Elements Contemporary Ballet: Classic Meets Modern at the Art for All Gala
Maybe the moment that stands out most [from my childhood] is the memory of this acrobatic group [at school]. I remember thinking, they have two arms and legs just like me, I need to do that!…I realized that beyond singing and playing piano, I could do something with my body. When I get the kids to move their bodies during our UG shows, you can see the light bulbs go off.
In addition to teaching artists, UG partners with a wide variety of touring groups who perform assemblies in Chicago-area schools. Elements Contemporary Ballet is one such group, and they are also performing at UG’s Art for All Gala on March 30. Here, Artistic Director Mike Gosney shares his thoughts about the ballet company’s work and its partnership with Urban Gateways.
Can you talk a little about the work that Elements does with Urban Gateways?
We’re in our fourth year with UG, doing touring performances. It’s really fantastic. A reason I’m in the arts in general is that when I was a kid we had some sort of group at school—I remember this clearly—a group that would bring in poets and dance groups and singers, and I looked forward to it so much. UG reminded me of that, so I jumped in.
Elements shows the evolution of ballet, from classical to modern, and the kids just love it. I’m hoping that a couple of the students who see us are interested and start taking ballet! I remember all of that clearly, from when I was a kid–seeing professional artists perform and how inspirational it was. UG shows are so exciting! It’s magical.
What about your experiences with UG students?
To have the opportunity to perform at these schools is amazing. The very first school we performed at through UG, the 45 minutes flew by. We thought, this is so special.
I started teaching when I was just 16, and my first few months teaching I was thinking, how many more kids are out there who are not exposed to this? How many kids don’t know they could do this? To afford ballet tickets, and see it…it can be kind of an elite thing. I always had in the back of my head, I want to be a part of something like [Urban Gateways]. It has been a perfect fit for us.
Can you talk a little more about specific moments of artistic exposure when you were younger, and how they impacted you?
Ever since I was small, I did piano and singing. It was part of my upbringing. I went to a private school, and we had music programs and theatre, but the music teacher had to send kids with more experience in the arts to other schools, and that’s where I saw these performances. There was this singer with a guitar, performing stories and songs she wrote. I was little and this was new to me. I thought, I could do that!
Maybe the moment that stands out most is the memory of this acrobatic group. I remember thinking, they have two arms and legs just like me, I need to do that! So I started doing gymnastics, then dance. I never would’ve started if I hadn’t seen that. I wanted to do what those people did. As students we didn’t know exactly what it was that they were doing [on a technical level], but the whole environment was so magical. I realized that beyond singing and playing piano, I could do something with my body. When I get the kids to move their bodies during our UG shows, you can see the light bulbs go off.
How about a little information about Elements as a dance group, and the upcoming Gala performance?
We [Elements Contemporary Ballet] were officially incorporated 5 years ago. Two years before that we got together as a small group. I’m a teacher; after I stopped dancing I started teaching. I had a big enough following of dancers who are passionate about classicism but wanted to branch out, and there’s nothing else [in Chicago] like that. I love leading, I’m comfortable teaching, and Elements has stemmed from there.
This year is exciting [for Elements] because we’re bringing in Brian Enos, a very well known choreographer. We’re currently in rehearsal with him. The show is called “Dark and Lovely, Mmm”. We’re presenting a section of this for you at the Gala. It’s very stylized, neo-classical ballet meets modern, with Bach music. It’s a full company piece, but because there are so many small sections, it’s perfect for the benefit. It’s very malleable; we’ll do a small section. It features four couples and one soloist.