Wild Space Dance Creates ‘Happiness’
set movements that allowed the dancers to keep close to their original
impulses, so everything looked fresh, honest and delightfully idiosyncratic.
Signature movements I’ve come to associate with Wild Space, when present,
seemed newly revelatory, even sacred, in this democratic exploration of an
elusive subject. The collective process was always evident, and it became the
most important meaning: Happiness is a social and interpersonal phenomenon,
built on connectedness.
Speaking of Happiness was ultimately about the joy of making art with and
for a community. The subject also lends itself to comedy and there were many
laughs. The basic structure is the variety show (or, from recent times, the
concept album). Twenty-four segments were listed in the program with titles
like “Practice What You Reach,” “Making Do With What You Have” and “Happiness
of Fish.” Some were set against voice recordings of intriguing observations by
happiness scholars Daniel Gilbert, Daniel Kahneman and Malcolm Gladwell. Others
used music by composers as different as Donovan and Stravinsky. The dancers
sometimes spoke, quite entertainingly. Overlaps, simultaneity, interruptions
and recurring motifs added structural complexity and cohesiveness.
Happily, the Stiemke
Theater is a facility capable of illuminating the quality of the work and the
compassionate imagination of lighting designer Jan Kellogg. The dancer-actors
were Lauren Hafner Addison, Michelle DiMeo, Liz Herbst Fransee, Angela
Frederick, Javier Marchan, Yeng Vang-Strath, and Rodero and Schuchart. Each
quickly emerged as an interesting individual and deepened that impression
during the performance. As dancers, they were grounded, sensual, relaxed and
flexible, easily slipping into perfect unison, intimate partnering, passionate
solos and subtle clowning. They inspire confidence and compel attention. They
are young, too, and so is a great part of the Wild Space audience, which is
A moment of perfect happiness among the many highlights: For no reason but the insane beauty of it, Hafner Addison played Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” on tuned wine glasses carried in procession across the stage—part vaudeville act, part ancient ceremony, funny, moving, holy.