This story was originally published by ArtsATL.
Contemporary dance ensemble Kit Modus and its artistic director, Jillian Mitchell, are on a mission to create dance that feeds the mind as well as the soul.
“I want to help audiences fall in love with the art form, to show them what is possible,” Mitchell said. “I want to help put Atlanta on the map as a dance town by building Kit Modus as a company doing serious repertory created by leading choreographers from around the world.”
With performances on Sunday, June 11, and Wednesday, June 14, at the Emory Performing Arts Studio, Mitchell and her company will close out the season.
On June 11, Kit Modus will perform Mitchell’s hourlong “Scion,” a multifaceted work that combines beautiful dance and gorgeously produced spoken-word audio in a reflection on consciousness, human relationships and quantum physics.
The ensemble will also present a mixed bill on June 14. The performance will include “A Murder Party” by internationally prominent choreographer Yoshito Sakuraba, a new work titled “Anthology for Dreamers” by Kit Modus member Emma Morris and a repeat performance of “Elapse” by Christian Denice.
ArtsATL was invited to observe a run-through of “Scion” and “Anthology.”
Morris describes “Anthology” as an exploration of the space “where the stories that you’ve read and the stories that you’ve told yourself” meet and merge with reality in unexpected and sometimes unsettling ways.
When she was a child, Morris said, stories and dreams often crept into and colored her memories of actual events, and she wanted to convey the significance that imagined experience can have in shaping one’s awareness.
The movement in “Anthology” reflects that intent. It is grounded and expressive, with the dancers projecting a precise spatial awareness and creating deep connections through contact work and closely synchronized movement. The score combines music, spoken word and a real-world soundscape of wind, insect sounds and birdsong, as well as other audio drawn from nature. Even in rehearsal, “Anthology” conveys an almost surreal intensity.
Morris began the choreographic process by sharing some of her writing and passages from others’ works as the impetus for the dance. She then asked each of the dancers to pick four or five words and create movements to reflect them. In this way, they created a “language” that connected the dancers to the core thematic elements. Words became phrases, “then sentences, then whole passages.” According to Morris, the 20-minute piece quickly came together over four or five weeks.
Mitchell, who founded Kit Modus in 2017, is largely responsible for building the company’s ethos. She steers what she sees as a “delicate ecosystem of personalities who work so beautifully together,” in which each dancer “adds to the joy of the work.”
She wants everyone to “have a seat at the table because they are pouring their body and soul into work they believe in.”
Mitchell started the process for “Scion” in 2021. Shortly after she began, her mother died suddenly, an event she described as a cosmic loss.
“The gravity of it rippled through my whole universe,” Mitchell said, and she began to question: “Who am I? Do I even exist anymore when this person is gone?”
In a series of coincidences, her exploration of these questions brought her to quantum physics and the work of Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli. For Mitchell, the idea that the universe might only come into being through observation of the strange interactions among quantum particles made her feel like there was substance to “this feeling that we can only understand who we are in our relationships to one another.”
Mitchell reached out to Rovelli and received his permission to use excerpts from audiobook recordings of his scholarship in the score for “Scion,” and she layered these with selections from classical composers such as Chopin and Mozart. Watching “Scion” in rehearsal felt like a guided, multi-disciplinary meditation on the relationship between the individual and the collective, the general and the particular, and the spiritual and the physical.
As if Mitchell had peeled back a perceptual veil, the ordered forms of dance and the complexities of family relationships came into focus for her — like the way that NASA’s astonishing James Webb Space Telescope brings complex constellations of stars into focus.
In rehearsal, both “Anthology” and “Scion” already looked highly polished, the dancers moving smoothly through complex transitions and multiple-partner lifts and contact work. Both evenings of dance promise to showcase Kit Modus in top form, presenting work that will challenge and delight in equal measure.
“Scion,” 5:30 p.m. June 11, and a mixed bill, 7:30 p.m. June 14. $15 each, or $20 for both. Emory Performing Arts Studio, 1804 N. Decatur Road, Atlanta. 404-236-9642, kitmodus.com.
Robin Wharton studied dance at the School of American Ballet and the Pacific Northwest Ballet School. As an undergraduate at Tulane University in New Orleans, she was a member of the Newcomb Dance Company. In addition to a bachelor of arts in English from Tulane, Robin has a law degree and a Ph.D. in English, both from the University of Georgia.
MEET OUR PARTNER
ArtsATL (www.artsatl.org), is a nonprofit organization that plays a critical role in educating and informing audiences about metro Atlanta’s arts and culture. Founded in 2009, ArtsATL’s goal is to help build a sustainable arts community contributing to the economic and cultural health of the city.
If you have any questions about this partnership or others, please contact Senior Manager of Partnerships Nicole Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.