It is a sign of depth and soul when a performance haunts your dreams. The journey that Wild Heart Dance and Kendall Perry Music took their audience on did not end when the lights dimmed on the performers, but rather continued, carried in the minds of the viewers, long after the denouement. The Last Land Before Sky: Where We Meet the Edge took place on March 2, 3, and 4, 2018 at the Dairy Arts Center in Boulder and transported the viewer to a world in which time stood still. Paradoxically, Last Land Before Sky stood directly upon the passage of time, evolution, and transformation as thematic constructs.
The sound of the fog machine came first, and with it, a heightened sense of anticipation. Movement became visible as the fog cleared, and an animalistic, yet uniform herd of beings materialized. This first glimpse of the dancers ended in a powerful, yet fluid solo performed by Amanda Leise. Upon their return, the other four dancers carried staffs, which were used throughout the performance to both create and assist movement. Props have many roles in dance, whether it be to help tell a story, to add a comedic element, or to enhance the creativity of the performance. More often than not, props remain an underutilized element in dance in that the full potential of the prop is not always realized. This was certainly not the case with the Wild Heart Dancers and their staffs. The staffs were not only used for their original purpose, they were a means of locomotion, acted as percussive instruments, and even assisted with imagery.
Earth Making Sound, the first section of the performance was rhythmic and patterned, with a tribal feel. If the earth and the trees and the roots had a dance, this would be it. The dancers then took the audience on A Voyage of Blue with cannoned and directionally opposing movements that created visual waves. The third section, Feet Finding Stardust, found the dancers connecting and disconnecting, lifting and sweeping and climbing. The lighting, designed by Craig Bushman, evoked the soft glow of embers and turned the floor into an inky black night sky with the dancers gliding above. Life Ablaze began with a solo that choreographer Kat Gurley performed with the intensity and fervor felt by an artist embodying her own creation and her truth within it. Her facial expressions stood out in this aspect and left the desire for all the dancers to express in this way. The last section, The Edge, felt reverent and calm in contrast to the rhythmic and percussive section prior to it. Though it was meant to signify the end of the transformative journey, there was still a beautiful hopefulness in it.
The costumes, designed by Kat Gurley, were particularly well considered and though they did not physically change throughout the performance, they seemed to adapt to the element at hand. At first, the costumes took on the feel of dead leaves, then the ripples of water, and finally the ashes of a fire. The sound score by Kendall Perry Music also helped bring the imagery of this transformative journey to life. Wind and water could be heard, as well as seen on stage, with one sense informing the other.
Though the performance itself, with the music, costuming and dancers as they were, could have stood on its own without any additional explanation, and still affected the viewers at their core, the program notes were a smart and effective addition. Each section was given a paragraph of description, a work of art in its own right.
The dancers of Wild Heart Dance were all captivating and committed, whether moving as one or performing a solo. It was evident that the power and beauty they each lent to the performance was on purpose and genuine. It was an honor to witness this group of artists bring Last Land Before Sky to life.
Find more about Wild Heart Dance at www.wildheartdance.com and look for the upcoming presentation of Voyage into the Blue on April 27, 28, and 29.
Jessica Riggs is the Director of Life/Art Dance Ensemble, a 501(c)3 registered nonprofit dance company that focuses on artistic collaboration and making the arts more accessible. She possesses Bachelors degrees in both Dance and Dietetics from Colorado State University, as well as a Masters degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition. In addition to Life/Art’s productions, Jessica’s choreography has been featured in Ascential Dance Theatre’s Assemblage, Transition Theater’s Kali Creates Fate, GAMMA-UT’s New Music Festival at the University of Texas, the Dairy Arts Center’s Women in Classical Music Soundscape concert, and in Prague at the American Music Festival in collaboration with Stratus Chamber Orchestra. Jessica also dances with Cindy Brandle Dance Company and the Lost Walks Band and teaches dance classes at the Lakewood Cultural Center.