Up Close and Personal
Wild Space moves indoors and gets more intimate in “All About Life.”
At first glance, the Rep’s Steimke Studio may not seem a wild-enough space for Wild Space Dance Company. This is a company that has performed in parks, on rooftops and on a river barge, among other sites. That makes the defined borders and traditional audience set-up of Steimke Studio quite a departure, but presents its own challenges.
For Wild Space’s season finale “All About Life”, Artistic Director Deb Loewen reached for inspiration in the form of LIFE magazine. Turns out, her collaborators (dancers Mauriah Kraker, Monica Rodero and Dan Schuchart) didn’t share Deb’s personal history with the magazine.
But Lowen wasn’t deterred by this. Instead she leaned into the concept, creating a piece filled with memoir-esque moments from the three dancers that reached at the larger idea of “life.”
True to her process, Loewen and her dancers have changed the dance repeatedly over the course of rehearsals. In fact after a “first-draft” performance at Lawrence University (where Wild Space has had a company residency since 2000), the group reconvened and decided to move entire sections of the dance around.
“You know, it was a big change,” said Loewen. “But then we all said ‘so what!’ Everything is about creating energy. Changing what goes first and next makes it lively; it’s always in the process of changing.”
It’s important to Loewen that the rehearsal process have a certain spirit of discovery. She and her dancers aren’t particularly interested in practicing the same steps and experiencing the same moments for a whole month.
Instead, the troupe reconvenes after each rehearsal and talk about what’s working. They spend a lot of time sharing – what they’re reading, what they’re listening to, what texts have struck them as significant.
“Collaboration is not less work,” said Loewen, “it’s more.”
Schuchart, for one, was inspired by the accumulation of life’s ordinary moments. Rodero recalled stories about wishing for things as a child, and the reality of what those dreams become. Kraker was attracted to the meaning of secrets – is it about withholding something, or something denied to another, or is it about yourself?
Rather than splitting these ideas into defined sections, “All About Life” combines them into one more or less continuous story (this performance has no intermission). The performance is accompanied by a collage of music – from Lou Reed to The Books to The Talking Heads. Schuchart helped arrange the musical blurbs, and at times the score includes readings from Virginia Woolf and Alan Lightman (The Accidental Universe).
“I could never play music at a big site,” said Loewen. “So that’s nice — to have instruments, that specific form of direction.”
Loewen also appreciates that a space like Steimke Studio allows for a human story to unfold. Wild Space’s previous season venues at Three Bridges Park and the INOVA gallery facilitated interesting ideas about space, framing and relationship to space. But now, Wild Space can focus on a different kind of territory, on the intimate relationship we have with life.