St. Paul, MN — St. Paul Public Library
February 2-3, 1988.
Original score composed for the site by George Shears.
Dancers: Kitsy Olson, Georgia Corner, Su Smallen, Kay Tani, Bernadette Knaeble, Judith Howard, and Rebecca Frost.
I loved the simultaneous occurrence in February 1988 of the full moon falling on Candlemas/Groundhog’s Day, and all during the St. Paul Winter Carnival. To celebrate the middle of winter in Minnesota, as the Carnival does, I wanted its familiar tokens: movement in darkness, figures inside windows, dancers illuminated by different kinds of lighting.
For a location, the middle of the Carnival, in Rice Park, was obvious, and I had two possibilities for a “stage”. The Ordway Theater proved too visually and administratively complicated, while the St. Paul Public Library staff embraced dancing in their windows after closing hours.
For lighting, first came candles as the obvious choice, given the date was Candlemas (halfway between the winter solstice and spring equinox). Second, the library’s in situ fluorescent overhead bulbs backlit the dancers to amazing effect. Christmas tree lights, the third choice, when sewn into black unitards, mimicked the same lights on the trees in Rice Park. A fourth lighting was created by traffic control wands.
The Setting and Music
Seven windows in the center of the building on the second floor became the performance space for the seven dancers. So that the audience did not freeze (temperature at the performance -13F!!), we designed a short dance for which my colleague George Shears composed a magical nine-minute piece. His winter-like crystal music has passages featuring seven chords, giving me moments for a progressive switching on of seven lights.
The dancers did a graceful and talented moving in a very constricting plane in the window. They had only a narrow ledge 11 inches wide, five feet off of the floor. All forward movement of legs and arms was barred by the window in front of them.
Finally, a bow of thanks to the theater mistress, Sydney Rice (no relation to Rice Park). She ensured the correct cueing of the fluorescent lights, the supply of electricity via extension cords, and the supply of candles and hand-held lighters.