This Season, hcl partners with Chicago Dancemakers Forum (CDF) to support their current and recent Lab Artists. hcl provides low-res support to facilitate the choreographic development of the artists’ pieces and ease their production and rehearsal processes.
THEM, by current Lab Artist Ahmad Simmons and collaborator Kacie Smith, is a dance/theatre exploration of the fear and violence that results from categorizing ourselves and creating an “other” or “them” in our communities. Initially inspired by the realities of life in Chicago, THEM blends highly physical contemporary dance, film and theatre to give an individual face to the “other.”
Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.
—Rainer Maria Rilke
Featuring: Marco Clemente, Cait Cucchiara, David Ingram, Rebecca McLindon, Alexis Staley and Malachi Squires.
Visual artist Ennis Martin, a life-long Chicago resident, has painted a series of paintings which will be animated by Radek Michalik and projected as the scenic design for this piece.
THEM is supported by High Concept Labs, a Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist Award, and an Individual Artist Program Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events.
Ahmad Simmons is a native of Fort Worth, Texas where he began his training at the Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts. Holding a BFA in Dance from Point Park University, under the direction of Susan Stowe, he has performed works by Bill T. Jones, Robert Battle, David Parsons, Lar Lubovitch, Daniel Ezralow, Aszure Barton, Sidra Bell, Mauro Astolfi, Adam Barruch, Kate Skarpetowska and others. After graduating, he danced a season with Eisenhower Dance Ensemble in Rochester, Michigan. He is currently touring nationally and internationally as a dancer with River North Dance Chicago performing in such countries as Germany, Switzerland, and Russia.
In addition to concert dance work, he is a proud member of the Actors’ Equity Association and has performed with the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera in a number of shows including Cats, West Side Story, Oklahoma with Shirley Jones, Peter Pan with Cathy Rigby, Hairspray, The Producers, and Oliver. Ahmad is the Co-Founder/Artistic Director of Pursuit Productions. Pursuit Productions is the brainchild of Ahmad Simmons (choreographer) and Kacie Smith (director) and is a platform not only for our dance theatre collaborations, but also our individual artistic projects as director and choreographer. Together we are interested in dance theatre fusion storytelling, utilizing the clarity and specificity of theatre and the evocative, emotional power of dance to tell stories that will make our audience and community feel, think and come together.
Ahmad’s choreographic body includes works for Forum Jazz Dance Theatre, Visceral Studio Company, Extensions Dance Company, DanceWorks Chicago, Thodos Dance Chicago, Dance in the Parks, and Nomi Dance Company.
The Chicago Dancemakers Forum (CDF) was founded in 2003 in response to studies which clearly identified a need for multi-layered support of Chicago choreographers. CDF addresses that need through its Lab Artists program which makes $15,000 cash grants to selected, independent recipients. By combining these grants with mentorship throughout the research, development and performance of new work, the program builds a strong community of colleagues and peers for its artists. CDF emphasizes creative process and encourages choreographers to delve deeply into their work.
Throughout the year of support Lab Artists participate in regular roundtable meetings designed to strengthen relationships with their peers and people of influence in the field. In addition CDF offers ongoing professional and artistic development opportunities to past CDF grantees and to the Chicago area dance community through public workshops, events, and residencies.