Friday, December 29, 2017

Looking toward 2018!

Photo by Lisa DeShantz-Cook
 Dear Friends,

2017 has been a vast year of change for The Dance COLEctive.  I have continued to teach, make work and perform while settling into a new mission and organizational structure.  This has meant looking forward through new lenses, seeking new opportunities and tackling new challenges.  As I continue to move forward I know that the organizational changes we made were timely, necessary and in line with the rapidly changing landscape of the arts.

So far, 2018 is set to bring:
You can keep track of what is happening on the calendar page at
Even though things have changed, TDC continues to maintain a presence here and beyond.  Thank you for your participation in the audience, in the studio, on the stage and through your donations, which are a vital part of the work we do.  If you would like to make a year-end contribution click here.  Your contribution, big or small, will help keep us thinking, making and moving!

Wishing you a happy and prosperous new year!


Margi Cole

Artistic Director

You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. ~ Steve Jobs

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Turning 21 means changes for The Dance COLEctive

March 8, 2017
Dear Friends:

Today, our 21st birthday, I want to share some news with you. Turning 21 is a pivotal transition, a rite of passage. Ultimately, it means you are getting older and expected to be more independent, enabling you to make informed decisions and forge ahead.

For the last several years I have been questioning the suitability of the organizational business models we have used in dance to support our creative process and growth - a model that is constantly under-resourced and over time has become more difficult to sustain.  Now more than ever, I think it is important to adapt and think about what one wants to do and how one does it in entrepreneurial ways.  I feel that it is my responsibility, as a practitioner and mentor, to not only share these ideas but to be an example of change.

With that in mind, The Dance COLEctive is transitioning to a new model. After 20 years of company leadership, I want to be more accountable to my own creative process and ensuing collaborations than I have been able to be in the past. In pursuit of this objective I have decided to no longer maintain and work with a company of dancers on a continuous basis but will “pick-up” dancers as I need them for specific projects. While this is not a new idea, it is a new way to work for me and for TDC.

I am turning my attention to a deeper investigation of solo and duet work, largely through collaboration with peer artists.  This focus will guide my activity for the next two years. Collaborating on a smaller scale is not new for me.  I have always pursued and thrived in the solo form, but I have not made it my artistic priority.  Moving in this direction acknowledges and advances the uniquely generative and collaborative nature of working with other artists on new creations.
Photo by Lisa DeShantz-Cook

The decision to transition has come after intensive soul searching, rigorous analysis, and careful planning. Those who have supported and believed in TDC’s work over the years - former dancers, funders, board members and my peers in Chicago’s dance community - have inspired this change. Through a process of intentional inquiry, you all have helped me better understand what TDC is, how it is perceived, and what makes it unique. Your generous and honest input has helped me reimagine a new future for my work and the work of TDC.

To be clear, the organization is not folding and I am not quitting.  TDC is evolving into a new model will enable me to expand my work in several different ways:

1. Developing a solo focused initiative: creating, commissioning and highlighting solo work
2. Creating new works to perform under the TDC banner, with other companies or in collaboration with other artists
3.  Increasing national and international teaching and creative residencies

This change will help me realize my desire not only to sustain but to nourish myself as a thinker, mover, creator and performer. 

I continue to be grateful for all of the collaborators, mentors, funders, board members (past and present), individual donors, and my peers, who have helped the company thrive for 20 years.  In particular, I want to thank the many dancers who have worked with me.   Because of you, I have had the great privilege to experiment, learn, fail, be inspired, create and grow into a mentor, teacher and choreographer.  I am very proud of all the work we have done together, and I could not have done any of it without you!

You can read more about this change, the new mission, the website and the project announcement here. Stay tuned for updates and opportunities as our 21st year begins! Looking forward to what is to come.

With gratitude,


The Dance COLEctive announces a new direction

March 8, 2017

Contact: Jill Chukerman,, 773-392-1409

Shift in Business Model and Structure Opens 
New Opportunities
Photo by Eric Olson

The Dance COLEctive (TDC), as it reaches its 21st birthday (March 8, 2017), announces a fundamental shift in its mission, organizational structure and artistic focus.

Founder and Artistic Director Margi Cole, in a desire to be more accountable to her creative process, has consulted with various stakeholders and is evolving the company as follows:

    •    Move from maintaining an ongoing ensemble of dancers to a project-based structure, hiring dancers as projects dictate, whether they are created and performed under the TDC banner, with other companies or in collaboration with other artists
    •    Engage in a solo-focused initiative during the next 18 to 24 months, during which Cole will dance and create/commission solos she intends for performance in a variety of traditional and site-specific settings
    •    Continue building a base of national and international residencies and mentoring opportunities for the development of new work and teaching

“For the last several years I have been questioning the suitability of the organizational business models we have used in dance to support our creative process and growth—a model that is constantly under-resourced and has become more difficult to sustain,” Cole said. “Now, more than ever, I think it is important to adapt and think about what one wants to do and how one does it in entrepreneurial ways. I feel it is my responsibility, as a practitioner and mentor, to not only share these ideas but also be an example of the power of change.”

Photo by William Frederking
Among the projects Cole is pursuing is the Solo Swap Project, a structured yet free-flowing peer-to-peer collaboration with another artist that provides a unique opportunity to share creative processes, knowledge and assets that result in the development of a distinct solo for each artist. This project aims to develop scalable work while expanding, exploring and deepening the participants’ work as artists. Throughout the creative process, artists move fluidly between the roles of performer and director/choreographer, building the work out of a collective curiosity and the spoken and movement dialogue emerging from the collaboration. The Solo Swap, appropriate for traditional or nontraditional spaces, allows the artists to form a partnership of mutual learning and take artistic risks at limited financial cost.

“Collaborating on a smaller scale is not new for me,” Cole noted. “I have always pursued and thrived in the solo form, but I have not made it my artistic priority. Moving in this direction acknowledges and advances the uniquely generative and collaborative nature of working with other artists on new creations.”

Though the structure and focus of Cole’s activities is shifting, the overall artistic direction is an evolution of TDC’s history and primary work. “A hallmark of our work is our focus on the personal,” she described. “We value small audiences and small venues because they allow for a more pared-down, pointed experience with the audience that emphasizes intimacy. Site-specific performances allow TDC to explore how dance should be performed and where dance can be found, meeting people where they are—on a staircase, in a lobby, on the sidewalk. Audiences have choices they don’t typically expect: where they choose to position themselves to view the performance, how they interact with the work and how long they decide to be engaged.”

This change in structure also allows Cole to continue an important aspect of her professional work and leadership as an artist: mentoring other artists locally, through her faculty position at Columbia College Chicago, as well as nationally and internationally.

“We are optimistic about our potential,” Cole stated. “Given our longevity and history of collaboration, we have no doubt the ideas we are generating, the work we are doing and the relationships we are developing today will reveal a dynamic and interesting strategy for artistic planning, growth and change.”

Photo by Lisa DeShantz-Cook

The Dance COLEctive, created in 1996, explores fresh approaches and unexpected twists by making and performing dance via solo and collaborative initiatives. TDC supports and advances the creative vision and curiosity of its artistic director, Margi Cole, as well as partnering artists. Dedicated to teaching and mentorship, TDC motivates and nurtures the next generation of artists in the studio and beyond.

Recognized for its compelling, socially relevant and inspiring choreography, the all-female company, comprising mostly emerging artists, has contributed to the support of more than 150 collaborating artists and organizations, including locally and nationally recognized choreographers, dancers and other artists. TDC has produced more than 80 works, including those created by Cole, guest choreographers and TDC company members. In fulfilling its mission and vision, TDC embraces collaboration as a core element of its creative process and nurtures and promotes the creativity of emerging artists through mentorship. TDC performs at traditional venues, creates site-specific work and conducts residencies annually, including performances, workshops, master classes and lecture demonstrations.

Cole has received recognition for her contribution to the field of modern dance through awards including the Illinois Arts Council’s Individual Artist Fellowship, a 2015 Individual Arts Program Creative Project Grant from the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, a Chicago Dancemakers Forum grant and the American Marshall Memorial Fellowship, which selects leaders in their respective fields to represent the United States on a month-long tour of European countries.

The Dance COLEctive is supported by The MacArthur Funds for Arts and Culture at The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council, The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, The Albert Pick Jr. Foundation and many generous individuals.

For more information and updates about The Dance COLEctive, visit; for more information about Margi Cole, visit


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Alumni Interview Laurel Moore Zahrobsky

Laurel with Julie Tice Photo by William Frederking

When did you dance with The Dance COLEctive? 


What was your transition from studying at Ohio University to dancing in Chicago, IL?

I took some classes at Hubbard Street Dance Company but it just didn't feel right so I found Columbia College and joined their classes because they would let community dancers take classes with students back then.


How did you first get involved with Margi/Dance COLEctive? 

I, obviously, met Margi at the Dance Center of Columbia College (it was her second home) and we hit it off right away.  I auditioned for a piece she was creating during her summer workshop.  From that point on I auditioned for anything she was producing.  When she wanted to start the company she began it as a contract per performance company only.  She would ask me if I was interested and when I said "yes" she would present me and other dancers with a contract containing rehearsal times, specific performance dates and monetary payment.  We did many performances both formal and site specific works before she formed the company as it exists now.  Margi was great about other auditions I went to and would tell anyone who would listen that they needed to work with me and give me a chance. 

Margi & Laurel 2016
What were some similarities and difference between Margi's work and the work you did at Ohio University?  

Working with Margi was so much like everyone I had worked with at Ohio University.  It was a natural fit.  She loves partnering, going in and out of the floor, moving from the center.  Working with her is as natural as breathing.  I really began to explore my love of Barteneiff Movement even more when I worked with her.  Even though her warm-up wasn't the one I was used to all of the sea elements were there.  She helped me to develop the technique and the way I teach it today.

The one thing that differed was Margi's intention of seeing the uniqueness in everyone's individual movement and capitalizing on that to make her choreography even better.  She also used the dancer's creative choices to create her choreography.  While I had done some of that in school, it wasn't as established in my various college choreographer's technique of creating.  So, it took some getting used to but in the end it helped me be a better dancer, choreographer and person.

What did you enjoy most about your time with the Dance COLEctive? 

I love that I was there in the beginning.  I loved being a part of the process of her figuring out what she wanted to do professionally and how she would stay true to her vision.  I loved seeing the company go from contract per performance style into a full company that held auditions.  I loved the friendship base that we built way back then because it has carried us through really hard times and she remains one of the people I could call on for anything, anywhere and she would be there for me.  For me, it was the relationships I loved.

Is there a specific work that stands out to you from the TDC days? There are two pieces but I don't recall their titles.  (Margi will know...  This dance was called From the Neck Up)  I think it was in the first piece I ever did for her.  We performed in girdles and it was so powerful to feel that exposed on stage and celebrating being a full figured woman.  I loved that even though I had clothes on her work made me feel vulnerable and naive.  I had so much to learn and I felt that the piece evoked that from all of us.

I also loved the duet she set on Edna Radnik and me.  It was about judging someone and how it feels when someone only likes you because of your material possessions.  We were in nude colored sports bras and bikers and we did the first part of the dance facing the back while we "finished getting dressed".  As the dance continued, with us reciting some of the poem the dance was based on, we then wiggled our way into clear dresses made from shower curtains that were hanging.  I loved the idea of the costume and the dance that happened because of it. (This dance was called Naked Truth)

What Margi-isms do you carry with you to this day?

Spray-on warm up
Let's make a pizza (when teaching young kids to stretch)
Pop up the toast (when teaching kids how to flex)
spackle (that is make up)
no decorations! (when girls do funky things with their arms when leaping)
wing ding dangle (the wing)
rock star (parking, dancing, and other areas of my life)
floppy fish (but this one might be mine and Margi inspired...I can't remember)

I know I say other things that were created in our time together but I can't differentiate them.  Ha.

Can you share something you value or learned from your experience working with the company or a reflection that you share as a teaching tool.  

I would say the thing I use absolutely the most is Margi's level of energy and sense of humor when she teaches.  I definitely remember to have fun when I teach and bring the level of education a fun place so they learn while having fun as well.  

Margi was just in Chattanooga working with your students.  Did that conjure up any thoughts for you? 

I loved that my students could be a part of the experience in working with Margi and that they were able to see the partnership we had live and in person.  It was nice for them to experience who I had worked with in my professional career and that I was part of something bigger that has lasted 20 years!  They really enjoyed the similarities in our movement style and I think the ones who have danced with me since 6th grade were really prepared for the partnering and connections they needed to make when asked to do so in this work. 

Alumni interview with Laurel Moore Zahrobsky conducted by TDC company member Liz Conway, December 2015

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Shannon Interviews former TDC Dancer Nikki DiGioia Stachon

Nikki DiGioia Stachon Photo by William Frederking

What time frame were you dancing with The Dance COLEctive? 


What interested you in dancing with the company? 

Margi was one of my teachers at Columbia and I loved learning from her at Columbia. I went to her Summer Intensive and really get like I understood and meshed with what she had going on. I wanted to continue learning anything she had to offer.


What is your favorite memory of dancing with The Dance COLEctive?

Oh so many! We were all like sisters and talked about anything and everything together. I'll never forget the dressing room and doing our make up together, Rachel teaching me how to do make up, the all nighters we would have at Donnette's house, playing "kiss it goodbye" with all of Margi's old costumes....there were so many heart warming memories during those years.

What was your favorite piece you got to dance in? 

Sinking In. I loved that dance.

After leaving the company, did you continue your dance practice? How so? (I.e. Taking classes, dancing with other choreographers, teaching, choreographing) 

I danced a few years with BreakBone Dance Co. And student taught in PE/Health/Dance. With teaching, I couldn't balance week night rehearsals with TDC so I had to stop. But in 2008 I began my career as a High School PE/Dance Teacher and have been working in the field ever since. I direct the Orchesis Dance Co. And am working with the next generation on dancers/artists. I even started my 2 year old twin girls in dance recently and am on a whole new side of dance as a "dance mom". ;)

How has dancing with The Dance COLEctive influenced your teaching career? 

I constantly use Margi-isms when I teach. Margi is such a great teacher and has influenced me more than she knows. Having experience with TDC had given me real like experiments of what it takes to produce a show, behind the scenes, dance etiquette and leadership.

If you could have the company bring back an old work, what would it be?


What is your birthday wish for The Dance COLEctive?

For Margi to really soak in what amazing things she has done for TDC and every single dancer that has been involved. Really soak it in and be proud.

Interview Conducted and Submitted by TDC Dancer Shannon Edwards on December 2015.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Molly remembers being asked to join the company

Photo by William Frederking 2008

I will never forget when you, Margi, approached me after a placement class that I was helping with for those coming into the dance program at Columbia. You asked if I would be interested in coming in to The Dance COLEctive rehearsals to work with you. I was so stoked that I didn't even think to ask any follow up questions. After I was done assisting I ran to meet my mother and a friend and told them that you asked me to dance with you. My mother was so excited and started asking all sorts of questions, including, "Does this mean you are a part of The Dance COLEctive?". A question I should've asked, but I didn't  care. I was going to work with a professional dance company!

I never get nervous when it comes to dance, but walking into that room with older, more mature dancers, freaked me out! I was a sophomore in college and knew very little when it came to modern dance. I also walked into that room thinking, that I was working as a student with Margi Cole on a project, not as part of the company. I worked my butt off in warm ups, and then came "driving the bus". At 5' 2" I was paired with Ebony, almost 6'! She might have been shorter, but to me she was TALL and I had to partner with her!

Obviously I survived, and learned so much about myself and how to partner. A few more rehearsals went by, shows were booked and parts were given, then I realized that I was part of the company. I was a company member of The Dance COLEctive, not just a student filling in a part! It was the most magical moment for me. These women were beautiful dancers and I got to share a stage with them, learn from them and laugh with them. I danced with The Dance COLEctive for 10 years and loved every moment. The dancers I worked with are friends for life. I couldn't imagine learning as much as I did with any other company. 

Submitted by former TDC dancer Molly Grimm-Leasure, November 29, 2015. 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Reflections about the early years by a Founding Member

Dancer:  Ebony Lashay Bitner 
I fell in love with and became serious about dance at the comparatively late age of 14.  When I had a dream of becoming a professional dancer, I stepped out on faith knowing that the odds were well-stacked against me.

Margi was the first and in many ways the only teacher I ever had who saw beneath the surface of me.  She took the time to nurture and mentor me as a dancer. She saw my potential.  She supported my strengths rather than remain honed in on my weaknesses. She made me believe that my dream could become real because she believed in me...

The early years of the TDC were a lot of things.  Creating our own vocabulary..."corn-fusing" to others but making perfect sense to us! Hours filled with laughter and sometimes frustration sprinkled with drama and tears.  State fairs and sweaty July afternoon rehearsals at the Broadway Armory preparing for another performance. Group therapy, over cocktails and P-funks.  Celebrations of birthdays and break-ups, weddings and first-borns.

Stated simply, those early years were all about growth.  Through the shedding of our individual layers and with a healthy dose of guidance and patience we all evolved.  Through the expression of dance we became one entity. We crossed the threshold of being young women to being women and with that crossing over came the unavoidable shift of dreams and priorities.

Above all for me, those days were about forging friendships and forming incredibly meaningful bonds with women I may have never gotten a chance to know at all in the "real world"  We became sisters in a very true sense.  Our kinship was born out of the most unlikely of people and circumstances.  The early days of TDC were about everyone doing their part and  coming together with a spirit of support and love, expressing it all onstage in the most beautiful,  unique and honest way imaginable.

What fun we had!   I think of those days often and they always make me smile. They were and will always be some of the happiest days of my life.

Congrats Margs!  Here's to another 20 and beyond...

Submitted by TDC Founding Member Ebony Lashay Bitner, October 17, 2015