Wild Space at Washington Park
May 24, 2022 | Topics: featured artist
By Eddee Daniel
Olmsted-designed lawns sweep down the pastoral hillside, meeting the calm water of the lagoon. Reflected in its water is a frothy tapestry of clouds in deepening blues and grays, edged with the golden glow of the setting sun. A pair of geese guides their brood of goslings across the mirrored surface. The stage is set!
Wild Space has come to Washington Park. The audience is ready, too—although to the uninitiated it looks more like a large garden party of people milling about on the lawn behind the park’s historic Bandshell. Those unfamiliar with this innovative dance troupe might be wondering why we aren’t making our way to the seating in front of it. Then someone hands you a map that shows how the dancers and audience together will move from place to place along Olmsted’s pathways, using the park’s carefully conceived variations in terrain as changing sets.
The show begins as the dancers slowly emerge from the forest and gather in a clearing under an enormous tree. The dance proceeds from a newly installed wetland boardwalk, along Olmsted’s historic lakeside promenade, to the backside of the Bandshell, under a canopy of trees, across an arched stone bridge onto a Picturesque island overlooking the Urban Ecology Center across the water. While each segment is a discrete, titled dance (as indicated in photo captions), taken together the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Just as Olmsted studiously concocted the park’s varied spaces to seamlessly meld the natural with the designed, the dance combines the choreographed and rehearsed moves of the dancers with the casual, random shuffling of the audience until you might begin to wonder just where one begins and the other leaves off. All the world’s a stage and all of us are players (to paraphrase the Bard).
Wild Space Dance Company has become famous for adventurous site-specific performances like this one, which was created in partnership with the Urban Ecology Center, Milwaukee County Parks, and Olmsted 200 (a nationwide organization devoted to celebrating the work and legacy of Frederick Law Olmsted on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of his birth). The guest choreographers for this performance were Alisha Jihn and Tisiphani Mayfield. The title of the program was InSite: Dances for Washington Park.
To learn more about Wild Space Dance Company and upcoming performances go to their website.
To learn more about Washington Park go to our Find-a-Park page.
Milwaukee County Parks and Urban Ecology Center are project partners of A Wealth of Nature. Eddee Daniel is a board member of Preserve Our Parks.