Beneath the Surface of SOAKED by Joseph Caruana

Director Mike Gosney and vocal and performing artist ALEXA GRÆ break down the process of creating Chicago’s first fully improvised ballet

By Courtney Streeter

Vocal and performing artist ALEXA GRÆ

Vocal and performing artist ALEXA GRÆ

Walking into a dance studio is an ethereal experience, music electrifies the air, dancers adorn the space – draped over barres, moving across the room with impossible ease, stretching under large, paneled mirrors, and despite the lingering scent of muscle ointment, one cannot help but feel that they have entered a sacred place. All of this is what greets me when I arrive at Gus Giordano Dance School to discuss Elements Ballet’s upcoming project, SOAKED | SURFACE. SOAKED | SURFACE is currently been promoted as a full-length, entirely improvised ballet – the first of its kind; the buzz surrounding this performance is energetic and shrouded in mystery. Many are wondering what will the movement be like, will there be a plot, or simply how this show can even work? Elements Ballet, long lauded for its improvisation technique, has previously presented small improvised works, but this is the first time any contemporary ballet company will be presenting an evening-length ballet in which all movement is completely improvised. If any company is prepared for such an undertaking, it is Elements, for whom improvising is a daily practice.

How do Artistic Director, Mike Gosney and his dancers plan to tackle a challenge that athletically and aesthetically demanding? I sat down to catch up with Gosney and accomplished composer and vocal and performance artist, ALEXA GRÆ, who will be providing the live, improvised music for the performance, to unravel the enigma behind SOAKED | SURFACE.


CS
: How would you describe this production?
MG: It’s risky, it’s magical. Dancers will be telling some kind of story, or allowing some sort of story to happen in front of a live audience with live, improvised music. Even the lighting will be improvised, so it is tough to answer that question.

CS: Improvisation is a pillar at Elements Ballet – how did that start and what makes it so important to you and your dancers?
MG: It started right off the bat. It was one of the reasons I started the company, actually. I wanted to keep these dancers in Chicago, my favorite city. They are all so special and unique, I wanted to give them a place they feel comfortable to explore. Even for those who are less comfortable, feeling like they don’t yet know how to improvise, I felt like [astrology] was a good system to pull them out and give them that courage. We base everything we do in the classical steps, and I need those steps to evolve. I have my own idea of how those steps and patterns evolve, even how the dancer’s bodies can evolve, but what could we be missing out on if everybody is not dancing or experimenting?  It really is the mission of the company and goes hand in hand with what amazing athletes the dancers are.

CS: How did the idea for a full-length improvised ballet come in to being?
MG: It has always been an idea! In the company we have Water Class, our improvisation, as a way to warm up and to grow and I sit and watch that. I usually don’t have anyone sitting here with me, experiencing that with me. While I am watching all this magic happening, it became “How do we show this to an audience, this unexpected, crazy stuff that is happening?” We have built up to this at intensives and cocktail hour performances, but the timing is right now. Our dancers are so accomplished in this and so connected.

CS: How was watching Water Class today, Alexa?

AG: It was amazing. I am so attracted to dance and movement, but it is not my background, so when I get to come in the space, I am taking everything in. I’m super inspired. As a composer or a musician, I have movement always going on when I am writing, but getting to see it on a bunch of bodies is really great.

CS: Dancing won’t be the only improvised component in this production, what else will be improvised?
MG: Dancing, lighting and Alexa will be improvising the music live.
AG: I’m trying to wrap my brain around the logistics of the score that I will be providing and the fact that it will be continuous. I’m giving myself as much control as an improvised setting lets you. I get to try things that I would never do or have the opportunity to do in set performances. I also am reflecting back on all of the different inventory or language of all the different musical styles and genres to create pieces and moods to reflect about what’s happening on stage, or to butt up against it during the performance.

MG: I’m excited to work with Alexa too because they have such a strong classical background which is what we work through in improv and then evolve and move through classical steps or notes.

CS: What is the rehearsal process like for this production?
MG: We have a basic ballet class in the beginning to get the dancers’ muscles and bones in place so that their bodies respond to them the way that they need to and they have the widest range of motion possible and expand the possibilities of movement. Then we start off slowly with very simple improvisation dealing with literally one body part at a time, then it goes in to larger steps and movements. From there we go into more imaginative concepts, dealing with the space itself and beyond the space, which leads me to the idea of the piece being that we are traveling through the different terrains on the planet. Then the magic starts happening; everyone starts communicating with their bodies, touching, feeling, there are non-verbal conversations that happen. I also play improvisation games with them. I’m establishing these different games to keep us on a path for structure, shape, and for the dancer’s stamina. It helps keep the flow.
AG: This is the biggest project I have ever done with improvisation being the backbone of it. I will probably sit down with Mike’s current soundscape and set a timer to see what feels good to me and when to move on musically. I know that will change as soon as there are bodies in the room, but I am also aware that my stamina will be very different than the dancers. I’m trying to create a mood that will make them confident to step into the unknown and rely on the fact that this is a shared experience, that we are all in this together. It has the potential to be really godly and omnipotent. I like that, love that, but also, I don’t want all that responsibility. Hah.

CS: What genre of music do you anticipate pulling from for this?
AG: I’m going to try to go everywhere. I’m really excited to try to do some classical ideas with just the piano where it feels very balletic from a rehearsal, but also use classical pieces to really create a mood and a soundscape. I will use a lot of vocal techniques with some synthesizers. I am really interested in not being held to a style or genre knowing that these are things that I have in my tool belt to access, but not limit me.


CS: Are you planning on integrating any of the structure established by the games you use in rehearsal into the performance itself?
MG: Yes, the dancers need direction, and the audience also has to go through an experience. I am still gauging the peaks and the falls of it, but they need that journey. The games will essentially be the staging: this game will be this time at this terrain, and this one will be as we are moving through this terrain.

CS: You said the dancers will be going through terrains of the planet, how much of that will be visible to the audience? That is something that they can relate to and interpret in both the music and the dancing?
MG: My reasoning for doing that was to create a gentle structure for the dancers, that was my first thought. The inspiration came from Planet Earth – if it says BBC, I am watching it. I wasn’t expecting that the dancers would take it, it was more to be an arsenal in their tool belt. As I analyzed more and am watching the process now, it is less important to me that the dancers are going through that and more important for the audiences to have that in their program. I want the audience to have an opportunity to have some sort of imaginative experience too.
AG: This is exciting for me because you (Gosney) have given this great organization, but it can still change shape. I think the part that is going to be really cool is the idea of ‘Surface’ and interpreting that as literally our bodies instead of the planet. It’s all linked to the same place, but all the paths to get there could be different.

CS: Alexa, you have some dance background, how is that helping you through this process?
AG: I love to dance and I want to be y’all. Getting to see people who have a ton of language around movement sets off sound for me. It’s so enriching to take this in. I can go home and visualize myself doing these things, even though my body does not move like that. 

CS: Not only is this Chicago’s first, full length improvised ballet, but each night will be its own world premiere. What are the emotions surrounding that for you?
MG: I am super excited, just excited.
AG: There are two nights to attack this. I’m excited. I plan to give myself these little “landing points” that I can build from live, but I plan to challenge myself to do the exact opposite of what I created for the night before.

Feeling much more grounded in the world of improvisation, I took my leave excited from Elements’ rehearsal process and the upcoming show. It promises two nights of complete ingenuity, that those new to the dance world and seasoned professionals alike will be able to enjoy. SOAKED | SURFACE will be presented February 14th and 15th, 2019 at 7 PM at the Hamlin Park Fieldhouse Theatre.

To secure your tickets to this world-premiere event, please visit https://www.elementsballet.org/soaked-surface/

Elements Ballet Artistic Director Mike Gosney

Elements Ballet Artistic Director Mike Gosney

The Greater Possibilities of Movement by Joseph Caruana

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Article by Kristen Finck, Student at Elements’ One-Day WATER Workshop, January 6, 2019

Coming from a predominately classical and technical background, I was excited by Elements Ballet’s offering of a WATER workshop. The workshop was something that I knew would push me to move in ways outside of my norm as well as educate and show me how much wider a range of dance vocabulary and creativity I, (as well as anyone with a instinctive brain and need for creativity within the walls of a dance studio) could produce. After leaving the space, I have come to realize that I was so used to confining my creativity and abilities within the studio that I was actually limiting greater possibilities of movement, artistry, and inspiration. Working with artistic director, Mike Gosney, I recognized just how infinite and boundless the possibilities of creativity and movement truly are. By confining the idea of one’s space and movement vocabulary, I was actually restricting myself to stay within boundaries instead of allowing myself to push the limits and explore outside of my comfort zone.

Personally, I’ve never been someone who’s been completely comfortable with improvisational movement. I’ve taken many classes, regardless, it’s always been something I could simply slide by on, not fully reaping the benefits or feeling confident about. For me, I have always struggled to create movement on the spot and to have it feel organic and natural (I tend to over analyze and over think and sometimes find it hard to shut my brain off and just let things happen). Therefore, the idea of a workshop focused on the WATER element was very appealing to me, as I knew it would be feel-good movement quality and would ultimately prove challenging to me as it would incorporate a large amount of improvisational dance. Elements didn’t disappoint.

From the get-go, Gosney broke down the process of improvisation in a way that made it very natural to go from overthinking every little movement, to slowly building movement, and finally expanding a movement vocabulary. Through the use of manipulating individual body parts, incorporating classical vocabulary, utilizing the space, levels, and the limitless possibilities of movement patterns, students were able to create natural, interesting movement by utilizing and connecting with others. The workshop culminated with a segment devoted to choreography. After learning and picking the details of each movement apart, each dancer was able to take what they had learned and experienced from the day and add in their own interpretations to the work. Thus, creating upwards of 20 different versions of the same baseline choreography. This was truly my favorite exploration as each dancer was given their own artistic freedom to enhance the choreography with their unique sense of timing, movement, & emotion to create a phrase completely different from every other body in the studio. From the beginning to the end of the workshop, you could feel (and see) the shift in everyone’s improvisational perspectives. Everyone was able to tap into their creativity and allow their movement to flow and become more natural. Whether you found the inspiration from the music, a peer, or somewhere within, Elements created a safe space to explore and grow as a student, dancer, and as an artist.

So what now? Personally, I learned a lot about myself through just one day of working and instruction from this company. As someone who is always looking to learn and enhance my dancing, I couldn’t have left more excited about everything I had learned and the education I had gained in just 6 hours. I am enthusiastic about the prospective of utilizing my arsenal of newfound tools in my professional dance career and future creative opportunities. Although I currently dance professionally, the fact that Elements was able to create a workshop that was fit for dancers and students of all ages and abilities from different technical and training backgrounds, that was both educational and inspirational for each person in the room is a testament to the caliber of their diligence, passion, and enthusiasm for creativity and for the success of each person who enters their studio spaces. In the future, I would highly recommend taking advantage of any future opportunity you may find yourself having with the artists of Elements Ballet as they will absolutely exceed all of your expectations.

Find out more about how you can participate in one of Elements’ upcoming One-Day Workshops and Intensive Training Program here

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Photos of dancer Kristen Finck by Erishyll M Photography (upper image) and Tracey Frugoli Photography (lower image).

Elements Presents Fully Improvised Full-Length Ballet by Joseph Caruana

Elements Ballet announces its Winter Program, SOAKED | SURFACE. A two-night world-premiere, this event promises and exciting new twist to contemporary ballet while paying homage to Chicago’s longstanding history of improvised comedy and theatre.

Presented over Valentine’s Day on Thursday, February 14th and Friday, February 15th at 7:30 PM, audiences for SOAKED | SURFACE will be able to experience Chicago’s first full-length, entirely improvised ballet. Held at the Hamlin Park Fieldhouse at 3035 N Hoyne Ave, SOAKED | SURFACE will showcase Elements’ signature style and philosophy of movement – an unconventional, yet compelling aesthetic that emphasizes the form and rigorous training of classical ballet through the freedom and expressiveness of contemporary dance. This particular program is designed to be danced without any pre-rehearsed or set choreography. True to its name, it will all be improvised in the moment by Artists of Elements Ballet.

Improvisation has been a pillar in the Elements Ballet repertoire since its inception; the company regularly incorporates improvised dance into its class/rehearsal process and has previously presented works featuring improvised components. Artistic Director Mike Gosney encourages dancers to inspire and be inspired through the liberties they are allowed through improvising movement. Without the restrictions of classical dance, new lines, patterns, and connections are formed on stage that allow for spontaneity and more authentic artistry. SOAKED | SURFACE will present this while staying true to the signature style of contemporary dance that has made Elements Chicago’s premiere contemporary ballet company for 12 years.

SOAKED | SURFACE will be performed to live music by ALEXA GRÆ, who will be improvising the score to the movement in real time. ALEXA GRÆ has extensive classical vocal training that when combined with electronic instrumentation, creates an auditory aesthetic that has allowed for creation and performance across a myriad of genres including opera, hip-hop, pop, and electronic dance music. ALEXA GRÆ’s blend of rigorous musical training and boundless experimentation mirrors Elements’ own artistic approach: grounded in classical ballet, but heavily encourages the use of artistic experimentation. Elements and ALEXA GRÆ have collaborated as recently as October and are looking forward to creating together in a space with so few constraints and so many artistic possibilities.

Tickets for SOAKED | SURFACE are $25 and can be purchased at brownpapertickets.com. Those interested in a full season subscription package to Elements Ballet’s 2019 event series can learn more at https://www.elementsballet.org/subscription-series-2018-2019/.

This program is part of The Chicago Moving Company Performance Project. The Chicago Moving Company is in residence at Hamlin Park through the Chicago Park District’s Arts Partners in Residence Program, which unites artists and communities in Chicago’s Parks. Improvements to the Hamlin Park Theater are supported in part by a generous Saints 2018 grant.

Elements and Chill at Stage 773 by Joseph Caruana

Elements Ballet is proud to announce the return of its one-night-only film festival on November 9th, 2018 at 7:30 PM. Elements and Chill, the now annual film screening, will be held in Belmont’s Theatre District at Stage 773.

Elements and Chill will present 12 short films each featuring works choreographed by Gosney, Caruana, and guest choreographers Anna Long, and Victoria Vargas, performed by Elements’ company dancers. For each dance, Elements collaborated with a different, local filmmaker to provide fresh perspective on the company’s signature style of dance. Each filmmakers’ distinct cinematography sheds new light on the expressive, rigorous choreography performed by Elements’ company artists.

This year’s filmmakers include Topher Alexander, Rebecca Montalvo, Lonnie Iske, Jordan Selander, Andrew Palmer, Alexander Perez, Paul Myzia, and Brian Vandenbos. The program promises an evening of groundbreaking dance that will mesmerize the audience. 

Tickets for this event are available for $20.00 online at stage773.com and at the door.

Announcing Elements' 2018-2019 Season Subscription Packages by Joseph Caruana

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Elements Ballet is thrilled to announce its 2018-2019 Events Series, comprising four diverse programs that showcase new choreography and improvised ballet in a variety of spaces and contexts throughout Chicago.

The series will begin on Friday, November 9, 2018 at 7:30 PM with Elements and Chill, Elements’ second-annual one-night dance film festival. Held at Stage 773 in the vibrant Belmont Theatre District (1225 W. Belmont Ave.), Elements and Chill will feature original short films produced by Elements choreographers and dancers in partnership with local filmmakers. “The concept for these films is to view the art and aesthetic of Elements through the lens of different filmmakers,” notes Joseph Caruana, Executive Director of Elements and a participating choreographer

Audiences will have the rare opportunity to see a fully improvised evening-length ballet at SOAKED, with two performances on Thursday, February 14 and Friday, February 15, 2019 at 7:30 PM. Elements dancers will improvise movement to an original score developed and performed live by vocalist and composer ALEXA GRAE. Incorporating improvisation into its rehearsals on a regular basis, Elements brings this uniquely Chicagoan artistic tradition into the realm of ballet. Held at the Hamlin Park Fieldhouse at 3035 N. Hoyne Ave., SOAKED will showcase the Company’s signature style and philosophy of movement, which combines an emphasis on the form and rigorous training of classical ballet with the freedom and expressiveness of contemporary dance.

On Saturday, May 4, 2019, Elements will reprise its innovative 2017 performance and fundraiser, In the Garden of Atlantis. Looking ahead to the 2020 world-premiere of its full-length original ballet in production, Atlantis, this event will introduce audiences to the latest pieces of choreography from this major passion project by Artistic Director Mike Gosney and co-choreographers. Like the 2017 event, In the Garden of Atlantis will feature a gallery-style ambience with new work by artists in media including visual art, fashion design and photography, all on the theme of the mythical island civilization. In the Garden of Atlantis will take place at the Fulton Street Collective, located at 1821 W. Hubbard St., Suite 307, from 7-10 PM.

Building on the growing anticipation and excitement that Elements has cultivated around Atlantis, the Elements Ballet Events Series will culminate with the first full-length preview of the ballet, Atlantis 2020, on Saturday, August 24 2019 at 8:00 PM at the Athenaeum Theatre (2936 N. Southport Ave.). Audiences will have the opportunity to view the ballet in its current stage of development, from start to finish, including raw choreography and puppetry developed in collaboration with Rough House Theater. Throughout the process of developing Atlantis, Elements has engaged audiences at each stage, providing regular choreography previews, open rehearsals and opportunities to see components of production including storyboard art, libretto excerpts and preliminary costume design. Atlantis 2020 will bring these various components together in a stripped-down version of the later 2020 world-premiere.

For the first time, this season Elements is offering subscription packages that include tickets to each of these four events at a discounted rate plus a free ticket to the Summer Intensive Student Concert on Saturday, August 3, 2019, The Fifth Element.

Subscriptions are $150 – a 25% savings compared to single tickets – and must be purchased before the first event on November 9. Single tickets to each event range from $20 to $75.

Find more details and links to purchase subscriptions and single tickets at elementsballet.org/subscription-series-2018-2019/, and join Elements’ mailing list to get up-to-date news on each event.

Pre-Professionals share the stage with company dancers at Elements Ballet’s Elemental Artists, A Student Showcase by Joseph Caruana

Elements Ballet will present Elemental Artists, A Student Showcase, a performance by the pre-professional students from the company’s summer intensive on Friday, August 3, 8-9:30pm at Extensions Dance Center. The cast includes over 30 pre-professional dancers from all over the country with ages ranging 11-25. New work by co-directors Mike Gosney and Joseph Caruana and other members of the intensive faculty will be featured, as well as special appearances by professional dancers from the main company dancing Elements’ most current repertory.

“Gosney and his company are known for solid technique and stylized movement with a unique approach to teaching and choreographing. By incorporating the natural elements (fire, earth, air, water) to represent major points of dance (expression, physicality, focus, freedom) his work takes on an organic quality that allows the dancers to take risks and really shine.” – RogueBallerina.com

Extensions Dance Center is located at 3933 N Elston Ave, Chicago, IL 60618. This location is not wheelchair accessible.

ONLINE TICKET SALES FOR THIS EVENT ARE NOW CLOSED. A LIMITED NUMBER OF TICKETS WILL BE AVAILABLE AT THE DOOR.

Announcing the Winner of our #ELEMENTSOFYOU Dance Video Contest, Bella Santucci! by Joseph Caruana

Boiling over with passion, Bella's riveting combination of the water and fire elements for her video is a fantastic example of what #ELEMENTSOFYOU is all about.

Bella wins one free week in the Elements Ballet Summer Intensive, a professional photo shoot with photographer Topher Alexander, and an exclusive Elements Ballet tank top.

You can head to our Instagram page to view all of the featured contestants and special award winners, plus see how dancers from diverse backgrounds express their unique artistry through the four elements!

Do you want to explore earth, air, water, and fire through the lens of contemporary ballet? If so, there is still time to sign up for the Elements Ballet Summer Intensive!

If you are a dancer looking to improve and expand your abilities this summer, this is the intensive for you!

Don't wait - space is limited - click here to register today

Enter our #ELEMENTSOFYOU Dance Video Contest! by Joseph Caruana

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Can you embody one of the four elements (earth, air, water, or fire) in a 30-second dance video? 

Submit an original video that shows us the look, feel, or energy of the element that best represents you as a dancer, and you could win Elements wearables or one free week at the Elements Ballet Summer Intensive plus a professional photo shoot!!*

To enter, send content to info@elementsballet.com with #ELEMENTSOFYOU in the subject line or post to Instagram and tag us with #ELEMENTSOFYOU. We will have daily and weekly featured winners, plus one grand prize winner announced on June 25th.**

Be sure to follow us on Instagram @elementscontemporaryballet to see the winners!

Please note: By entering the #ELEMENTSOFYOU Dance Video Contest you are giving permission for Elements Ballet to use your image, name, and likeness in its online advertising and certifying that you own the rights to the material you submit.

*Must be in Chicago to claim grand prize. Transportation and lodging not provided.

**All entries must be received by 11:59pm CST on June 24th, 2018.

To learn more about the Elements Ballet Summer Intensive visit https://www.elementsballet.org/summer-intensive-2018/ 

Elements Ballet presents original short dance films at Elements and Chill: A free one-night dance film festival by Joseph Caruana

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As part of Chicago Dance Month, Elements Ballet will present a free mini film festival featuring new original short dance films by local choreographers and filmmakers. Titled Elements and Chill, the event will take place on Thursday, April 19 at WeWork Kinzie (20 W. Kinzie, 17th Floor, Chicago, IL 60654) from 6:30 – 8:30 PM. While there is no cost to attend this event, guests are encouraged to reserve tickets in advance here as space will be limited.

To produce the films, Elements paired five choreographers with five local filmmakers. Each duo was given a modest budget to produce an experimental dance film, approximately 5 minutes in length, that showcases Elements artists and explores the company’s unique movement vocabulary on camera. Participating artistic teams include:

Choreographer | Filmmaker

Mike Gosney & Brian VandenBos

Anna Long & Alexander Perez

Tiffany McCord & Jordan Selander

Callie Croom & Anna Castelaz

Joseph Caruana & Topher Alexander

Four of the five participating choreographers are Elements artists. The fifth, Anna Long, is a Chicago-based choreographer and teacher of the Gaga movement language, developed by Ohad Naharin of the Batsheva Dance Company in Israel. Later this season, she will be setting a new work on the Elements dancers. All five films feature Elements dancers.

“The concept for these films is to see dance on camera, specifically dance that follows Elements’ mission and vision,” explains Joseph Caruana, Executive Director of Elements and a participating choreographer. “Each filmmaker was free to experiment and showcase his or her take on our work, but the artistry of the dancers and choreography are at the core of each film.”

Guests will also enjoy complimentary draft beer, fresh juices and body-nourishing snacks. Staff members from InVision Online School of Psychic Abilities will join Elements on site to offer energy readings themed in growth and vitality.

Elements and Chill is part of the company’s new series of free and low-cost community gatherings, Elemental Events. Featuring stripped-down, improvisational dance and multimedia collaborations in informal spaces, the series aims to engage new audiences and remove barriers to participation. With this series, Elements seeks to present dance through the lens of popular media and other art forms, promoting it as an accessible, vital, and human means of expression.

More information is available at https://www.elementsballet.org/elements-and-chill/

Meet the Faculty and Artistic Team of the Elements Ballet Summer Intensive by Joseph Caruana

Mike Gosney (Artistic Director), co-founder of Elements Ballet, has been teaching and privately coaching ballet for over 20 years. In addition to training many of the dancers in Elements Ballet, his students have been accepted into prestigious programs and schools such as American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet School, The Juilliard School, Pacific Northwest Ballet School, Houston Ballet, Boston Ballet, North Carolina School of the Arts, Milwaukee Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, The Joffrey Academy, LINES Ballet, Tisch School of the Arts, and many others. As a choreographer, Mr. Gosney’s work has appeared in St. Louis Spring to Dance, The A.W.A.R.D. Show! 2010 at Dance Center of Columbia College, The Best of Dance Chicago, Looptopia, Around the Coyote Arts Festival, The Atlas Agenda, Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival, Evanston Arts Week, On the Prairie at the Chicago Cultural Center, productions with the Evanston Dance Ensemble and Evanston Symphony, and in many other Chicago area festivals and dance performances. In 2015 and 2016 Gosney co-conceptualized and co-choreographed Surge, and AYA, An Aerial Ballet with Elements’ Joseph Caruana and Chloe Jensen and Karen Fisher Doyle of Aerial Dance Chicago. Mike is on faculty at Extensions Dance Center, Dance Center Evanston, and Steps Dance Center, and has previously taught at Visceral Dance Center, Chicago Dance Academy, Joel Hall Dance Center, Lou Conte Dance Center, Gus Giordano Dance Center, DancenterNorth, Eastern Illinois University, and College of Lake County. Mr. Gosney has orchestrated events for Evanston Arts Week and DanceArt Outreach Program, and formerly served as Artistic Director of Koslynn Dance Academy and SASS Productions.

Joseph Caruana (Assistant Director) is a co-founder of Elements Ballet. In addition to his work with Elements, he has performed with River North Chicago Dance Company, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Spectrum Dance Theatre, Sonia Dawkins/Prism Dance Theatre, Haymarket Opera Company, New York Baroque Dance Company, Alchymy Viols,the MasterWorks Festival, Civic Ballet of Chicago, Evanston Dance Ensemble, Ballet Legere, and in numerous trade shows as well as worked in TV and film. He trained on full scholarship at the Pacific Northwest Ballet School Professional Division, with The Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles’ apprentice program, and as a private student of Elements' Artistic Director Mike Gosney. Caruana has also attended workshops with the Boston Ballet, the Joffrey Ballet, Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet, and the Lou Conte Dance Center, and studied . As a choreographer, his work has been performed at the McCallum Theatre’s Dance Under the Stars Choreography Festival and presented as part of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) DanceBridge program and On the Prairie at the Chicago Cultural Center. Caruana was awarded an Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowship and a Richard H. Driehaus Professional Development grant to develop his original one-act ballet, The Sun King, which premiered in November 2014 as part of DCASE’s SpinOff series at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Caruana also co-conceptualized and co-choreographed Surge and AYA, An Aerial Ballet, with Elements’ Artistic Director Mike Gosney and Chloe Jensen and Karen Fisher-Doyle of Aerial Dance Chicago. His most recent collaboration, HUMAN with performing artist ALEXA GRAE, premiered at The Inconvenience's The Fly Honey Show 8 and performed again at the closing night program for Salonathon at Beauty Bar.

Ivan Bruns-Trukhin was born in Siberia, Russia. When he was ten years old he was admitted to the Novosibirsk Choreography College, Russia. He graduated in 2002. Ivan has performed as a soloist dancer with multiple Russian ballet theaters and other foreign dance companies and is currently in his second season working with Elements Ballet. Ivan has also performed in musicals including the Russian productions of "Cats" as well as "Billy Elliot (Chicago). In 2009 he entered the Russian University of Theatre Arts (GITIS) graduating in 2014 as teacher of Ballet. In 2015, after finishing a contract with a ballet company, he decided move to Chicago where Mr. Ivan continues to teach and perform.

Callie Croom  began her training under Barbara Pontecorvo in Dayton, Ohio. After graduating high school, she was accepted to Butler University on an academic scholarship. She received her BFA from Butler University in 2011. Following graduation, she relocated to Chicago, accepting a position with Visceral Dance Center’s Work Study/Scholarship Program. Shortly after, she began dancing with Elements Contemporary Ballet. Since 2012, she has remained a company dancer and choreographer for Mike Gosney. Additionally, Callie is a member of the teaching staff for Extensions Dance Company, Seth Robinson and Jeff Wolfe's TRIBE and Ballet Matters intensives, and has served as an adjudicator for Fire and Ice Talent Competition. This is her 5th season with Elements.

Kristen Evans emerged as a hidden artistic (dance/choreography) and athletic (track & field) talent at Whitney Young High School where she explored many styles of movement and dance including Modern, Jazz, Ballet, Hip-Hop, Liturgical, African and Pilates, and earned athletic scholarships. Sidelined with a severe injury, Kristen focused on earning degrees in Kinesiology and Business (University of Michigan) and a Masters in Communications (Gonzaga University). She re-entered the movement world with a focus on 3 C's: conditioning, cross-training and choreographing. As a certified Yoga/ Pilates teacher she works with diverse communities ranging from active youth to artistic performers to everyday workers; her coaching / training emphasizes holistic, total-body conditioning for functional performance. Kristen is thankful to have found choreography early in life. Her lens of human storytelling and cultural insight have resulted in choreographic works showcased in the U.S., China, and Italy. Kristen has served on staff at University of Illinois (Chicago), Praize Productions School of Performing Arts, LulaFit and Free Movement Shop as well as guest taught at Oakland University, Concordia University, Northeastern Illinois University, Red Wall Dance Company and national-brand Athleta. Beyond cross-training and choreographing, Kristen owns Strength & Grace Group, LLC. a collection of holistic fitness + wellness brands.

Tiffany McCord is a former Tennessean who cherishes the performance and education of dance. She received her BA in Dance from Western Kentucky University, with a minor in Business Entrepreneurship. With the WKU dance company, she performed and studied at the American College Dance Festival and performed on tour to Civitavecchia and Tolfa, Italy. Tiffany has also studied at Atlanta Ballet’s Summer Intensive and Belhaven University. Tiffany has been a full-time company member with Elements Ballet since 2012, and with Elements has also had the privilege of collaborating as a dancer with Aerial Dance Chicago. In 2014, she was choreographer’s assistant to Joseph Caruana for his original work The Sun King, along with playing the lead role of Lully, presented in Millennium Park. In May 2015, her work Coalesce was presented in the premiere of Elemental Components, and then in Core Project’s Going Dutch 2015. Tiffany’s choreography has also been presented in the 2015 Bonesbare 9, provided by Core Project, and in the New Moves 2015 Choreography Competition, provided by Noumenon Dance Ensemble. Tiffany teaches throughout the Chicagoland area in genres of Ballet/Pointe, Modern, Contemporary, Jazz, Hip Hop, and Tap.

Shelby Moran began her early training at Bataille Academie of the Danse and continued at Dance Center Evanston under the direction of Béa Rashid. During her early education, Shelby had the opportunity to perform with the Evanston Dance Ensemble and Elements Ballet. Shelby continued her dance education at The Juilliard School (BFA ‘15). While at Juilliard, she performed repertory such as Jose Limon’s Missa Brevis; William Forsythe’s One Flat Thing, reproduced; Twyla Tharp’s Baker’s Dozen; and Merce Cunningham’s Biped. She also performed original works by Monica Bill Barnes, Emery LeCrone, Darrell Grand Moultrie, Larry Keigwin, and Danielle Agami. She also participated in summer programs including the Contemporary Program at Jacob’s Pillow, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and Complexions Contemporary Ballet. Shelby began her professional career performing with Thodos Dance Chicago for two seasons. In her time there, she had the opportunity to dance starring roles in director Melissa Thodos' original story ballets including "Anne Sullivan" in A Light in the Dark and "Sono, the Matriarch" in Sono's Journey. In addition, she performed world premieres by Robyn Mineko Williams, Brian Enos, and Kevin Iega Jeff. She also had the opportunity to perform as a soloist in renowned repertory such as Bella Lewitzky’s Nos Duraturi and Melissa Thodos’ original role in her Wheel Trilogy. Most recently, Shelby was an apprentice with Visceral Dance Chicago. This season she will be performing with Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre. In addition to performing she has taught at several schools in the Chicagoland area including Dance Center Evanston, Extensions Dance Company, Visceral Dance Center, R&B Dance Center, AMA Academy of the Arts, and Alma Dance School.

Brennen Renteria began his dance training at the age of 10 in Corona, CA. In 2011, he attended the American Academy of Ballet summer intensive and trained with ballet masters David Howard, Sean Lavery, and Galina Samsova. After earning his B.A. in Dance from Cal State Fullerton in 2014 he joined Thodos Dance Chicago as a dancer and has choreographed for the company’s annual New Dances. There he worked with choreographers such as Lucas Crandall, Brian Enos, Garfield Lemonius, Brian McGinnis, and Kevin Iega Jeff. In 2017 Brennen began dancing with Cerqua Rivera Dance Theater and also Elements Ballet. He is currently engaged with both companies for 2018 in addition to his work as a dance instructor.

Seth Robinson is a graduate of Ball State University where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in Dance. He is currently working on TRIBE Dance, an in-house Intensive designed for dancers looking for an extra push and its now sister company, BALLET MATTERS. Upon moving to Chicago, Seth trained with Visceral Dance Center through the work-study program for a year and performed as a company member with Elements Ballet for three years. Seth is now on faculty with two national touring dance convention circuits, The Streetz Dance Convention & Revel Dance Convention.

Dr. Lisa M. Schoene has been practicing for 28 years and is a Dance and Sports Medicine Podiatrist. She is double board certified and is a Certified Athletic Trainer. She has treated, lectured to, and has written numerous dance medical articles including 2 sports medicine textbook chapters on Dance injuries. She treats all dancers from professional to the aspiring young dancers at two Chicago area offices. She has worked with Elements Ballet for almost 10 years by supporting the company and by lecturing on dance injuries and prevention at the summer intensives. Dr. Schoene’s focus is always thorough evaluation, treatment, and rehabilitation of every dancer she works with. 

Jeff Wolfe received his training through the Academy of Ballet Arts in St. Petersburg, Florida followed by the Houston Ballet Academy in Houston, Texas, which he attended for two years on scholarship and was accepted into Houston Ballet’s second company. He spent the following four seasons dancing with the A.G.M.A. company BalletMet in Columbus, Ohio. Wolfe joined River North Dance Chicago the following season. Wolfe has spent the past six years freelancing around the United States and Canada, dancing with many companies including Elements Ballet, Montgomery Ballet (Soloist), Eugene Ballet Company (Principal), Ron De Jesus Dance, Owen/Cox Dance Group, and Terpsicorps Theatre of Dance. In the past 3 years he has taught ballet in conventions such as Epic and Dance Fever and has spent the past year teaching on ballet faculty at ChiArts. Wolfe currently co-directs two national dance intensives TRIBE and BALLET MATTERS and is a regional director for Fire & Ice National Talent Competition.

 

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