Withers Looks Up for Inspiration

By Jackson, George | Dance Magazine, May 2001 | Go to article overview

Withers Looks Up for Inspiration


Jackson, George, Dance Magazine


MAIDA WITHERS DANCE CONSTRUCTION COMPANY WITH THE GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY DANCERS LISNER AUDITORIUM WASHINGTON, D.C. FEBRUARY 15-16, 2001

One reason Maida Withers just won a "Pola" (D.C.'s dance award, named after the late Pola Nirenska) for outstanding contribution to dance is that Withers has a Weltanschauung. The German term for "world view" seems apt, because hers is not just a point of view but a weighty world perspective. She believes that the mechanical and the natural belong to each other and must be a part of art. Over the years, Withers's dance works have involved lasers and computers, deserts and skies, and dozens of other inventions and environments. She celebrates them, uses them, and sometimes reuses them in new ways: This choreographer is committed to being on the forefront.

Withers also loves working on a big scale. Her latest production, Aurora/2001: Dance of the Auroras--Fire in the Sky, is about the northern lights, the aurora borealis. This phenomenon was recreated onstage by an international set of collaborators. Brazilian cyber-artist Tania Fraga created computer-generated auroras with video editor David Liban; the piece also featured set and light design by Michael Stepowany, photos and graphics by Adam Peiperl, and hand-painted costuming by Claudette Lopez. The music--which imitates the solar wind, magnetic storms, and melancholy earth sounds--came from Norwegian composer Oystein Sevag and was played by that country's Global House Band 2001. Dance soloists Iwona Olszowska and Sasha Kukin came from Poland and Russia, respectively. Rehearsals for Aurora were held partly in Norway and partly in Washington, D.C. As it turned out, there weren't too many cooks. All components functioned smoothly and their effects merged as intended. Withers is a wizard at making opera-house concepts happen on an academic budget.

In the first part of Aurora, which is about the sun, a modest curtain hung alone at stage center. …

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