In the Menomonee Valley, the only remnants of the land's rich history as one of the nation's largest rail yards are two towering smokestacks that break the horizon. The area thrived with industry until an economic recession and the deindustrialization of the Midwest sent the valley into decline. The district lay in disrepair until the '90s, when a consortium of business and property owners, civic leaders, community organizations and local and state government united in their goal to revitalize the area into a sustainable and productive recreation and commercial area. One of the new additions to the Menomonee Valley is Chimney Park, a substantial tract of green-space surrounding the 35th Street Viaduct that includes rain gardens planted with native vegetation.
On Sept. 19-20, Chimney Park will become a stage when Wild Space Dance Company presents On-Sight, Menomonee Valley, a fascinating fusion of dance, music, vertical movement and performance. Under the direction of Wild Space Artistic Director Debra Loewen, On-Sight will feature company dancers, special guest Yuki Clark of the Milwaukee Ballet, and the Milwaukee Turners' Parkour climbing group. Together, the unique ensemble will move in, on and around the soaring towers and the long horizontal line of the 35th Street Viaduct.
"You have this really amazing convergence of dimensions," Loewen says of the space. "It's really the biggest statement."
Performing a site-specific event is nothing new for Wild Space. Last year, the company staged Vanishing Line at Lakeshore State Park. Since its inception 22 years ago, Wild Space has developed into one of the city's most treasured artistic assets. The performance company has become known for its imaginative, energetic and engaging shows, as well as its collaborations with other artists. Core to its foundation is its devotion to the community. Wild Space Dance Company is a company-in-residence at both Lincoln Center Middle School of the Arts and Lawrence University. It offers interdisciplinary arts education programs in schools and community centers and develops customized workshops and classes for dancers of all ages and abilities.
On-Sight's choreography finds universal appeal with its blend of climbing, dance and parkour, a physical discipline that aims at reaching a destination as efficiently as possible, overcoming obstacles with movements like running, jumping, climbing, rolling and vaulting. The work promises to celebrate the fantastic physical achievement that humans are capable of, seen in both the performance and the structures they will be performing on, smokestacks built brick by brick with human hands. At times, audience members will follow the performance through the site in a dynamic display of architecture and motion.
To better appreciate On-Sight's unusual environment, audience members are invited to a pre-show talk hosted by Milwaukee historian John Gurda.
On-Sight will be performed at Chimney Park on Sept. 19-20 at 7:30 p.m., featuring a pre-show talk with John Gurda at 6:30 p.m. For more information, call (414) 271-0712. Tickets cost $35 for premium seating, which includes admission to the pre-show talk; $25 for adults; $15 for seniors and students; and $5 lawn seating.