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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Four of Milwaukee’s Finest Dancers on One Stage

Wild Space is ‘All About Life’

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Seated in the Wild Space Dance Company studio for an interview with the four choreographers who are jointly creating All About Life, an evening-length dance to premiere May 1-3 at the Stiemke Studio Theater, I understood that Debra Loewen, Mauriah Kraker, Monica Rodero and Dan Schuchart are making something too personal for words.

“It’s a photo album with snapshots that morph and change,” said Loewen. “It’s in chapters, some long, some short,” said Rodero. “It’s like watching people from a park bench, getting glimpses of their lives,” said Schuchart. “The ordinary is important; the in-between moments,” said Kraker.

The four are among Milwaukee’s finest dance artists. Loewen founded Wild Space 27 years ago. Her life in art has been exemplary. Rodero and Schuchart just returned to town with MFA degrees in experimental choreography from the University of California-Riverside. After years as Loewen’s protégés, they’re now full collaborators. Wild Space has been home to Kraker since she returned several years ago from dancing in Asia and New York.

Life magazine was the hook that got us started,” Loewen explained. “The world was in it.” The old magazine became a metaphor for a dance about the limited world of individual experience. The four friends made a list of verbal prompts to spark improvisation. At the first rehearsal with the dancers, they decided to improvise the entire show from these open-ended phrases. They worked with company members Mandi Karr, Kelly Radermacher, Marquita Redd and Emily Zakrzewski and interns Kristin Reidelberger and Devin Settle. For weeks, the group improvised an entirely new show at each rehearsal, sharing personal material in movement.

Schuchart described the process: “To be in a space with people we wanted to be with, as if in a lifeboat, making a show about life.” “It was a great way to get to know the dancers and to know each other as choreographers,” Kraker said. “Many of the dancers are choreographers,” Rodero noted. “Our working method was that we were all responsible to make the best show at every session.” “Life is in the making,” Loewen summarized.

The four identified recurring patterns, striking gestures and indispensable movements. Then they set the choreography. Nothing will be improvised in performance. Kraker, Rodero and Schuchart will also perform. “This is All About Life, Part One,” Rodero warned. “We haven’t covered it all yet.” Loewen joked: “We still have two weeks.”

Performances are at 8 p.m. May 1-3 at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Stiemke Studio, 108 E. Wells. For tickets, call 414-224-9490 or visit wildspacedance.org.