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Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014

‘Brew City Dreams’ in Schlitz Park

Wild Space premieres new piece in brewery setting

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“You’ll never see this space like this again—ever,” Debra Loewen said as we toured the raw fifth floor of the historic Schlitz Brewing Company Stock-House, a cement-floored, many-pillared landscape through which dancers and audiences for the Milwaukee choreographer’s new Brew City Dreams will travel on Sept. 11-13. Now a part of Schlitz Park, the floor will soon be broken into smaller units. Future historians will find photos of dancers and audiences in a forgotten vast interior, a nighttime view of Downtown Milwaukee in the early 21st century visible through the windows.

 “I’ll have things happening in each of the bays created by the pillars,” she continued. “Some will be directed toward the audience; but at the same time you’ll see things in other areas that connect or don’t connect—a head, a leg. Something happening across the room will disappear, but then is finished by different people over here.”

Loewen’s site-specific dance theater is unpredictable and haunting. With her aptly named Wild Space Dance Company, she’s memorably reimagined city spaces for more than a quarter century. This time, she spoke of the room’s weight, lightness, formality and asymmetry. “There’s something interesting about the loneliness of such a huge space,” she said. Her cast is seven dancers.

Tim Russell, the well-established genius of Milwaukee modern dance accompaniment, has written a score for live percussion. Instrumentation includes beer bottles and the gritty floor.  Costuming is contemporary and in creams and greens to match the room’s colors.

“The building is here but not the history,” Loewen said. “I made a dance for the space, not for its history.” Indeed, nothing remains to suggest the room’s original life. Loewen will make that distance in time palpable through the use of spatial distance, as dancers and audiences change position. “I think about the environment a lot,” she said. “I keep making things and making things. Then I feel what fits the room.”

Performances Sept. 11-13 begin at 8 p.m. A premium ticket ($25) includes a 7:15 p.m. pre-show talk and slide show on the site’s history by photographer Paul Bialas, author of Schlitz Brewing Art. Enter Schlitz Park by turning east on Galena Street from Martin Luther King Drive. Park and walk past the new green space and enter through the grand entrance on the east side of the Stock-House, 235 W. Galena St.