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Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012

A View From the Brewery

Wild Space opens its season with ‘Milwaukee 360’

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You are apt to be quite taken with the beauty of Downtown Milwaukee and its environs as they appear in a wraparound panorama from atop the eight-story parking structure of the former Pabst Brewery, set high on the bluff on west Juneau Avenue between Ninth and 10th streets. This view will provide the circular backdrop for the open-air finale of Milwaukee 360, the new dance by Debra Loewen that opens her Wild Space Dance Company’s 26th season.

After you’ve savored the view, and chosen to sit or lean among the various options at varying angles to the bi-level playing space, you’ll discover a woman lying still on the concrete in the glare of automobile headlights. To an original score by composer/percussionist Tim Russell of haunting sounds made by cars, such as doors and trunks being furtively opened or slammed, the large cast of men and women will make moving images in this film noir atmosphere, reconfiguring the monumental brewery forever.

That’s the gift of Loewen’s site-specific dances. The landscapes, buildings and byways of the city are transformed into something unexpected and new. Sometimes we can sense the history of the site; her dancers seem like ghosts of earlier inhabitants. This time she’s exploring large ideas of identity and space, absence and presence, corners turned. There will be a taste of a story, she says. Actions have consequences, but no one will understand or even see it in the same way.

The performance will start in the vast, high-ceilinged, split-level ground floor of the parking structure, an open concrete expanse with huge windows that reminded Loewen of giant movie screens. Dancers will perform inside and outside, alongside the neighborhood street life. “That space doesn’t know what it is yet,” Loewen says. “We, and the audience, will be marking in a very striking way.” A middle act will materialize on the almost lunar grounds outside the building, as the audience begins its journey to the eighth floor.

For those who want to learn the history, there’s a 7:15 p.m. pre-show talk each night by Jim Haertel, owner of Best Place, the tavern just across the street in the amazing castle where Joseph Pabst once held court. A small charge is required to attend the talk, but the entire audience is invited to the castle for a nightly post-show reception with the artists.

Performances begin 8 p.m. Sept. 20-22 at The Brewery parking structure, 910 W. Juneau Ave. Part of the performance is outdoors. For more information, call 414-271-0712 or visit www.wildspacedance.org. 

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