“I feel really good about where the company is right now.” Jason Cianciulli takes a sip from his beer and tucks an unruly curl behind his ear. “Spending almost twenty-four hours together is really starting to make a difference in the way we work together on stage,” he continues. “I keep thinking how this experience is going to stay with me for years to come.”

Today is Friday club, and an unhurried crowd has gathered in the Lobero Theatre’s courtyard for a post-rehearsal reception, sipping wine and waxing reflective over director Shannon Gillen’s latest choreographic reveal. The dancers glide from conversation to conversation, offering tidbits of insight over their lives back east, listening thoughtfully to audience feedback as the piece ebbs and flows with gaining momentum.

If the phrasing last week reflected tones of careful thought and exploration, the work on display this week reveals Gillen’s dervish and daring qualities; luscious abstractions of movement and tempo as the characters hint towards their darker sides. “I think transformation is something that dance theatre engages in all the time,” offers Gillen. “In the case of this piece, if I’m sitting in nature, completely open, then chances are I’m going to feel moved and terrified at the same time-all the contradicting emotions.”

As another week of fervent rehearsals push September towards the midway point, Gillen–a radiant speaker who has managed to lure a richly diverse group of community members (teenagers and grandparents alike!) to Friday Club week after week–echoed Cianciulli’s charming candidness when asked about her thoughts over the work as it stands today: “Are we comfortable? Absolutely not! We’re pressing against some really profound imagery, and it’s terrifying. It’s like a free fall.”

Something tells me Gillen has already mapped out a meticulously detailed landing, with two confident feet planted firmly on the Lobero stage come opening night.

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