Eye on the storm

To Heather Maloy, creating choreography for a dance is a process uniquely individual to each piece. Sometimes an idea for choreography strikes first, followed by a search for an accompanying music track. In this case, inspiration for the company’s new work, Hurricane & other forces of nature came when Maloy was listening to a Godspeed You! Black Emperor soundtrack.

Intrigued by the thought of choreographing a dance about a hurricane, Maloy went to Greg Hammer of the National Climatic Data Center. He loaded her up with reading materials and videos, and Maloy began her research. The result, she says, “really follows the cycle of a hurricane.”

Dancers move lithely across stage, representing the hurricane, as projections of actual hurricanes swirl furiously behind them, complements of projections designer G. Craig Hobbs. Like the climatological event itself, this dance is no walk in the park. There’s no chance for dancers to snatch a quick minute offstage, taking a breath or gulping down water—Maloy has everyone hard at work the entire time.

“It’s very physically demanding,” says Sadie Harris, a dancer in the production.

Originally created for the 21st Century Choreographic Competition in April, Maloy has adapted “Hurricane” for Terpsicorps Theatre of Dance. This performance will be the official unveiling of the award-winning show in Asheville. In addition to “Hurricane,” there will be three other forces of nature to reckon with: “Afternoon of a Faun,” “Couch Potatoes” and “The Second Line.”

Choreographed by Salvatore Aiello, “Afternoon of a Faun” spins the tale of a faun’s (the half-goat/half-man creature from mythology) first encounter with real people. It is no coincidence that this piece is first in the series, as it is a dance of innocence—a portrayal of man’s initial discovery of nature.

Those who have pitched their television sets out the window will get a good laugh from “Couch Potatoes,” a refreshing, comedic take on the television junkie generation that is unable—or uninterested—in forming a connection with the natural world.

Bringing up the rear is “The Second Line,” a name originally coined for the dancers who trail musicians at a New Orleans funeral.

“What’s fascinating about post-Katrina New Orleans, is that the music was the first to come back,” Maloy says. Music has proven to be at the heart of New Orleans and her people. As residents tackle the rebirth of their beautiful city, Maloy uses the piece to address the forces of nature that caused New Orleans’ disaster. “‘The Second Line’ is created as a statement of hope for the future, and like a New Orleans funeral, a celebration of rebirth,” Maloy says.

“In this case,” she adds, “the rebirth is that of mankind’s respect for nature.”

“The Second Line” is particularly close to Maloy’s heart, as it became a tribute to a close friend. The day she started work on the piece, she received word that John Payne, friend, avid supporter of Terpsicorps and owner of the building where the company rehearses, had suffered a stroke. Just as music brought New Orleans residents together, reviving and inspiring them, the unique way Payne viewed art and life inspired Maloy and caused her to dedicate the performance to him.

Her vision for Hurricane & other forces of nature is simple.

“The first step towards changing our negative impact on the planet is awareness,” she says. “I want my audiences to be emotionally moved by something that’s relevant in society today, moved enough for it to open their minds and possibly effect their attitude towards doing something about it.”

This message is one Terpsicorps dancers share with their director. “That’s why we like working with Heather,” Harris says, “we agree with her vision.”

[Viktorija Krulikas is a freelance writer based in Weaverville.]

who: Terpsicorps Theatre of Dance presents Hurricane and other forces of nature
what: Dance performance about the relationship between humans and the natural world
where: Diana Wortham Theatre
when: Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 7 through 9 (8 p.m. $30. www.dwtheatre.com, www.terpsicorps.org or 252-6342)

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