Categories: Cori Wilbur, THE BUZZ

THE BUZZ: The PGK Project Continues to Break Conventions of Dance with “While we were Home”

By Cori Wilbur

June 23, 2020

The hard truth is that, for the foreseeable future, we simply do not know when gathering in the dance studio will be safe again. Until then, Peter Kalivas and the dancers of the PGK Project are, as the choreographer put it, turning lemons into lemonade–or cucumbers into Tzatziki. As we say in showbiz, the show must go on. 

This Saturday, the PGK Project will debut “While we were Home,” a compilation of six solos, all consisting of the same material, choreographed by Kalivas. The featured dancers are Jessica Kelley, Sarah Emmons, Kymmi Kellems, Marty Dorado, Nicolas Gilbertson and Bryan Burns. 

Each vignette was captured via Zoom technologies and showcases the dancers making use of various locations within their own homes. Be it the kitchen, backyard, couch, bathroom or bedroom, the dancers each bend the boundaries of confinement. Although the choreography is essentially the same, each dancer beautifully makes it their own. Told in the order of a normal routine–start the morning off in the kitchen and end the night in bed–Kalivas streamlines together a clever and unique twist to the “day in the life of quarantine” story. 

When mass gatherings were shut down in early March, the PGK Project was just about to premier their new show “Holding Tight” at the Lyceum Theatre. The dance company managed to record a bit of the show in the studio before stay-at-home orders came into place. With 38 minutes of footage, Kalivas created an on-demand version of the show. Kalivas said that the company pivoted in the online direction early on, without losing a lot of time or income. 

Traditionally, the PGK Project produces a “Welcome to Summer” show the third week of June each year. These performances rely on interaction with the audience, in the form of call and response, and typically utilizes an outdoor venue, such as a parking lot or open public space. With each performance, the company wants to make dance a more inclusive activity. One of the solos in “Home” replicates this similar call and response, just in a slightly different fashion.

A disheartening reality of quarantine is our inability to congregate in ways we are used to–for dance groups, being able to gather and collaborate is usually key to a performance’s success. However, through regular Zoom meetings, the PGK Project is able to effectively simulate that same collaborative synergy, despite the current obstacle keeping them physically apart. During the performance on Saturday, there will be a live component to provide audiences with that sense of belonging and togetherness with Kalivas, the dancers and others watching the show. Kalivas said that this performance is to show that, as dancers and beings, we are nimble and adaptive. 

Aside from preparing for the show, the PGK Project has kept up with their regular Monday and Wednesday class schedule. Kalivas has also continued to pay his dancers who teach the classes. “I have really good, responsible people working for and with me so part of the pivot was also figuring out how to not lose them to the pandemic as well,” he said. “Part of our mission includes creating and sustaining opportunities for others so I wanted to keep doing that too.”

Now, through the end of 2020, the online realm will be the exclusive stage for PGK. Once they can conduct live shows again, Kalivas says they will maintain this newfound virtual stage as well, as a means to expand audience breadth and accessibility–further showing the innovative prowess of the renowned contemporary dance company. 

The language of dance is a resilient force; despite health regulations that prevent us from sharing a space, dancers will find a way to speak from home. Amidst the pandemic, the dance world has continued to break down the boundaries of convention. With “Home,” the PGK Project proves that you can be stuck inside but still remain unconfined. 

“While we were Home” will premier on Saturday, June 27, at 7:30 PST. You can purchase tickets now at The show will remain on demand for viewing until the end of the year.

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