The newly established company comes from choreographers Braeden Barnes and Ryland Early. A Chicago native, Barnes trained at the esteemed Joffrey Ballet and has worked professionally with Balletmet and Billy Elliot the Musical, and is currently employed by Visceral Dance Chicago. Early, who began his training at the ripe age of eight, has performed with the likes of Houston Ballet and Salt Lake City Ballet, and is now in his second season with Boulder Ballet. The duo met years ago, dancing alongside one another at Nevada Ballet Theater.
“A year ago, we were talking about our five-year plan; where we would be based, what we would do,” explains Early. Sharing a similar artistic vision and even performing each other's choreography over the years, the thought of forming a dance company was definitely a far-off dream for the two. Or so they thought. Days after their conversation, they were determined to make it happen. “Braeden calls me and says, ‘Let's just do it now. Why are we going to wait?’” says Early. So in the fall of 2017, the artistic company was formed.
Symbiosis, a nonprofit, gives both dancers a creative outlet during their off-seasons. But instead of forming a traditional company for ballet — a discipline at which they both excel — the new company hopes to reframe what a dance event could be.
“Symbiosis is unique, because we want to change how we view dance in today's world, and what the audience expects going into a dance show,” says Barnes. “With a Symbiosis show, you won't know what you are going to get in the performances. We want to create the unexpected in our shows.”
The first performance will be held in an industrial warehouse in Lincoln Park. In lieu of a formal center stage and tiered seats, audiences will sit in a U-shaped loop around the stage, at eye level with the performers. Above the audience is a projection screen that will show videos and candids compiled by photographer Caleb Alvarado. Contemporary-themed duets and group numbers ground the show, with a few interjections of various styles, namely a tap-dancing solo.
By way of movement, multimedia and breaking the fourth wall, Symbiosis hopes to breathe new life into the art form.
"At Symbiosis, we strive to create work through different art mediums that dance companies today are not doing," says Barnes. "Symbiosis gives me an opportunity to create outside the realm of a dance concert and to make shows that are an art experience involving dance."
Symbiosis presents Imprints, July 13 to 15, 885 Wyandot Street, $12.