Hamilton dance company redefines the industry
Aeris Körper is showing the community how to dance as smooth as butter and sharp as a knife
Imagine that you had a space in the center of your chest in the place of your heart, like an egg yolk, and you can shift and move the egg yolk around in the cavity of your chest. Now, the yolk begins to evolve and ooze throughout your entire body. How would this sensation translate into movement?
This is how Aeris Körper, a dance company based in Hamilton, brings a unique spirit and energy to contemporary dance. What does it feel like to dance with the fluidity of runny egg yolk? To dance as if you have an itch on your neck that you can’t scratch? To move as if there is a pinball machine ricocheting in your body?
Aeris Körper was founded by Lisa Emmons in 2014 and currently consists of three core performers. Emmons received their bachelor of fine arts in dance from York University and founded Aeris Körper after having worked with numerous dance companies and choreographers, in addition to starting a family.
The company name roughly means “light body.” “Aeris” means to channel the light and energy of the human spirit, while “körper” is a German word meaning body. Altogether, Aeris Körper signifies the company’s vision of creating dance and movement through channelling each dancer’s intrinsic energy and physicality.
Aeris Körper roots its style in contemporary and modern dance. Above all, their intention is to portray bodily movement as opposed to simply dancing, with a mindfulness of the individuality of movement. Emmons takes a particular interest in dynamics — much like one varies their articulation and gestures in speech, Emmons experiments with varied texture in their movements.
Emmons elaborated on their thought process throughout choreography, as they try to focus on the dancer’s quality of movement.
“As opposed to saying, “we're going to do a pirouette,” it could be, “can you slice your leg through the air, and see what happens.” I think it creates really rich and interesting physicality,” explained Emmons.
With such a heavy focus on creating movement, Emmons utilizes an intuitive approach to creating choreography for the company. Sometimes they create choreography before it is set to music so that the atmosphere of the music dictates the piece’s dynamics.
“I'll usually pick a texture and follow my intuition or my gut. If an idea comes, like I think I should move with my elbow or my hand moves, then I'll do it to let go without judging or pre-editing. Just generate the material and then that can be honed and refined,” they said.
Aeris Körper collaborates with numerous local artists, with a large amount of their choreography set to original commissioned music. Emmons makes an effort to work with Hamilton-based artists whenever possible.
The company is constantly trying to redefine what it means to be a dance group through integrating projection, props and audience interaction into their work. Many of their pieces are immersive, allowing audience members to be involved in the dance and break the fourth wall.
The performing arts have seen an enormous shift due to COVID-19 and Aeris Körper is adapting and rising to the challenge. Since audience interaction normally plays such an important role in the group’s creations, the company has taken to experimentation with videography.
“If we're doing something live on Zoom, we’re controlling how much the audience can see and how and where. I think that's really interesting in terms of our interest in creating immersive works because we get to decide their angles. It’s a really powerful and compelling way of doing things, and it's really like a beautiful set of limitations that causes us to be creative,” said Emmons.
As opposed to viewing the online nature of their current performances as a hindrance, Aeris Körper has begun to view the screen as a portal to the viewer — as if it were a vessel to transfer their art’s energy.
As performers-in-residence at Hamilton Artists Inc., the company recently did a socially-distanced immersive performance, where the audience was placed on the street in regulation with COVID-19 guidelines looking into the gallery. A number of online videos and performances were also produced, as Aeris Körper shifts its efforts to researching and creating new digital works.
Aeris Körper will be holding their eighth works-in-progress showcase entitled PROSPECTS on Thursday, March 25 at 8 p.m. over Zoom. The show was curated with the intent to spotlight artists from the Hamilton and Burlington communities, featuring numerous performances from local artists and choreographers.
The evening takes an innovative approach to dance performance, as each work presented will be accompanied by choreographer-led discussion and opportunities for audience interaction through questions, feedback and interpretation.
For students looking to get involved, Aeris Körper has mindfulness workshops available on their Instagram page and is looking forward to hosting summer intensives as well as in-person classes in the near future following all COVID-19 regulations. They emphasize that no experience is necessary to be able to create movement, welcoming dancers of all skill levels.