Tom Strini

Wild Space Dance, Speaking of Happiness

By - Apr 21st, 2010 05:18 pm
Schuchart and Rodero. Photo courtesy of the Wild Space Dance website.

Schuchart and Rodero. Photo courtesy of the Wild Space Dance website.

The more you ponder happiness, the more elusive the concept becomes.

Choreographers Debra Loewen, Monica Rodero and Dan Schuchart discovered that as they researched the subject and built an evening of dance around it.

“The idea that we all have a right to be happy is everywhere,” Rodero said. “But what does that mean? Good family, personal chemistry, career fulfillment?”

“We would make a dance that we thought meant one thing,” Schuchart seaid. “Then we’d add text or music and find that in a new context it means something else. Which is kind of what we found out about happiness itself.”

“We’ve stumbled on such odd ideas about happiness,” said Loewen, Wild Space founder and artistic director. For example:

The city of Monza, Italy, has outlawed the practice of keeping fish in bowls. Fish must reside in aquariums with flat glass. The rationale: Rounded bowls distort the fishes’ view of the world and would certainly make them unhappy. The Happiness of Fish is one episode in the Wild Space Dance Company‘s Speaking of Happiness concert, which runs Thursday through Thursday through Saturday (April 22-24) at the Milwaukee Rep’s Stiemke Theater.

One solid source of happiness for the trio is Charles Spearin‘s music, which figures prominently in the Wild Space show. Spearin, a Toronto composer, released his fascinating The Happiness Project on Valentine’s Day 2009.  He interviewed many neighbors about happiness, in search of “accidental songs.” He extracted their speech rhythms and assigned them to instruments and wove that music with recordings, manipulated to various degrees, of the interviews. (Do click on the link above. Spearin’s music is very cool.)

Spearin’s ideas align neatly with Loewen’s approach to dance, which relies on free association, unlikely but apt connections, collaboration and process. She is delighted to share choreographic credits with Rodero and Schuchart and with the dancers in the ensemble.

Rodero and Schuchart have danced with Wild Space for eight years, since they were undergrads at UWM. They are partners on stage and in life and often work as a duo. Speaking of Happiness began as a duo that Loewen made for them for the Minnesota Fringe Festival last summer. Schuchart said that all of 45 seconds of that dance survive in the upcoming show.

“Dan and I are used to sharing brain space,” Rodero said. “Deb has been a mentor, but this is a change from the mentor relationship.”

“I want to be a collaborator on an equal footing in this,”Loewen said. “All three of us like the same kind of work and like process. I’m not holding on to ownership. The interesting thing is the conversation.”

As their happiness project unfolded, the creative team came to see drawing out the dancers’ personalities as part of the job. The dancers talk in this show, and they relate to the audience as people, not just dancers.

“The dancers’ initial reactions to the material we gave them set up everything,” Rodero said.

“Their personalities came out,” Loewen said. “One woman took on this nurturing, maternal presence. One guy was always put-upon and manipulated. There was a love interest.”

Loewen is known for environmental and site-specific work, in vast, outdoor spaces and in monumental buildings. Not this time; this piece will suit the friendly confines of the Stiemke Theater.

“This show needs that intimacy,” Loewen said. “You need to see faces.”

Schuchart, Rodero, Yeng Vang-Strath, Javier Marchán, Michelle DiMeo, Liz Herbst Fransee, Angela Frederick, Lauren Hafner Addison. Lighting designer and production manager: Jan Kellogg.

Show Info
8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, April 22-24, Milwaukee Rep Stiemke Theater, 108 E. Wells St. Tickets are $25 and $20, $15 for seniors and students. Call The Rep’s box office, 414-224-9490, or visit the Wild Space website.

0 thoughts on “Wild Space Dance, Speaking of Happiness”

  1. Anonymous says:

    See this!! It was great this evening.
    Lee Ann

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