The Power of Intimacy

Wild Space tries a smaller venue where dancers and audience will be on a hunt for meaning.

By - Jan 28th, 2014 01:19 pm

Loewen hopes to reimagine the INOVA space in a way that creates fluidity between the dancers’ movements and the audience’s.

Wild Space will never run out of dance venues.

Its longtime artistic director Deb Loewen is an expert at finding interesting spaces in our burgeoning little metropolis, and creating dances designed for those surroundings. There was “Milwaukee 360,” a spellbinding performance layered throughout a parking garage near MATC. Or this season’s “Acts of Wilderness,” which took us into the newly developed Three Bridges Park in the Menomonee Valley for a sprawling, unfolding outdoor event.

The space for Wild Space’s “Sight Readings,” performed Thursday through Saturday, seems so obvious at first: UW-Milwaukee’s INOVA gallery. After all, dance is art. But Loewen felt a surprising amount of newness and discovery in the project, especially following the breadth of Acts of Wilderness’ space.

“It’s like a collapsing,” said Loewen, “of how big and majestic you can have the world around you, and how small and close and intimate it can be the next time you make a work. That was intriguing to me—a huge collapse for the audience.”

Unlike a standard dance performance, where you sit in a theater, Loewen hopes to reimagine the INOVA space in a way that creates fluidity between the dancers’ movements and the audience’s.

After all, “Sight Readings” will function as a gallery opening. There will be 16 dancers scattered about, each her own installment. You will walk around, view a piece up against a wall and meander on to a duet in the corner. You will turn your head and see a leg or an arm flash from behind a wall for a moment, before you turn back. You may see the same choreographed movement twice without realizing it, because this time you’re at a different angle.

“There’s that hint of motion coming from a bigger place, like on a stage, but here it’s confined,” said Loewen. “The gallery itself is a frame, so there’s this constant tightening-in; everything going on at once.”

Loewen is a part-time instructor at UWM’s dance department and this is a collaborative effort between the INOVA gallery, the dance department, and Wild Space. Sight Readings will also incorporate the work of two Milwaukee visual artists, Tom Bamberger and Jake Fuller. They’ve created a video that will loop on the gallery walls, adding a layer of complexity and diffused light.

“I have wonderful cast,” said Loewen. “I really like what everyone is doing [in rehearsal]— it’s very engaging. The smaller gestures, the way they interact with one another.”

Loewen has taken a minimalist approach in designing the dancers’ movements—not only does the space constrict the possibility of big, sweeping choreography, but the floors are concrete and she worried about wrecking the dancers’ knees. One way they developed material was through interpreting line drawings on index cards. The dancers created motion from the lines and taught the resulting choreography to one another.

“Sight Readings” incorporates a combination of improvised and choreographed work. The dancers have an understanding of the show’s sequence, their orientation to the audience, their interaction with the video loops. The structure is highly organized, but the dancers are encouraged to create variables.

“I didn’t want anything rote; it just didn’t seem interesting,” says Loewen.  “There’s an essence of something that’s understood and known” by company members, “but [the dancer] is a person who’s elaborating on it and she can change it however she wants to.”

Ultimately,  Loewen muses, “Sight Readings is all about hunting, for both the dancers and the audience. It presents a choose your own adventure of sorts, with the talent of Wild Space’s dancers guiding your path.

“Sight Readings,” 7 and 8:15 p.m., January 30-February 1, UW-Milwaukee Institute of Visual Arts, 2155 N. Prospect Ave., Tickets $15 (Seniors $10) can be ordered online.

Loewen hopes to reimagine the INOVA space in a way that creates fluidity between the dancers’ movements and the audience’s.

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