Sara Zalek

Formidable Dreams

All Day - Installation

G.A.R. Rotunda

Sculptural costumes and props, along with video, from the performances of this work at the Chicago Cultural Center.

11:55am - Film

Claudia Cassidy Theater

Broken into two parts: Prologue and Epitaph use dance and architectural space to re-examine the familiar through a surrealist's lens. 

About the Piece



Formidable Dreams is a short film exploring isolation, dysphoria, and dreams of potential transformation. Through tableaux, operatic voice, and their curious interactions, these trickster heroines explore desire, longing, and the quest for the external elixir. In between conscious and subconscious places, these trickster characters enact both social and primal behavior, with an earnest desire to commune and elevate their status. Their vocalisations are hypnotic, reverent, absurd, and bizarre. Through images, movement, and sound, this film is an elusive narrative that creates a sense of bewilderment and curiosity.


Directors Statement:

We, Eugene Sun Park and Sara Zalek, began to work together in 2012 and collaborated on some successful projects before beginning Formidable Dreams. With themes of identity and loss in mind—personal, racial, national, ethnic, gender—we have found many creative confluences. Our interests in displacement, myth, and the surreal; the search for our subconscious selves, our humanity, and dreams of potential transformation. We look to comparative mythology to reframe and recontextualize origin stories, to reshape current paradigms of cultural identity. The trickster hero characters in these films move in liminal and subconscious spaces. They rediscover their relationship to the world through their connection to architecture and each other. Through images, movement, and sound, these characters create a sense of bewilderment and curiosity as beings who continually seek to rediscover themselves.  We consider the creative potential in all humans as powerful shapeshifters, mythmakers, and transformers of culture.


Formidable Dreams takes place in urban, natural, and fantastical landscapes, using elements of Butoh, Opera, and improvisation as frameworks for exploration and development. Presentations and workshops evolve into interactive events featuring live performance with dancers, performers, musicians, and sculptural objects. Our dream is to represent Chicago’s fierce tenacity by travelling with these films to reach artists and tricksters the world over.


Support for the making of Formidable Dreams comes from Chicago Dancemakers Forum, The Cheney Foundation, An Individual Artists Program Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events and the Illinois Arts Council, as state agency through federal funds provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, and a residency at Light Box, Detroit, Michigan.

About the Artist

Website: saratonin.com / fullspectrumfeatures.com

Social Media: @01saratonin / @butohchicago


SARA ZALEK is an artist, choreographer, and curator rooted in investigations of personal identity through cycles of struggle and triumph. She is obsessed with hybrids, time travel, experimental science, permaculture, and the intentional act of transformation. She has received numerous dance awards and residency opportunities including Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist in 2015 and a fellowship in 2017 at the Ragdale Foundation. Artististic director of Butoh Chicago, Zalek continues to connect national and international Butoh artists with Chicago art makers across genres of dance, music, film and performance art. Her mission is to foster positive communication and arts integration within Chicago’s complex, overlapping arts sectors by providing opportunities for workshops, conversations, and performances.


EUGENE SUN PARK is a filmmaker working in narrative and experimental forms. His films have screened at over 400 festivals, micro-cinemas, museums, galleries, and alternative screening venues around the world, including SXSW, BAMcinemafest, Outfest, Frameline, Cleveland International Film Festival, Chicago Underground Film Festival, Athens International Film + Video Festival, Antimatter (Victoria, Canada), DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival, and Jornadas de Reapropiación (Mexico City, Mexico).

Eugene is also the founder and executive director of Full Spectrum Features, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to diversity in film and media. Current projects include Chicagoland Shorts, an annual touring program of short films that showcases the work of women, LGBTQ, and minority filmmakers; Signature Move, a feature film produced with the support from the Tribeca Film Institute; and Resistance & Resettlement, a cinematic digital history project about Japanese American WWII incarceration funded by the National Park Service.