Industrial urban life serves as the backdrop for Chance, the new show from Unbound Ballet Project | Courtesy Unbound Ballet Project

Crystal Wellman is fascinated by the idea of games of chance. In fact, rock-paper-scissors was one of the inspirations for her upcoming project: Unbound Ballet Project’s Chance, which is set for August 20 at The Refinery.

“I became kind of obsessed with the idea of chance,” said Wellman, director of Unbound Ballet Project. “And I just was kind of researching stuff.” Games of chance existed about as far back as human history stretches, with some of the earliest known formalized games found in ancient China.  Rock-paper-scissors dates back to the Han Dynasty of China, as early as 206 BC. The human need to rely on chance became the inspiration for Wellman’s new showcase.

“People sometimes have faith or they believe in a system or moral code and how at the end of the day things are unjust, kind of randomly always going on,” Wellman said of Chance’s theme. “How hard you try, sometimes it doesn’t matter. Lots of different things occur. I just find this human quality, or circumstance we find ourselves in, really interesting.”

As such, much of Chance is left to, well, chance. While Wellman is choreographing the show for her team of professional dancers, most local and some from Charlotte and Maryland, she is leaving certain elements to the whims of improvisation. 

“There will be some of that element in the show. Some element of not knowing exactly who’s going to dance what and so it’ll be fun for the performer and hopefully the audience,” said Wellman.

Chance will run roughly 40 minutes and consist of four or five main pieces. But the overall show is meant to meld together, blurring the lines between one piece and the next. Unbound has frequently used this style of continuous performance without stops and starts, most recently in last summer’s Piccolo Spoleto offering It Never Changes.

Wellman collaborated with multiple artists for this project. DJ Moldy Brain will handle music for the evening. Festivities begin at 6 p.m., with DJ Moldy Brain playing tracks for fun to set the ambiance. Audiences can grab drinks from craft beer collective The Whale and food from The Big Tent, venues that are a part of the newly opened Refinery entertainment hub, before things kick off properly. The performance of Chance begins as the sun starts to set, with DJ Moldy Brain transitioning to the soundtrack for the performance.

“He’ll also be doing some improvisation,” Wellman said. “He’ll have the freedom to play kind of whatever he wants and make some music right on the spot.” This means the dance performances themselves will have an added element of chance. Having an improvisational element is unique for recitals and large scale performances of this type.

Most of the performers are members of Palmetto City Ballet during the regular season, and make up Unbound Ballet Project during the summer months. The ensemble of Chance includes Victoria Bevil, Amanda Lane Evans, Vivian LaCerda, Alexander Widner Lieberman, Isaac Martinez, Lauren Martinez, Elizabeth McDuffie, Natasha Nast and Sarah Walborn, along with Wellman.

Visual artist Jennifer Padilla is also collaborating on the production. Unbound teamed up with the painter to work on set design, which will be painted using physical bodies and movement. This painting session will be filmed ahead of time and screened during the show.

“I’ve always worked with other artists or other local musicians off-and-on since I started Unbound four years ago,” said Wellman of working with Padilla and DJ Moldy Brain. The goal is to continue that tradition into the future with further Unbound projects.

Wellman is particularly excited about performing at The Refinery for this show, a newly opened complex that looks to host artistic events both indoors and in its outdoor amphitheater. Unbound, following the pandemic-era necessity of performing outdoors, has stuck with that trend out of artistic choice. 

“We are still performing in an outdoor space, even though we don’t have to,” Wellman said. “I just really liked this new space they’ve built. I love that part of town where it’s industrial and it’s a little different than what people see as the picturesque Charleston. It’s a little more reality for a lot of people who live here. And I think there’s a lot of beauty in that: Combining the arts with that industrial.”

Unbound Ballet Project started as a way to supplement the performances of Wellman and her fellow dancers, but Wellman hopes the company will begin to produce more work in the near future. With ambitious and exciting plans like this show, it doesn’t seem like she’s leaving much up to chance.

Chance will take place at The Refinery Aug. 20 at sundown. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased at chscp.co/unbound-chance.


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