, improvisation, or “instant composition,” is a cultivated interdisciplinary performance practice that traverses boundaries of time and space to create unique, irreplaceable shared experiences. Founded in 2017, ∞therside is a collective of international music and dance artists that produces residencies, workshops, and performances on the home turf of each of its members, making its New York debut with You Are In My Everywhere. The group follows in the (improvised) footsteps of a rich experimental performance lineage, including The Grand Union, David Zambrano, and Julyen Hamilton.

A gallery installation of photos and video from the collective frames its history and purpose, including quarantine-era home videos its members shared to bridge gulfs of distance and despair and still images that capture their shared moments of intimate physicality and exploration. This contrast between “together” and “apart” brings into focus the group’s driving ethos: the “collective self-organizing and mutual flourishing” of its artists through shared research, collaboration, and imagination.

a duet with two women one in a semi squat on the floor with a grimace on her face, above her another dancer appears to listen and watch with concern, a flutist plays in the background
∞therside collective / Sarah Chien's You Are In My Everywhere; photo by Alice Chacon

You Are In My Everywhere is a composition for three dancers and two musicians that ebbs and flows between elemental and expressive registers with a palpable undercurrent of wonder. Its wonder is curious, contemplative, playful, and sometimes troubling, at times openly breezy and others densely opaque. The dancers search their bodies and the space, using breath and touch as sensory interfaces to ground and inform their expressive flow. Susanna Grob brings the energy of steady earth, Agata Gregorkiewitz a light breeze, and Sarah Chien a glowing fire. The musicians — Caitlin Cawley on vibraphone and Sokratis Votskos on an array of woodwinds — expertly lead, listen, and respond with gentle melodies, iterative patterns, and thoughtful silences.

profile of a dancer with a blue denim colored midriff top and loose pants, we see her in profile her eyes closed in deep concentration she gently leans to the right as her knees are slightly bent, legs in a semi wide v shape
∞therside collective / Sarah Chien's You Are In My Everywhere; photo by Alice Chacon

As the performance progresses, each artist identifies and explores something precious to themselves, something to be held, cared for, and shared. The musicians traverse the space as part of the physical composition just as the dancers’ vocalizations become part of its acoustic unfolding. Grob tells a story in bits and pieces, transcending barriers of language with the clarity of her eyes, gestures, and articulate onomatopoeia. Chien questions her orientation to the world — high, low, upside-down, rightside-up, aggressive, acquiescent — while Gregorkiewitz finds responsive agency through the constant thread of her placid presence.

All find particular somatic and tactile expression in their spines and the palms of their hands, discovering harmony in acts of intentional risk and radical trust. Flurries of movement strike a balance with sculptural tableaux as the artists move through a glowing world of intermittent shadows. A dance in silence, a song in stillness, a convergence of voices supporting one another in the fertile space of improvisation: the ever-changing, ever-present moment.

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