ANN ARBOR DANCE WORKS 2014
How might the arts contribute to our perceptions of our evolving landscapes as we transition towards renewable energy sources? Wind turbines are rapidly transforming our vistas, often a very unsettling development for communities, giving rise to emotional and complex arguments. Inspired by the potential for harnessing wind energy, Into the Wind was premiered on August 22 and 23, 2014 at the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center (MAREC), a prominent site for offshore wind energy research in the Great Lakes. Located on Muskegon Lake, MAREC is part of a 34-acre brownfield site with a layered history. One section of the dance speaks directly to the site’s legacy as the former location of Continental Motors, a factory that made engines for cars and airplanes from 1905-1993 and was the manufacturing heart of Muskegon. The factory was razed in 1993, and the site was designated a SmartZone by the state of Michigan in 2001 with an emphasis on developing renewable energy technology. Across the bay, the 600-foot tower of the BC Cobb coal plant, likely to be shutdown in 2016, dominates the landscape. The probable closing of the coal plant presents new challenges and opportunities for the community. The site captured my imagination, poised as it is between the coal factory and the renewable energy center, with an industrial past still lingering in its soil, a site in transition, inviting new winds. Composer Dave Biedenbender and I interviewed former Continental Motors workers, and their reminiscences form part of the musical score. Another part of the score is based upon wind data gathered by a buoy operated by MAREC to study the potential for offshore wind development in Lake Michigan. The dance contains materials that evoke more abstract notions of wind—as the very breath within us and as an invisible force that can propel bodies through space; the dancers’ breath forms part of the score. Collaborator Keith Taylor’s poem Circle in the Wind comprises the epilogue.Collaborator Sara Adlerstein has been interested in the question of what influences our perceptions of beauty in a landscape, and it was her question that initially led me into the wind. Her painting Schwush inspires the banners that form part of the set, designed by Kasia Mrozewska. Another painting, Apres Midi, by Hughie Lee-Smith, owned by the Muskegon Museum of Art, provides a springboard for the opening solo of the dance, performed by Robin Wilson. Smith’s painting of a solitary woman on an industrial waterfront struck me as being remarkably similar to the Muskegon Lake site. The solo invokes the four directions of the winds, referencing the site’s deeper history as Native American territory. Wind is one of the oldest sources of energy used by humans, and today there are new and rapidly evolving technologies for harnessing its power. The choices are ours to make. Which way is the wind blowing?