Wild Space Dance Company

Paul Karner

As the curtain rose last Friday for Wild Space Dance Company’s presentation of “Never Stand Still,” the audience in Stansbury Theatre looked on in nervous anticipation, waiting for the music to begin. But to the tune of nothing more than the soft scuffle of her feet, a blond-haired dancer emerged from behind a black dress duct-taped to the rear of the stage. The dancer was Debra Loewen, artistic director and founder of Wild Space, and her opening piece set the tone for the rest of the show. As the performance unfolded, the audience was quickly drawn into Wild Space’s abstract world of subtle, unexpected beauty.
The dancers’ breadth of experience and artistry was highlighted by a seemingly spontaneous mixture of delicate improvisation and stunning choreography. The pieces in “Never Stand Still” were influenced by the work of dancer and choreographer Yvonne Rainer. Rainer’s experimental work in the field of dance provided an early framework for the development of choreographic modernism.
The show moved through a number of different moods and settings, seeming to breathe with the changing dynamics of each piece. Notable moments included a quietly gripping solo by company member Daniel Schuchart, and an epic closing number involving a series of compelling choreographic elements set to a chilling orchestral score.
“Never Stand Still” was part of Wild Space’s ongoing artistic residency at Lawrence. Loewen’s involvement with Lawrence stems from a longstanding working relationship with theatre arts professor Tim Troy. The two had worked together in Troy’s pre-Lawrence days, and their connection soon brought Loewen’s expertise to our theatre department.
As guest artists, Loewen’s dancers have conducted workshops and given performances at Lawrence. Wild Space dancers began their artistic residency in 2000, and since then have become an integral part of the theatre department. In addition to teaching classes, Wild Space dancers serve as curricular and choreographic advisers.
Loewen has been inspired by her work here. “The students are always amazing,” she says. “That’s what always impresses me.”
The student dancers at Lawrence have a variety of interest levels. Loewen’s challenge has been to educate them in the ideological fundamentals of dance. That knowledge can be applied to various aspects of the theatre department. During their residency, Wild Space dancers have broadened their scopes of expertise and explored new avenues of presentation.
Loewen describes her experience at Lawrence as a process of “applying the more abstract ideas present in modern dance to a more concrete theatrical setting.” Recently, Loewen choreographed the “Dance of the Forest Sprites” for Lawrence’s production of the Engelbert Humperdinck opera “Hansel and Gretel.”
Troy and Loewen have expressed hope that the Wild Space dancers have provided a foundation for continued growth in dance education at Lawrence. They hope to endow future Lawrentians with an opportunity to pursue an unexpected and previously untapped passion.