Is Debra Loewen selling out?
Wild Space Dance Company in "Luscious."
Photo by Matt Schwenke
At this weekend’s performance of her Wild Space Dance Company, she and her company dance the praises of chocolate. It’s sexy, intoxicating, seductive. I wouldn’t be surprised to see video clips show up on a commercial for Lindt or Dove Bars soon.
But of course, Loewen has much more on her mind than selling candy. In “Chocolate Haze,” the final segment of Wild Space’s latest performance (appropriately called Luscious), a sextet of women start in costume designer Liz Fransee’s clingy red velvet cocktail dresses. They preen, contorting themselves into “pinup” poses, and then follow the gentle orders of an ersatz charm-school instructor cum dominatrix, who asks them to place certain body parts against the back wall. There is bright red lipstick, more poses in mink stoles, a gleeful solo built around the kind of ecstatic “I won!” contortions you might see on The Price Is Right, and an introspective monolog about the joys of combing your hair exactly right.
But it’s when the dancers change to Franzee’s other costumes that things get seriously decadent. Simple, loose-fitting shifts of dark brown velvet make every gesture send slow ripples through the fabric. As if overcome by the wealth of indulgence onstage, the dancers take turns swooning, falling and catching each other.
“Fevered Sleep” is just as luxurious. Instead of fainting spells, the signature movement is a journey through a catalog of recumbent poses, reminiscent of the idealized “odalisques” of art history. The music, an electronic score played live by Tim Russell, processes vocalizations, breathing and other natural sounds into a rich tapestry. The dancers, in flowing white, seemed to rise from being the objects of the gaze – the painters and ours – and express their own sensuality through movement. Until the final image, when one dancer returned to the pose while another hovered over her, ready to capture the moment for eternity.
The program also included three works on a smaller scale. Jade Jablonski captured the mood of the late-'60s Euro-jet-set ballad “Where Do You Go To (My Lovely),” sporting a dress and coat of yet more velvet. Laura Murphy and Amanda Schoofs danced and sung an improvised duet (“improvisational structure” by Loewen) that created its own vocal soundscape – sung lines in full-throated vibrato, chittery whispers, glottal screams – to accompany an intimate movement duet in which the pair seldom separated. And Mauriah Kraker beautifully danced a Wild Space favorite, “In This Condition.” A demanding piece set first to the language of Lydia Davis and then Mozart, Kraker showed how movement could be luscious merely in the relaxed extension of a gesture, and in the pure, indulgent absorption one felt in the melding of word, music and movement.