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Food of the Gods

Wild Space Premieres Delicious

Feb. 13, 2012
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"So many meals, so much meaning!" declared a food expert in one of the scintillating voiceover's that peppered the luscious score assembled by choreographer Debra Loewen for Delicious, the new Wild Space Dance Company performance about the power of food. This extravagant, sensual seventy minute non-stop dance-theatre-cooking program had its premiere at the Milwaukee Rep's Stiemke Theatre last weekend, the latest course in a 25th Anniversary banquet by the company and its influential founder.

Early in the show, dancer Liz Herbst Fransee held a fat bunch of grapes above the heads of five women dancers who, one by one, plucked off the lowest with their lips and teeth and savored them.  Grapes belong to Dionysus, god of destruction and creation, murderous intoxication and the joy of wine.  This scene followed passages representing food as both the consummate physical satisfaction and a potentially lethal poison. After relishing the grape course, I slipped into Loewen's tangy rabbit hole and stopped taking notes. If words could express everything, we wouldn't need dance.  This was a show to gobble up, not pick apart.

Later, Fransee lightly caressed a bright red phallus-shaped pepper with her fingertips while a voiceover admonished us to banish "guilt" from any sentence that includes "food" or "pleasure."  In another lovely passage, the seasoned cast of 10 women, standing front to back like sardines in Jan Kellogg's gorgeous light, carefully arranged their own and one another's bodies into new positions, then ate from a platter of beautifully arranged hors d'oeuvres.  This scene was about "presentation" in art and food, about beauty and form, but also about kindness, thoughtfulness, generosity and, of course, that other great god, Eros.

Those appetizers were created by Chef Jennifer Goetzinger who cooked behind a table in an upstage corner through much of the performance.  Her unselfconscious movements as she stirred or sprinkled spices became, in this context, a dance.  The lucky audience members seated close enough were served fresh strawberries filled by Goetzinger with a mixture of sweet cream and hot wasabi.  The contrast in tastes was shocking.

Loewen's choreography was similarly stuffed with Dionysian opposites. The dancing that accompanied the voice of Julia Childs' explaining how to roast a milk-fed baby pig, or a song about a boy named Tuna Fish, revealed the terror behind the comedy.  In the exhilarating finale, as spaghetti and slippery vegetables flew from their plates to cover the dance floor, the women reveled on the edge of catastrophe.

Photo by Matt Schwenke


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