The beat of a different drummer: Ate9 collaboration hits all marks

Jan 02, 2019

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Glenn Kotche Glenn Kotche
Photo by Cheryl Mann Productions
Ate9 and Wilco drummer combine for calling glenn


Is calling glenn fate for Ate9?

Certainly when Danielle Agami titled her latest work calling glenn, she named it after Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche, the guest artist and collaborator who appears in the piece, right? Actually, no. The vibrant, playful and percussive performance is named after a different person, someone who also loves the arts and dance. Agami explains: She had just received a donation from Glenn Kawasaki a mere 24 hours before she was introduced to Kotche—and already had promised to name a piece after Kawasaki. The fact that both share the same spelling of their first name must be (f)Ate9.

Fate isn’t all calling glenn has going for it, there’s also Agami’s considerable past experiences and talents. Agami is known for her work teaching and creating performances using Gaga Movement Language, a multilayered style created by Ohad Naharin that focuses on expressing movement over specific steps and positions (like in ballet). Agami danced with Batsheva Ensemble under Naharin, known as Mr. Gaga, in the early 2000s and served as the company’s rehearsal director before moving to the United States to start Ate9, which is now based in Los Angeles.

When Northrop first announced calling glenn will appear Feb 7, I was beyond excited. I’ve seen Wilco perform numerous times in the Twin Cities, from Midway Stadium to the Basilica Block Party to the Fitzgerald Theater for a live performance on the then-named Prairie Home Companion and I always enjoy the concerts. I knew less about Ate9’s work and Gaga in general, but I had the opportunity to see calling glenn Nov 16 in Chicago as part of the Auditorium Theatre’s “Made in Chicago” series. Kotche is from the Chicago area and the city is calling him one of their own. The performance was the finale of a trio of companies, which also included Visceral Dance Chicago and Deeply Rooted Dance Theater. All were surprising and engaging but I found calling glenn, with its unique collaboration, staging, choreography and live music performed directly on stage, the most innovative and playful.

Agami has said calling glenn explores the themes of asking for help and sharing similar human secrets. Some parts of the performance elucidate these better than others, such as when the nine dancers appear to be screaming into a microphone or face the audience head on to create a connection. There’s a simplicity in the stark black and red monochromatic costumes that allow the dancers to move freely to interact with the propulsive, rhythmic music. Kotche adds yet another layer as the audience ponders drumming as a new dance language while he moves from playing the on-stage drum kit to vibraphone to the edge of the stage itself. Overall, the collaboration works. Wilco fans may find a new outlet to experiencing the music while Gaga fans may find adding a drummer to the performance is yet another form of dance expression. Let’s call it fate.

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