Loyola University Chicago


Department of Fine and Performing Arts


Loyola Students Restage Dance Concert Piece “Atlas” for Momenta Dance Company and Physically Integrated Dance

Loyola Students Restage Dance Concert Piece “Atlas” for Momenta Dance Company and Physically Integrated Dance

A. Deran Photography


Atlas, the Greek Titan, bore the sky aloft. With the same strength and conviction of the god, Loyola dancers and faculty have cultivated a culture of support and uplift that has extended past the campus grounds and into the greater Chicago dance community. “Atlas,” a new work choreographed by Loyola Lecturer of Dance Sarah Cullen Fuller in collaboration with the original cast, premiered at the annual Mainstage Dance Concert, The Dream of Home, at the Newhart Family Theatre in November 2022. In attendance one evening was Sarah Najera, the Artistic Director of Momenta Dance Company, based in Oak Park, Illinois. Taken by the performance, Najera was inspired to bring “Atlas” into the repertoire at Momenta Dance Company in celebration of their 40th anniversary season.  

Sarah Cullen Fuller was once a Momenta dancer herself. She began as a performer with the Junior Company, later made her way into a choreographer role, and currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors. At the Loyola Dance Program, Fuller instructs ballet and post-modern techniques and teaches the lecture course Disability in Dance (DANC 280). The class discusses and analyzes physically integrated dance, and the notation that dance is for all people, with or without physical disabilities. Throughout the class, Fuller invites various guests from the physically integrated dance world, including Sarah Najera of Moment Dance Company. During her visit with the Disability in Dance students, Najera discussed Momenta’s inclusivity-based mission for both students and professionals, and the necessary considerations in creating physically integrated dance classes and performances. Enrolled in the class during Fall 2021 were current seniors Caitlin Dyer and Sydney Osborne, two of the original cast members of Fuller’s “Atlas.” 


When asked by Najera to bring “Atlas” into Momenta’s repertoire, Fuller enlisted the help of Caitlin and Sydney to restage the work for the new cast. Plans and preparation for the project began in December until rehearsals started in January 2023. Every Saturday, Caitlin and Sydney drove out to Oak Park and spent three hours with the dancers at Momenta. The cast included several teenage students as well as two professional dance artists, Tatiana C. and Robby W. To make the best use of their rehearsal time, Caitlin and Sydney prepared lesson plans consisting of preplanned formations and group choreographic materials. “During rehearsals, we spent time discussing the meaning of the piece,” notes Sydney. “Atlas” is a reference to the Greek god who holds up the heavens, a collection of maps, and the community support necessary to survive on a difficult journey. One section of the piece required each student to create a solo based on their unique interpretation of the piece. “I loved working with the high schoolers to develop their own personal movement style for the work,” remarks Caitlin.  

While the ensemble section was reimagined for a larger cast, the featured duet section was restaged and adapted for Tatiana C. and Robby W., a professional dance artist who uses a wheelchair. “Working with Robby and his wheelchair was a very new experience for me, but I found it made the process so much more collaborative, experimental, and unique for the two dancers together,” reflects Sydney. “In that sense, we served more as rehearsal directors by offering guidelines for Robby and Tatiana to play in and create their own version of the duet,” explains Caitlin. Using their experiences and work from the Disability in Dance course with Sarah Cullen Fuller and their deep familiarity with the piece, Sydney and Caitlin built a “mission and values-based foundation for exploration and adaptation,” praises Fuller. During the final rehearsals in March, the cast was visited by the original choreographer for a few last-minute insights and words of encouragement. “Atlas,” staged by Caitlin Dyer and Sydney Osborne with choreography by Sarah Cullen Fuller, was performed at Momenta’s 40th Anniversary Concert, Coming Home (begin at 25 minutes) on March 11, 12, 18, and 19, 2023 in Oak Park, Illinois. 


While nearing the end of their time with the Loyola dance program, Sydney and Caitlin brought a piece of their college experience to the dancers at Momenta. “I am grateful for the strong sense of community we were able to cultivate together, despite spending a short amount of time with the dancers,” reflects Sydney. For Sarah Cullen Fuller, the collaboration with Momenta is a full circle moment in her career, both as a dancer and an educator. “The experience allowed them to call upon their knowledge gained through Loyola’s unique curricular and co-curricular offerings,” she reflects. “It’s so incredibly fulfilling as an educator to see your students become the leaders!”