Tuli Bera's review of In the Garden of Atlantis from Picture this Post by Joseph Caruana

Article originally appeared November 21, 2017 at PicturethisPost.com

Elements Ballet presents In the Garden of Atlantis at Hairpin Arts Center - ballet meets interdisciplinary arts                   

Elements Ballet, led by Artistic Director Mike Gosney and Executive Director Joseph Caruana, shares with us an evening of watercolor and photography exhibits, compelling readings, interspersed fashion shows, and stunning dance pieces at Hairpin Arts Center in Logan Square.

We are welcomed into the warmly lit space. Feelings of anticipation for what could be in store for the evening fill our thoughts. As more guests arrive, jubilant conversations begin to drown out the energized music. A full spread of delicious refreshments provided by Hearty Boys and a selection of wines, cocktails, and nonalcoholic beverages keep us quite content us as we freely move around the space admiring the artwork by watercolor artist Chloe Feldman Emison and photography shot by company photographer Topher Alexander.


Fashion and Dance mélange

The program commences with the first runway show, Wildflower. Clothes by Amara Black are modeled by Elements Ballet dancers. Black’s clothing features crisp and vibrantly colored dresses that are reminiscent of springtime flowers. Expecting to see dancers strut down the catwalk, we are pleasantly surprised with fluid, improvised movement instead. As the dancers and designer, Amara Black, take their final “strike-a-pose” and exit, we turn our attention to the performance space just behind us. Nine dancers* take their places for The Moon Harvest, choreographed by Mike Gosney and Joseph Caruana;  the first excerpt of Atlantis, The Ballet ©. Alexa Grae reads an excerpt from Miata Boayue’s companion novella, evoking themes of the powerful and the powerless.

Attired in neutral, bare-minimum clothing, the full musculature of the nine bodies are revealed. Music by Vangelis from Mythodea plays as four female dancers begin a fluid phrase chock full of extended limbs reaching and taking in the space around them. The remaining dancers join in. The simplistic yet provocative phrase is repeated in different facings and in canon. The music crescendos and the full-bodied movement continues to draw us in.

The group, as one entity, takes the choreography to the floor--crawling and reaching. Our gaze is invited  to follow their journey which soon reveals a pas-de-deux between a female and male dancer in the midst of a circular formation. The pas-de-deux breaks from the formation for a brief moment but the group latches on bringing our focus to the female dancer. The dance culminates in the cumulative effort to partner her-- encircling and holding her in a sacrificial manner.

Dance of the Therian

As the evening progresses more themes of Atlantis are revealed to us. The second runway show, The Blessed Isle, features clothing by Mary Jo Ernst of MJ Ernst Couture. The metallic colors and silky texture of the fabric gives the clothing more of a “high-fashion” vibe. The clothing, like Blacks, is also reminiscent of garden foliage. Again, improvised movement is utilized. However this time, slightly more full-bodied and valorous.

We then make our way to gather around for the second piece, Dance of the Therian, choreographed by Tiffany McCord and Callie Croom. Once again, an excerpt is read from Boayue’s novel:

“...His mind raced with memories of the queen’s wrath. How much or how little he revealed of himself could cost him his life…”

Emmanuel Ramirez, barefoot and bare-chested, takes his place on stage and music by Vangelis from Mythodea trickles in. Capturing our attention immediately, he takes a deep lunge; his arms reaching and writhing multi-directionally almost as if they are searching for answers. He moves as if he is trying to tell us something; something in him is trying to escape. The choreography reveals Ramirez’s vulnerability and there is no questioning his whole-hearted commitment to embodying the movement.

Cosmic Warriors

Cosmic Warriors, the third and final runway show, features clothing by Sky Cubacub/Rebirth Garments. The clothing presented is quirky, bold, and futuristic. Dancers model the clothes once again but instead of improvising down the space-limited catwalk, the performance stage is utilized. Moments of ferocity are witnessed in each of the dancers. The improvised movement is forceful and bold which is rightfully tailor-made for Sky Cubacub’s clothing.


The final piece, The Soldier and the Slave, choreographed by Mike Gosney with music by Vangelis from Mythodea, is a sensual duet between dancers Megan Walsh and Brennen Renteria. Walsh enters the space ‘en pointe’ with her fearless technical ability and full, lengthy extensions while Renteria watches from aside. Synchronized movements bring the pair together as they dance to a serene harp and strong operatic vocals. Renteria spins, dips and lifts Walsh, guiding her effortlessly throughout the space. The pas-de-deux ends exceptionally close in proximity, as if to say, “here we are; here is our story.”

Some might say, the required humbleness and susceptibility to criticism is a necessary evil when an idea is presented publicly for the first time. Each artist, each dancer, and each work of art presented themselves with confidence and poise. It is amazing how many elements and collaborations played a role in this creative process. With more rehearsals, continued research of interdisciplinary arts, and feedback from peers and supporters, this writer firmly believes that Elements Ballet is well on their way to successfully creating their full work, Atlantis, The Ballet ©.

*Dancers in The Moon Harvest: Lydia Carpenter**, Hannah Duncan, April FAlcon, Dani McGowan, Emmanuel Ramirez, Brennen Renteria, Liz Stillerman, Skyler Sward**, and Megan Walsh.


**denotes company apprentice


Photographer Topher Alexander premieres a new dance series inspired by the mythical world of Atlantis for Elements Ballet by Joseph Caruana

See Topher Alexander's new exhibition at In the Garden of Atlantis, an evening of dance, fashion and art to benefit Elements Ballet, Saturday evening, November 18th at Hairpin Arts Center in Logan Square.


Topher Alexander has created and captured work for Elements Ballet and other Chicago-based dance companies for over ten years. Don't miss his latest work, featuring the Elements dancers in settings that evoke both the ancient beauty and the post-apocalyptic fate of the mythical island civilization, Atlantis.

Advance tickets save $15!

Get ticket for In the Garden of Atlantis here

Pictured: Elements Ballet dancer Skyler Sward, photography by Topher Alexander

Watercolor artist Chloe Feldman Emison presents Atlantis-Inspired Exhibition for Elements Ballet by Joseph Caruana

Chloe Feldman Emison has shown her drawings and animations widely in the United States and Europe, while working also as an illustrator. She works in pen and ink, sometimes with wash, or watercolor and inks (sometimes metallic), or art marker or watercolor pencil, sometimes with gold leaf, sometimes with coffee or glue or glass glitter. Her work depends on close observation of nature, although in most cases it shows that which could never have actually been observed.

Chloe studied fine art at Williams College and at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford University, and animation at Forkbeard Fantasy in Devon. She was a visiting artist at Wasps Studios in Glasgow, and completed residencies at the Contemporary Artists Center in Woodside, N.Y., at The Old School Art House in Iceland, at the Vermont Studio Center, and at Can Serrat, near Barcelona. In 2013 she taught animation at the Eagle Hill School in Hardwick, Massachusetts. She was named the Mixed Media Artist of the Year for 2009 at the Cambridge Art Association, won a Spotlight on the Arts Award for Outstanding Emerging Artist in 2010, a Board of Trustees Award from the Silvermine Art Center in New Canaan, Connecticut in 2014, and received first prize in the Editorial category at the Phillustration exhibition at the Philadelphia Sketch Club in 2015 and an Honorable Mention in the Absolutely Abstract show there in 2016.  She was named an IEAA laureate in the 4th International Emerging Artist Award, the exhibition for which was held in Brussels in 2016. Her illustrations have appeared in various literary magazines including Graze, Kansas City Voices, Salt Hill Journal, and Palaver. She has worked with writers in both prose and poetry, and has independently published three illustrated books. See more of Chloe's work here

Chloe will premiere new work inspired by Elements' current Atlantis project at In the Garden of Atlantis, an evening of art to benefit Elements Ballet 

Tickets and more info here

Introducing the three local fashion designers headlining In the Garden of Atlantis by Joseph Caruana


Amara Black designs men's and women's clothing with the use of various patterns, textures, and fabrics. The brand's design aesthetic is sleek, strong, clean, and bold. While earning a Bachelor's degree in 3 years in Fashion Design from the Illinois Institute of Art - Chicago, Amara Black created a name for her brand by participating in over 15 fashion shows in Illinois, Indiana, and Texas.  With great skill in several aspects of fashion design, (including, but not limited to, plus-size, costume, swimwear, outerwear, and accessory design), Amara Black plans to expand the brand's awareness by opening an online boutique in 2018.



Rebirth Garments's mission is to create gender non-conforming wearables and accessories for people on the full spectrum of gender, size, and ability. The line creates a community where all people can confidently express their individuality and identity. Our identity is that of QueerCrip, a politicized umbrella term that encompasses queer gender nonconforming identities, visible and invisible disabilities / disorders - physical, mental, developmental, emotional, ect. In particular, our trans and disabled communities have very particular clothing needs that are not adequately served by mainstream clothing designers. Instead of being centered on cisgender, heterosexual, white, or thin people, Rebirth Garments is centered on QueerCrip people.

Rebirth Garments challenges mainstream beauty standards that are sizest, ableist, and conformist to the gender binary. Instead, we maintain the notion of Radical Visibility, a movement based on claiming our bodies and, through the use of bright colors, exuberant fabrics, and innovative designs, highlighting the parts of us that society typically shuns. Through Radical Visibility, we refuse to assimilate and can create a QueerCrip dress reform movement.



MJ Ernst Couture is the premier destination for Custom made Bridal and Special Occasion. Located on the North Shore of Chicago for over 25yrs, this label is known for excellent customer service, reliability and unique creative designs. Owner Mary Jo Ernst has an ability to work one on one with her clients and together create one of a kind looks that will become heirlooms of your special event. Her attention to detail and couture finishing techniques sets her apart in the Couture Fashion Business and is the reason that MJ Ernst Couture has been a mainstay in the Chicagoland area and keeps her clients returning year after year.

In the Garden of Atlantis is Saturday, November 18th, 2017, 7-10pm at Hairpin Arts Center in Logan Square. Click here for tickets and more information.

An Immersive Evening of Arts and Fantasy by Joseph Caruana

Winged girl.jpg

On Saturday, November 18, 2017, Elements Ballet will present its fall performance and gala, titled In the Garden of Atlantis. This interdisciplinary evening of dance and art will include excerpts from Elements’ forthcoming original ballet, Atlantis, a full-length production depicting the epic story of the mythical island nation.

The Hairpin Arts Center, a performance and exhibition space in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, will be transformed into the world of Elements’ Atlantis. A place where artistic tradition and innovation meet to support one another, the event space will incorporate elements of the ancient and futuristic, the earthly and ethereal.

Guests will enjoy the following event highlights:

  • Live dance performances interspersed throughout the evening;
  • An exhibition featuring the work of watercolor artist Chloe Feldman Emison, storyboard artist for Elements’ Atlantis, as well as new work by company photographer Topher Alexander;
  • A runway-style fashion show, with Elements company members modeling Atlantis-inspired collections by local designers Rebirth Garments, MJ Ernst, and Amara Black; and
  • “Teaser” readings from writer Miata Boayue's companion novella to Elements’ Atlantis, to be released in full as part of the ballet’s premiere in 2019.

Light food, white wine and specialty martinis will be served and are included in the price of admission.

Tickets are $75 in advance or $90 at the door, and may be purchased here. Sponsored tickets are available to local professional artists and art students on a limited basis (details provided at registration page). Attendees may choose to sponsor an artist by purchasing an extra ticket when placing an order.

In the Garden of Atlantis is a fundraising event to support Elements’ annual programming, including free or low-cost community performances, self-produced concerts, original story ballets, and educational programs. An online crowd-funding campaign for the Atlantis production will kick off one week following this event. Elements Ballet is a tax-exempt, not-for-profit organization.

In the Garden of Atlantis, Saturday, November 18, 2017, 7:00 – 10:00 PM

Hairpin Arts Center, Logan Square, 2810 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60618 (north of Diversey, west of Kimball)

Tickets are $75 in advance, or $90 at the door (free for sponsored artists)

To purchase tickets, click here


In the Garden of Atlantis is made possible by support by the Illinois Arts Council state agency, The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelly Foundation, the Cliff Dwellers Arts Foundation, Dance Center Evanston, Allegro Dance Boutique, Athletico, and many generous businesses and individuals.