3rd Law Dance/Theater’s Upcoming “Adaptation: A New Love Story”
A preview by Gwen Gray
How does a performing arts organization tackle the heaviest, most existential topics of our times, do them justice, and entertain and delight audiences along the way? 3rd Law Dance/Theater seems to have the recipe. They layer the deepest level of reflection, observation and meaning into the choreography, music, set, costumes, projections, and lighting — adding levity, humor and care at every stage.
It’s an intensive, studious, and constantly changing approach and one that artistic director Katie Elliott and collaborator Paul Fowler seem to relish, even as they joke that audiences may only ever realize a sliver of what goes on behind the scenes.
But the truth is their nuanced messages do come through, loud and clear. That’s part of the draw for the company’s loyal following. Their upcoming show “Adaptation: A New Love Story” is set to prove that again November 18 and 19, 2022, at 7:30pm and November 20, 2022, at 3pm, at the Dairy Arts Center in Boulder. Ticket prices vary, except that Sunday’s matinee tickets are just $16 for everyone.
The making of this concert has itself been an adaptation. It was set to premiere in 2020, until the Covid-19 pandemic derailed the scheduled performance. While it was painful to shelve the project for a couple of years, Elliott notes that revisiting an already-formed production has given her a satisfying second chance to reexamine and evolve the choreography around emerging ideas and a new cast of dancers.
“Adaptation,” at its heart, explores our modern obsession with convenience and its role in the destruction of our planet — and how, as we leave our conveniences and obsessions behind, we can fall in love with something else. In shaping the framework for the show, Elliott and Fowler looked to nature itself.
“We see bees in Canada choosing to build their hives with plastic, even when natural materials are available,” says Elliott. Fowler adds another example, “We thought about mycelium as a notion for a network of shared resources.” The vast biodiversity of nature as a necessary quality for survival was an additional source of inspiration.
In a series of four movements, each with a vocal feature scored by Fowler and performed by vocalist Amy Maples and by Fowler himself, the show explores several human challenges contributing to climate change. Habits of convenience, political and social forces, and power each are addressed in the first three movements and resolved through a nature-inspired adaptation. The fourth and final piece is an “apology to the planet.”
For “Plastic,” first on the program, Elliott hired costume designer Jane Glotzer to create garments from plastic berry clamshells, plastic bags, shower curtains and other discarded plastic materials. Between the costumes and the musical selection—“Mr. Cellphone” from the musical “Chicago”—the commentary is at once droll and poignant.
The story then goes on to explore the trouble with society’s increasingly siloed beliefs that have emerged from forces such as social media, religion and politics — each of which often offer a sense of human comfort yet result in a level of destruction to societal unity. On set will be eight metal structures that the dancers will assemble into a monolith (and then disassemble) to a Hebrew song by contemporary composer Stephen Wright. The dancers were given agency, as is common with 3rd Law’s productions, to choreograph their own gestures, this time around foreign languages and letters of the alphabets in those languages.
In the third movement, “Power Grid,” the theme of power called for Fowler to select Radiohead song “All I Need” for the score. Against a backdrop of projected imagery of oil pumps and electric grids, viewers will watch as a dancer is wrapped in cable as she attempts interactions with her fellow dancers. A frontal orientation of the choreography is designed to convey aggression and power to the audience.
The final movement’s musical selection is Franz Schubert’s “Du bist die Ruh,” whose lyrics, “You are repose / and gentle peace / You are longing / and what stills it,” are a veritable love letter (in this case, to Earth). Fowler explains, “It’s impossibly slow, but it has to be. It does all those things that music does for ideas that we have a hard time putting into words. It’s about resting in and resting with. It’s about togetherness and aspiration. A commitment to love as deeply as possible and refocus one’s attention to what’s pressing: in this case, the planet.”
Elliott gets quiet as she explains that this moment is a reckoning, a peaceful moment in which to say, in her words, “I’m sorry I didn’t get it. I’m a little late. I want to still love you.” That’s an idea each of us can relate to as we now personally confront the urgent truths about our warming and suffering planet—and a meaningful way to leave the audience with an earnest hope for our own societal and individual adaptations.
How to Attend
Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, CO
Friday and Saturday, November 18-19 at 7:30pm
Sunday, November 20, 2022 at 3pm
$24 senior/student/youth, $33 adult
$16 matinee on Sunday