Control Group Presents Wholeness

Control Group Presents Wholeness
August 25, 2016 Shelly Chapple Clements
Photo by Shelly Chapple Clements.

Photo by Shelly Chapple Clements.

Control Group Productions is not your grandmama’s dance company, Denver.  It is, in fact … a creative platform for live arts research, development, distribution, and advocacy.”  Artistic director Patrick Mueller and his wife, Kristine Whittle are both highly accomplished and educated dancers who have teamed with music artist Todd Bilsborough to form an avant-garde performance art research and study group that not only presents live art, but also has supported the formation of multiple local dance companies and hosts hundreds of artists in international dance companies.  

Education and outreach are a vital part of how Control Group Productions works to assure that everyone in our Denver, Colorado region has access to the arts.  This purpose is supported through weekly open company classes taught by the master himself, Patrick Mueller, held at Pranamor Yoga Arts on Tuesdays 10:00-11:30am.  “This class addresses professional dancers and advanced movers with a combination of rebalancing therapeutics, strengthening of skills/patterning/coordination, and ferocious, complex phrase-work designed to encourage full immersion in ecstatic risk and individual choice-making. The class combines improvisation and set phrases, building from the floor to standing and flying.”  Patrick also teaches Modern, Contemporary, Composition, Conditioning, and Beginning Adult Ballet at Colorado Conservatory of Dance in Broomfield.  

Control Group Productions is involved in exciting and relevant teaching and performing activities throughout the dance community providing access to this wildly innovative and extremely well informed developmental group of local artists who are redefining the depths of Denver art.

At The Galleria Tent at the Denver Performing Arts Complex at 1400 Curtis St. August 18, 19, 21, 25, 26, & 27, Control Group presents Wholeness, a live, visual, digital installation; a meditation on darkness and the senses.  There is a suggested donation of $5 at the table at the entrance into the white billowing tent set up on the west side of the alley of the Performing Arts Complex across from the box office.  Wholeness is a prototype section of a full-evening work planned for 2017.

Photo by Shelly Chapple Clements

Photo by Shelly Chapple Clements

This piece of performance art provides an all sensory experience from the live, outdoor, active environment that the tent provides, to the inner, intimate setting that the artists create. The space has a protected, womb-like feel and left us relaxed and contemplative.  Notes on the work wax poetic, “The world arrives to us muffled-sensation filtered through intervening space, blurred by cellulose layers…”   Could this creation be the expression of a couple, Patrick and Kristine, who have experienced the life changing and mesmerizing miracle of introducing a new life to their world? Patrick’s bio boasts that the two are “the happily enthralled parents of turbo-toddler Levi Volentine Mueller.  “The experience arrives through intermingled layers of incomplete, not fully intelligible elements, creating meaning in the fluid spaces between”, read the Notes.  Wholeness is a part of Control Group’s multi-work series, dances made to be viewed in the dark, an exploration of the experience and contents of the world out of view.

I saw the debut of the experimental performance art on Thursday, August 18th on a mild, breezy Denver evening.  I entered the seemingly breathy tent as it gently expanded and contracted with the city air.  A white pit of smoky lit air provided a distorting containment that the artists moved in and out of.  Their movement was cautious and confused as they rose above the pit to explore various levels and then seemed to dissolve back into the layers of obscurity below them.  

The two females locked gazes, as they sat at a creaking table and shared a bottle of milk to a soundscape including the clank of glass on saucer and police sirens, as the earth continued to turn in the background.  It brought upon us an ethereal other worldly presence seemingly inside the soul of the city.  As one dancer dissolved out of that image, the other seemed to peak in curiosity as she mounted the table with swinging motions in rising smoke, encompassing even the chairs upon which we sat.  The smoke seemed to say to us, with its scent and its density, come closer. And in the unique, open air environment, we had the freedom to stand and look at the mysterious live canvas from different perspectives.  

The ebb and flow of the dancers in and out of the cavity of a stage eventually brought them back together and an element of white tulle fabric rose from their gooey environment to appear as though the smoke was now a part of them, on them, cocooning them.  Some moments the rolling smoke trails seemed controlled by the dancers, in other moments, the dancers were engulfed and turned up-side-down, disappearing, gracefully and in slow motion, fumbled into the space.  I was faced with the concepts of imprisoned seeking escape, and the sometimes unexplainable juxtaposition of life.  I felt safe, but curious of the levels upon levels that the piece laid before me.  

The flashes of waning sunlight through the apertures of the tent contributed to the meditative and hypnotic vibration of the work.  This experience asks us to discover by existing.  It takes us through a navigation of time, energy, and space with feelings of shedding, floating, reaching, and writhing.  The city became an ocean and there was no sense of being observed, no sound of breath; there was just being.  

How fortunate Denver is to house the caliber of artist that is Patrick Mueller and his company and crew.  Beyond talent and the focused rehearsal of movement is a place where the semantic relationship of humans and their environment coexist.  This is where Control Group Productions lives within art, research and development.  I invite you to be a part of what these artists offer, and I believe that you will feel enriched and inspired by the intricacies of their efforts.


Shelly Chapple Clements was raised in rural Pennsylvania, in Amish Country.  She was drawn to the city of Pittsburgh through dance at the young age of 9 and never looked back.  Her dance education took her from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, to the National Academy of Arts in Champagne-Urbana, IL,  Shelly returned east and graduated from the renowned Pittsburgh High School for Creative and Performing Arts after which she enjoyed a professional modern dance career in San Francisco from 1990-2002.  She is a master instructor for young dancers and currently teaches ballet in Littleton and Highlands Ranch and is the Artistic Director of Youth Programs for DAMAGEDANCE.  Shelly has been a Colorado resident since 2002 and holds Bachelor’s Degrees in Spanish Interpretation and Translation, Hispanic Literature, and Theatre Dance from Colorado Mesa University, and attended the master’s program at the School of Education and Human Development at University of Colorado Denver.  Her passion for writing gives voice to the dancer who speaks not on the stage.

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