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Fall 2020 has been somewhat of a rebirth for dance artists across Atlanta. After several months of isolation, dancers and companies have started to inch their way back into creating, rehearsing and performing, with the latest to do so being Kit Modus

The ensemble goes public again this weekend in Ditto, a new contemporary dance work choreographed by founder Jillian Mitchell. As the name suggests, it touches on themes of duplication and reflection with distinctly dystopian imagery, realized through a set of mirrors.   

The performance will happen outdoors at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (November 14) at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center’s amphitheater. Attendees must wear masks and seating will be socially distanced. If it rains, the company will perform Sunday (November 15). 

Ditto marks Kit Modus’ first performance since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Mitchell says the piece has been in the works for a couple of months and began as a way for the dancers to reconnect with each other. 

“The work that we started with just came from a [need to] have fun, dance together and make stuff up,” Mitchell says. “And then it sort of snowballed to a recognition that there was a scarcity of shows and that over time, we had created a good chunk of material.”

Movement not concepts drive Mitchell’s creations, and since she and her company aren’t fully done with the creation process, some aspects of Ditto have yet to be discovered. What has become clear is that like all of her work, Ditto explores dystopian themes, conceptualized through the use of mirrors.  

In “Ditto,” choreographer Jillian Mitchell explores the perseverance of the human essence. (Photo by Daley Kappenman)

“Imagine a broken person with faulty judgment looking at themselves in a broken, distorted, foggy mirror and experiencing the reality around them through this mirror,” Mitchell says. “And then put another mirror on the other side of that. It’s all this sense of refracted reality.” 

Those images are backdrops that Mitchell uses to explore the perseverance of the human essence. It’s quite timely considering how much perseverance has been tested these past few months amid the pandemic and political unrest. 

The beauty of Mitchell’s choreography is the element of mystery that’s always involved. She was driven by creating beautiful, intricate, physically demanding movement but says her concepts don’t usually crystallize until she sees her work onstage. Oftentimes, she finds out at the same time as the audience, which she considers exciting. 

No COVID creation comes without its challenges though. With Ditto, the absence of touch was difficult to overcome. Mitchell has a strong love for partnering but could no longer include it. “I don’t make any excuses about that, but it is a challenge,” she says. “The dancers have got to relate to each other from a distance. In that way, this will be a work unlike anything I’ve ever made.”

Mitchell hopes the work gives audiences a break from pandemic-related worries. Attendees should look forward to an escape from reality.

“It’s a little bit of an opportunity to just drift away, off the planet and into a world of beauty,” she says. “To rest your eyeballs and look at something that is, hopefully, gorgeous, and to walk away a little lighter and a little more hopeful.”  

In her words, “Beauty is everywhere, even in a dystopia.”

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