ARCOS Dance Announces Original Multimedia Production ‘The Warriors: A Love Story’

Braden Anderson | - January 9, 2013

A New Collaboration with The Center for Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe

From an ARCOS Dance press release...

ARCOS Dance announces a new, original, evening-length multimedia performance in collaboration with the Center for Contemporary Arts (CCA), February 8-10 and 15-17, 2013 in Santa Fe. "The Warriors: A Love Story"  (now accepting donations to increase the scope of the project, scroll to the bottom for full details) is inspired by the lives of J. Glenn Gray, a Colorado philosophy professor and WWII veteran, and his wife Ursula, a German survivor of the 1945 Allied bombing of Dresden, Germany, whose passion throughout her life was dance.

J. Glenn's book on modern warfare, "The Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle" (1959), remains relevant today; this ARCOS production explores timeless concepts of human potential for acts of profound destruction and creation in times of war.  Through the personal yet universal theme of family legacy, "The Warriors" presents audiences with thought-provoking instances of beauty and horror, seeking to honor those affected by war and those acting to end it. The signature visceral, athletic choreography of ARCOS Artistic Director Curtis Uhlemann and Associate Artistic Director Erica Gionfriddo provides dynamic interaction with original script, musi, and video by ARCOS Multimedia Director Eliot Gray Fisher.  Through "The Warriors," Fisher, the grandson of J. Glenn and Ursula, chronicles his search to understand his grandparents’ complex history and the importance of its memory.

"The Warriors" focuses on a mix of art forms to tell its story: dance, theater, set, lighting design, video, and music each hold an important presence.  “We are attempting to create a world-class production through the many facets of multimedia and stage theater," said Uhlemann. "We not only intend to tell a love story through the lives of three different individuals and their connections as creators, thinkers, and kin, but also hope to evoke an emotional response from the audience through use of vintage media footage, war propaganda, live theatrical action, and more,.

"We are especially interested in the elements of recorded video, audio, and live performance working together to complement and enrich one another, allowing each medium to appear to the audience in a fresh, new way," said Fisher.

Inspired by the CCA’s Muñoz-Waxman Gallery as a non-traditional theater space, and ARCOS's intention to tour the show at a variety of venues, minimalist design interacts with video and still imagery to continually transform the set. Of the performance, CCA Curator Erin Elder said, “I'm really excited about hosting ARCOS's new production.  We’re interested in presenting new, genre-bending work that addresses the contemporary human condition. ‘The Warriors’ is all of this and more. ARCOS is on the leading edge of experimental performance in Santa Fe—they're talented, smart and put on a great show. We are thrilled about this new project.” 

The staging is primarily painted white, adorned with ever-changing projections to provide photorealistic environments, giving each component of the set multiple identities, lives and appearances to fit different scenes.  The directors will also make use of the CCA Gallery’s light brick walls and the opportunity the space provides to present pockets of sets, by varying performers’ distance from the audience and “focusing on movement, level, and dimensionality of staging,” added Gionfriddo.

An expansion from ARCOS’s 2012 multimedia production ‘500 Words or Less,’ Uhlemann said this year’s show is “a heavy evolutionary shift from last year; we're taking on an extremely serious subject by setting ‘The Warriors’ in the the World War II era and addressing the bombing of Dresden. Because there are now very few living survivors left—a generation of men and women whose voices are almost extinct—we feel that time has ignited an additional layer of importance in telling their stories and honoring their memories. Working with Eliot as the writer also gives a unique opportunity to imbue a universal, historical story with a sense of the personal.” 

The 68th anniversary of the bombing of Dresden occurs February 13th-15th, 2013, during the run of"'The Warriors" at the CCA.  ARCOS directors hope not only to inspire awareness and suggest connections to contemporary military campaigns, but also to encourage consideration of past and present indistinctions between civilians and combatants (which concerned J. Glenn in his lifetime).

Dancers will explore concepts of love and war, passion and disgust, moving at close quarters with the audience and interacting with video projections.  Vignettes include a dance inspired by a passage from J. Glenn’s real-life diary, in which he finds families taking refuge in a cave.  Another sequence culminates in a cellar with bombing above, set to the sound of an air raid siren.  The finale features Uhlemann and Gionfriddo in a gentle duet.  “This is a darker multimedia show than we created last year, but, as with life in general, there is also lightness and beauty,” said Gionfriddo.  

Live musicians, including Fisher, appear throughout the performance along with recorded sound design. The storyline follows Fisher as the composer of a piece of music for his grandmother’s memorial service, transporting the audience through the lives of his grandparents and their generation. Addressing viewers as fellow mourners, "The Warriors" touches on how all people are affected by the ripples of warfare. Gionfriddo explained:  “The theme is universal in that almost everyone will be able to relate to the loss of a loved one or someone close to them, including the loss of Ursula, the woman they have gotten to know through the course of the show.” 

Drawn from Fisher’s own attempt to understand his grandparents’ history, "The Warriors" is a look at how the war shaped their lives during and after World War II, and as a result, Fisher’s own life in the present day.  “The plot is a marriage of words and ideas, mind, body and heart; it is about the reconciliation and radical anti-war act of falling in love—of taking traumatic experiences, observations, and questioning in wartime to make and spread beauty in the world, leading eventually to peace," said Fisher.  "What I take away from my grandparents' story is how small acts everyday, the ways we experience the world and interact with others and the environment around us, are ways to seek an end to violence on a larger scale.”

This project is receiving funding from a USA Projects campaign, a prestigious microphilanthropy donation platform and a program of the nonprofit grantmaking and advocacy organization United States Artists.  The first funding site dedicated exclusively to supporting accomplished artists working in the United States, USA Projects has a funding success rate of more than 75% and has helped artists from thirty states, including New Mexico, realize creative projects with contributions from more than 14,000 individual donors.

All artists seeking funding via USA Projects have been previously recognized for the caliber and impact of their work as among the most innovative happening today; eligibility is open only to honorees and grantees from prominent international, national, and regional arts organizations and fellowships.  ‘The Warriors’ has also received a grant from New Mexico Artists Match Fund. 

ARCOS Dance is a contemporary professional dance company based in Santa Fe. ARCOS combines cutting-edge choreography with innovative music, video, and theater, and creates intimate collaborations with exceptional artists in a variety of media. The company is known for breaking boundaries between artistic disciplines and innovating distinct new forms of performance art.  Most recently, the company was a finalist in the 15th Annual Choreography Festival at McCallum Theatre Institute, and performed in November 2012 in Palm Desert, California.  Tour locations for the 2012-2013 season include: Kentucky, Virginia, Texas, California, broader New Mexico and Europe.