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Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013

Three Bridges Park Blossoms with Wild Space’s Acts of Wilderness

Acts of Wilderness
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As a part of Wild Space Dance Company’s site-specific initiative, the company celebrated Menomonee Valley’s nascent Three Bridges Park with dance. Their production Acts of Wilderness consisted of dance performances staged throughout the park’s unique landscape. Audiences walked in awe along the park’s winding bike trail through a fantastical tour of sights and performances.

Milwaukee historian John Gurda’s pre-show talk brought the area’s history to life with vivid imagery. The Menomonee Valley has long been vital for Native Americans, fur traders and white settlers. It became an industrial center and declined after the 1970s into desolation. The area has undergone restoration with the help of the Menomonee Valley Partners and the Urban Ecology Center.

As darkness fell, the audience was ushered down the path under the Layton Boulevard viaduct to the setting of act one. Resurrecting natives, Kelly Radermacher swung a sword-like branch while spotlights cast her shadow and that of her dance partner José Luis on the underpinnings of the bridge. Emily Zakzrewski lured the audience forward with her moving shadow framed by the viaduct’s supporting archways. Throughout the production, vignettes would spark up further down the path, intriguing the audience to investigate.

Atop a hill, Angela Frederick motioned with a branch tangled under her orange gown. The wind teased the fabric as she danced with the elements. A dimly lit fire nearby showed traces of Joseph Pikalek working amid sounds of construction. For the first full cast performance, the dancers gathered around a roped-off reservoir pond. Wearing bright colors, their reflections on the water from adjacent lighting assured the production’s whimsical quality. Dancers appeared and disappeared eerily behind the bluffs.

For the final act the audience watched from a bridge over the Menomonee River. An ensemble sat on logs along the hillside and further referenced the park’s recreational purposes by running down the path to playfully throw rocks into the river. From upstream, Pikalek pushed a fire placed aboard a wooden raft toward the audience. Two dancers appeared from underneath the bridge, their paper-like dresses skimming the water. As the finale wound down, Pikalek gave the audience a piercing stare as if he were a native concerned for the prosperity of his land.