Tom Strini

Up on the roof with Wild Space

Debra Loewen's dance company takes in the view from the top floor of a Pabst complex parking structure. Show opens Thursday.

By - Sep 19th, 2012 01:29 pm
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Eighth-floor view of the Pabst sign. TCD image by Lacy Landre.

On a cold and windy Monday night, overcoats — and in one case a wedding dress — swirled about Wild Space dancers as they made their moves. They felt on top of the world, with Downtown lights all about them. They danced atop a parking structure in the Pabst complex in the northwest corner of the heart of the city. That part of town rests on the crest of a ridge, and they were eight floors above that.

“The dancers got out their cell phones and started shooting pictures the minute we got up here,” said Deb Loewen, Wild Space founder and artistic director.

Site-specific works such as this one, called Milwaukee 360°, have become Loewen’s specialty over the years. The Wild Space audience is accustomed to following her wherever she goes, from the marsupial bridge under Holton Street to the Lynden Sculpture Garden to assorted industrial spaces. And they’re accustomed to chasing the dancers once they get to the site.

Once again, the Milwaukee 360° audience will have to move to keep up with the piece. It will begin in a very large raw room on the ground floor. Jan Kellogg’s lights will divide that indoor space into something like a three-ring circus, with different acts going on simultaneously. And that’s not all: Dancers will be outside the building, visible through the enormous windows. And that’s still not all:

“Anyone who happens to be passing by will be part of the piece, whether they know it or not,” Loewen said. “Wedding receptions will be going on across the street at Best Place. So that will be great.

“The piece will be like an onion, with layers and layers around a center.”

Ushers will then guide the audience, a maximum of 150 per night, to the elevators to the roof. They will first peer down to a gravel field, to observe the patterns of dancers on the ground. Then dancers will take up stations at distant locations around the roof, which covers the better part of a city block. Patrons can choose their own adventures at that point.

Cars will play a role. At rehearsal Monday night, one “lost” dancer/driver fumbled with maps. A “newlywed couple” put the top down on their old convertible and got out tools to try to get the thing running again. A fellow in a trench coat and a fedora stood ominously guarding the trunk of another car.

“Oh yes, there’s a little bit of film noir about it,” Loewen said.

Car horns and alarms will summon the audience down a half-level (but still under the stars) for a finale for the whole company. A phalanx of cars will light the scene with their headlamps.

“I like being on the roof,” Loewen said. “But if it rains, we’ll just move down one level, so we’ll be covered. I like that, too. It’s more mysterious.”

Milwaukee 360° features performers Liz Fransee, Joe Fransee Angela Frederick, Allison Kaminsky, Lindsay Krygowski, Molly Mingey, Laura Murphy, Kelly Radermacher, Jessie Mae Scibek, Bridgett Tegen and Mai-Yeng Vang-Strath.

Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 20-22, at The Brewery Parking Structure, 910 W. Juneau Ave., with a pre-show talk by Jim Haertel of Best Place at 7:15 p.m. Admission is $25 for premium tickets, which include the pre-show talk, $20 for regular admission, $15 for students and seniors. Call 414/271-0712 or online at

TCD video by Lacy Landre.

Keep up with Wild Space and all of Milwaukee’s performing arts. Bookmark Matthew Reddin’s TCD Guide to the 2012-13 Season. Sponsored by the Florentine Opera.


0 thoughts on “Up on the roof with Wild Space”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great preview video! I look forward to the show.

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