This weekend the Center For the Art’s Breaking Ground Dance Series will play host to an outpouring of ecstasy and tension, both spiritual and choreographic. Minneapolis choreographer Morgan Thorson & Company are presenting Thorson’s most recent and highly acclaimed work, “Heaven.” First performed at Performance Space 122 in New York City, the work is brought to Wesleyan in collaboration with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program.
Thorson, a noted choreographer who has won numerous awards, was recently named a 2009 fellow at the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography, as well as receiving a McKnight Foundation Fellowship. A year ago, the Minneapolis-St. Paul City Pages named her the “Best Choreographer of 2008.” She is a less established—or, perhaps, more independent—artist than Stephen Petronio, whose company visited the University in September. Thorson works mostly independently and by commission, and her pieces have been presented in venues as far-flung as Seoul, London, and Yarislovl, Russia.
According to CFA Director Pam Tatge’s CFA blog, Thorson told Tatge that she wanted “to communicate my devotion to space.”
“The presence of various body types is very important. I purposely wanted to blend groups of variously gendered people—not to just convey the power of drag (creating your own gender the way you want to), but to approach an all new manifestation of gender identity, a roving, third gender. We modeled this idea after angelic shape-shifters, which often play an important role in the Bible,” Thorson said.
Certainly nothing in “Heaven” looks like it would quite fit with the world we are familiar with. The entire stage is bathed in bright white light. As the piece begins the performers shuffle slowly around the space, heads bowed and feet dragging. They eventually break into a sort of communal dance or ritual, with the lights behind them tinting the stage with blue, peach, or green. “Heaven” is accompanied by the well-known slow core band Low, whose sounds have been described as “angelic, wordless plainsong” by Roslyn Sulcas of the New York Times. The communal singing at the end of the piece, which Thorson says “elevates ‘Heaven’ beyond a physical presence,” seems an appropriate way to end a piece so intimately tied to its own live music.
“Heaven” hasn’t received the buzz that Petronio’s “I Drink the Air Before Me” did, nor have its reviews been as completely positive, but as Village Voice reporter Deborah Jowitt writes, “Perfection? Who cares? Heaven is the journey.”