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Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014

The Meaning of Movement

Wild Space and UW-Milwaukee offer 'Sight Readings'

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There was so much to consider during “Sight Readings,” Debra Loewen’s new site-specific dance performance at INOVA Gallery, that the hour-long experience seemed momentary. I found myself absorbed in visual puzzles, reading meanings into the movement of 15 interesting dancers while enjoying their intense presences and proximity. I wanted to take the whole dreamy trip again, but the evening’s second audience was waiting to enter.

In this Wild Space Dance Company collaboration with INOVA and the UW-Milwaukee Dance Department, audience members divided the hour between four galleries and a central foyer. In most rooms, benches for seating offered views from various angles. Or you could lean against walls, linger awhile, move on or return. Quiet music signaled that a sequence would start over, a cue to relocate if you hoped to see everything.

Tom Bamberger’s highly textured photograph of sandy ground was projected large and small on the walls of one gallery. In hallucinatory slow motion, the image was raked of texture and then restored as dancers came and went, moving between this room and others. Here, they were mostly paired, close together, drawing invisible lines, communicating in the abstract language of dance. Time slowed as I lost myself in their improvisations and the kindly atmosphere.

The next room featured Jake Fuller’s film loop of the shadows of sparrows alighting on bare tree branches, then scattering. Four women in a tight group looked upwards and downwards. Two figures slowly turned before a distant gallery wall. Dancers came and went; I was surprised to find them behind me. In many patterns, they took flight in brief dances. They left an artifact, a cross of masking tape on the floor with words on each branch: take/touch; past/nowhere; follow/suspension; part/clear.

Loewen has said she wants to let audiences into her choreographic process. The push-pull of those patterned words must have produced material as the dancers reacted to them in improvisations. Now, in the central space, I was enchanted by a young man playing with toy human figures, boxes, light and shadow, rearranging them in new relationships, sculpting a performance experimentally and instinctively in miniature, another mirror of Loewen’s process.

Room three was an experiment with a mirror ball reflecting broken light on shadowed dancers. Room four was brilliant. Fuller’s filmed close-up of a cat staring into the lens filled the wall behind dancers on a loveseat acutely conscious of being watched.

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