After 25 years, Danceworks and founding artistic director Sarah Wilbur are still in sync.
Painful. Empowering. Hypersexualized. Infantilizing. Those are the words Sarah Wilbur uses to describe Disclosure Tactics, a dance that shines a spotlight, literally and figuratively, on female bodies and the physical and emotional baggage they bear. She’ll be staging it as part of Women Who Dance, a special Danceworks show celebrating the venerable Milwaukee company’s 25th anniversary season.
Wilbur, Danceworks’ founding artistic director, first mounted Disclosure Tactics in 2012. But it’s hard not to think of the dance in relation to the #MeToo Movement that has been filling airwaves and column inches since late last year, when The New York Times and The New Yorker first reported on the sexual harassment and assault allegations leveled against media mogul Harvey Weinstein.
“I think the comparison is probably inevitable,” Wilbur says, adding that she’s met many women who refuse to dance – often because they feel uncomfortable in their own skin. “There are so many women who can’t speak about what’s happening to them. I worry about the violence happening in places like Milwaukee every day. When I worked at Danceworks I saw it all the time, young girls who had completely retracted into themselves.”
But Wilbur – who left Milwaukee, and Danceworks, in 2007 to pursue advanced degrees in dance practice and research and is currently a research fellow at Brown University – is quick to point out that she doesn’t want the dance to alienate anyone. In fact, she sees it as an entry point into a discussion about how dance can help us think about our bodies, personal autonomy and gender dynamics.
And Danceworks executive director Deborah Farris, who invited Wilbur to stage Disclosure Tactics in Milwaukee so that the former artistic director could perform for a new generation of fans, hopes the show will remind audience members of the art form’s transformative power. “It seemed like a great way to celebrate Danceworks’ 25th birthday – especially when I found out there were potentially 25 women in the piece,” she says.
Danceworks is also hosting a series of pre-show events to thank its supporters for 25 years of patronage. There’ll be a champagne toast Friday night, March 2 (as well as a special talk-back after the performance), a maker’s fair featuring women-owned businesses on Saturday and a Brazilian samba lesson on Sunday. ◆
Go See It: Women Who Dance at Next Act Theatre Mar. 2-3 at 7:30 p.m. and Mar. 4 at 2:30 p.m.