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So many ways to be wicked…
The FWDC collaborates with area choreographers for Eaten Alive: 7 Deadly Sins
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
A quiz: if you were a dancer, what would you think would be the deadliest of the Seven Deadly Sins?
According to Liz Monnier, artistic director of The Fort Wayne Dance Collective, it’s Sloth. “No one really wanted Sloth,” she says. “Dancers like to do exciting things.”
For Eaten Alive: 7 Deadly Sins, seven area choreographers were tasked with creating a dance piece that tackles one of the seven deadlies — greed, lust, envy, sloth, gluttony, wrath and pride.
Produced under the auspices of the Fort Wayne Dance Collective, Eaten Alive: 7 Deadly Sins features over 40 local dancers. “Every choreographer had total freedom to deal with their sin however they wanted to,” says Monnier. “We met this summer and talked about how we wanted to present this. We decided we would all have zombie faces and crazy hair. Other than that, everything else was pretty much up to individual choreographers.”
In addition to the individual pieces on the different sins, a group of dancers introduces the sins in between pieces, serving as a sort of Greek chorus, plus offering a little comic relief and logistical help when needed.
The results are diverse and creative. Sloth fell to choreographer Holly Dodane — one of the originators of the show — who portrays the patron sin of inertia through a variety of addictions. Christina Root’s Lust takes place in a mental institution and uses Bjork as its soundtrack, while Kara Wilson takes on Gluttony. “When we think about gluttony, we think about over eating,” Monnier says. “It’s danced by four dancers from Northside high school. Kara used the idea of Cinderella and the ugly step sisters dancing to Chopin and wearing prom dresses, and the food is peaches. It’s kind of an unusual way to look at gluttony.”
Britney Tun, an instructor at the Steppin’ Out Studio of Dance, creates dangerous relationships to illustrate Wrath.
The instigators of Eaten Alive were local dancers/choreographers Holly Dodane and Alison Gerardot. Gerardot, who did Purely Dance at IPFW, says they were interested in creating a dance performance around a theme. They approached Monnier, who really liked the idea. “I think it’s a really great collaborative effort,” says Gerardot, who has been dancing for over 20 years. “We were able to bring in seven different choreographers from dance studios from different areas around Fort Wayne. It’s a large/small dance community in the area. There are a lot of dance studios in Fort Wayne and the surrounding area, but we all kind of know each other.”
Gerardot’s chose Pride as her sin, and admits that initially, she was stumped. “I had picked up a piece of music, and I went home but I could do nothing with it,” she says. “I was just stuck.”
But a new CD by singer-songwriter Imogen Heap — one of Gerardot’s favorite artists — provided the inspiration. “This song ‘Little Bird’ talks about having well-manicured lawns and then, in another line, talks about rats in the kitchen,” Gerardot says.
It gave her the image of really beautiful people and really beautiful homes, but behind closed doors, things are messy. The “what will the neighbors think?” scenario that Gerardot settled on is a far cry from her original concept. “It’s less ‘Halloween scary’ and a little more serious real life,” she says.
Elizabeth Mikautadze drew on her experience as a professional dancer in New York as inspiration for Envy, where a quartet of dancers compete with each other in a piece set to Astor Piazzolla’s “Four for Tango.” Mikautadze, who recently founded the Mikautadaze Dance Theatre in Fort Wayne, says that for her piece, she wasn’t thinking about a storyline but rather a physical embodiment of Envy. “I was wondering, ‘if envy were to become a person, how would envy move?’” she says.
“The tango is kind of seductive dance music,” Mikautadaze adds. “That can bring out a snake-like character. Within that movement, the dancers are very often seducing the other three. Plus, in ‘Four For Tango,’ there are a lot of shrieking notes, so it’s kind of spooky, kind of scary in a fingernails-on-the-chalkboard way.”
But in the process from conceptualization to realization, all the pieces in Eaten Alive seem to have transcended their original “Halloween theme” roots. The overall tone is somewhat serious. “I know a couple people get killed in Wrath,” Monnier says. “I believe someone dies in Sloth. The end of Envy is kind of wicked. Pride is kind of sad… There’s some heaviness, but I think the group introducing the sins keeps things light.”
Monnier’s piece on Greed seems especially timely, and she says it really struck a chord with the dancers when they first began developing it. “The first thing we did was I put a big sheet of paper on the wall and said ‘write down anything that comes to mind when you think about greed’,” she says. “Of course, there was a lot of things about corporate America and downsizing individuals to save money… then I said ‘how does it make you feel?’ When we stepped away from the wall, the energy in the room was so heavy and thick. So we used that contrast, that greed makes you feel really bad.”
Monnier used the song “Moon River” as her soundtrack. “I don’t know what the heck that was about,” she laughs. “I wanted something again that would sort of contrast what was going on in the dance. ‘Moon River’ is sort of a sweet little song, and what’s going on in the dance is not so sweet.”
“It’s been interesting learning about these sins,” Monnier continues. “Some of them overlap. When we were first talking, we were asking ‘when do these feelings or thoughts become sins? When does wanting to make a living and make money become greed?’ I think it’s all about balance.”
The Fort Wayne Dance Collective presents Eaten Alive: 7 Deadly Sins
437 E. Berry St.
Saturday, October 31 at 7 pm
Sunday, November 1 at 2 pm
Tickets for the studio performances are $12 adults and $8 for seniors and students with school ID. Call (260) 424-6574 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for ordering information, or visit www.fwdc.org/7sins.
This program is not intended for children below high-school age.
Further previews of the dance will be presented during Fright Night in McCullough Park. This event on Oct. 24 is free and open to the public, as performances are held as ARCH’s Haunted Bus Tours stop at the park.