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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Dancing Around the Mysteries of Life

Wild Space reflects on the horror, joy and beauty

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All About Life, the uninterrupted dance premiered by Wild Space Dance Company last weekend at the Stiemke Studio, is a seamless collaboration by four choreographers. Three of them—Mauriah Kraker, Monica Rodero and Dan Schuchart—performed the piece along with Mandi Karr, Kelly Radermacher, Marquita Redd, Kristin Reidelberger, Devin Settle and Emily Zakrzewski. The fourth choreographer is Debra Loewen, the Wild Space director who is normally the sole choreographer. A four-way process this intimate and comprehensive is new for her.

A lot happens in this collective reflection. Change is constant. Dancers enter and leave in different groupings, solos are brief and costumes keep changing. The only props are old copies of Life magazine that appear mid-performance to be paged through by dancers lying on the floor. I certainly remember the time when information about the world arrived in such forms. How exotic it all seemed! How far away from anything that I would ever see, hear, touch, taste or smell! Life can seem disappointingly plain and All About Life addresses that nicely.

Spoken excerpts from The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew, Alan Lightman’s essays on theoretical physics and the impossibility of science to ever understand the universe, are threaded through the work’s eclectic musical soundtrack. Lightman quotes Einstein’s thought that the most beautiful experiences are also the most mysterious, that what we don’t understand goads us to a deeper engagement with life. That text is spoken against the gentle sound of crickets while the company of young artists settles into gazing at a fantastical projection of a night sky overwhelmed by stars. David Gipson did the beautiful lighting.

All About Life reflects the way days and years are spent wondering, worrying, examining, fearing, avoiding and so on. It shows frustration, work, argument, depression and aspiration. Some segments are poignantly funny. “(I Wanna) Love My Life Away” plays on a boom box while one woman drags her body across the stage to stop the music and another dances an awkward seduction. “You’re older than you’ve ever been and now you’re even older,” taunts the singer in a segment focused on fountains of youth.

Each dancer made important contributions and Kraker was outstanding. The work seemed unified but overly conscious. Perhaps the artists’ mutual respect restrained them. I kept wanting something more daring that touched on life’s greatest horrors and compensations.