Danceworks’ ‘Writing About Music/Dancing About Architecture’ Indescribable in Other Terms
“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture,” goes an exasperated saying of uncertain origin, arguing that each art form speaks an exclusive language. The Danceworks Performance Company concert at Next Act Theatre last weekend, Writing About Music/Dancing About Architecture, offered dances about writing, architecture and music; and by foregrounding inspirations and processes, the choreographers engaged the audience in questions about the nature of dance. What is and isn’t it? What happens if we move like this? What if we wait another second? Why move? Beautifully executed, the show built a strong bond. The closer we came to understanding just what we were witnessing, the more dance seemed indescribable in other terms.
Choreographer Andrew Zanoni had black-clad performers walking through the space well before the house lights dimmed. The very definition of “pedestrian movement,” they become part of an abstract cityscape, passers-by traveling before and behind hanging panels, mirrored to reflect them and the audience. Four differently costumed dancers emerged, their patterned movements far more complex and specialized.
A scene change followed that had almost equal value. Joelle Worm engaged the audience in choosing a chair for her dance while a stagehand climbed a ladder to remove the mirrored panels. His performance was applauded.
Worm then improvised a series of dances to pre-recorded prompts by writer Jason Powell, instructions she was hearing for the first time. Powell spoke as if in dialogue. Worm improvised her half of their conversation while creating movement from verbal directions like “flee volcanic lava” or “imitate a glacier.” Her performance transcended these cues as she personalized each unrehearsed moment.
A celebration of friendship inaugurated a series of six radically different dances inspired by poems written by friends and the dancers themselves. Christal Wagner was the primary choreographer. The poems appeared as projections or were spoken by dancers whose movements embodied them. For the final two, the excellent musicians of UW-Milwaukee’s Leonard Sorkin Institute of Chamber Music provided piano, violin and cello accompaniment, dramatically heightening our awareness of the relationship of movement and music.
Director Dani Kuepper brought the evening to a soaring climax. While the musicians performed Schubert’s impassioned Piano Trio No. 1 in B-flat Major, company dancers worked from instructions that had nothing to do with Schubert but were timed to his phrases. Then Kuepper had the audience create seated choreography to Schubert and three volunteers joined the full company onstage for an inspiring finale.