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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Maybe Angels Will Help Them

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Few things are as unsettling as falling: the sudden loss of balance, the awkward microsecond of trying desperately to right the ship, the icy rush of vertigo as you go ass-over-teakettle toward the pavement, hoping to God that your insurance premiums are paid up. The universality of this event is the basis for Danceworks Performance Company's The Wide Sky is Falling.

The series stems from Danceworks' Intergenerational Multi-Arts Project, wherein artists interview local senior citizens to create the basis for a performance piece. Danceworks Artistic Director Dani Kuepper sent her dancers to Aurora Adult Day Care for an interview and story-making session.

"The questions were the same ones I had asked the dancers," Kuepper explains, "so when the dancers were interviewing seniors it was fun for them to see the parallels and differences between their own answers and the people they were interviewing. The questions asked were: 'Tell me about a time you fell?' 'Did you learn anything from the fall?' 'Have you ever watched someone else fall?' 'Were you able to help them?' 'Have you ever fallen in love?' 'Have you ever fallen out of love?' 'Do you think that falls/accidents happen for a reason or are just coincidence?'"

"We took Danceworks' and the seniors' responses to these questions, organized them into cohesive groups of thematic content and used the text throughout the show to inspire ideas for dance-making," she adds.

The results of the collaboration will be embodied onstage by Danceworks' outstanding roster of artists, most of who trained at the renowned UW-Milwaukee's Peck School of the Arts and will bring a diverse background of disciplines to the piece.

To give you the flavor of the show, here is an excerpt from Free Falling, a story by the seniors of the day care: "If I were them, I'd be worried. They're on the verge of death. Maybe angels will help them-don't count on it… Someday they'll laugh about it. There will be some crying too, but tomorrow they'll eat steak and eggs and peanuts."

Translating such poetry into performance is an immense challenge, one that Kuepper relishes. "As a choreographer, it is my privilege and responsibility to take the far-reaching responses to this question and bring them to light in a way that honors the individual experience but also draws out a common thread that is meaningful to us all."

The Wide Sky is Falling will be performed April 24-26 at Danceworks Studio Theatre, 1661 N. Water St.

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