Lauren Edson, and husband Andrew Stensaas, will unveil their dance/music collaboration, "Shatter on the Rocks or Cover Your Ears," at the Egyptian Theatre Sept. 28.
When Edmond Dantes vocalist Andrew Stensaas asked then-Trey McIntyre dancer Lauren Edson to be his wife, he did it in grand fashion, taking a knee at the foot of Mt. Olympus—home of the 12 gods of the Greek pantheon about 50 miles from Thessaloniki, Greece, where TMP was set to perform.
Due to TMP’s fast-paced tour schedule, Stensaas had to plan his proposition perfectly: from his arrival at Thessaloniki International Airport; to waiting for Edson to emerge from her hotel at a coffee shop across the street; to renting a car and making the drive to the base of Greece’s highest peak to pop the question; to returning her, one engagement ring the heavier, to TMP’s quarters.
“If there’s one thing that has been on Lauren’s and my side,” said Stensaas, “it’s timing.”
Chronos has again taken up the couple’s cause, this time in their collaboration on the lauren edson + dancers
performance Saturday, Sept. 28, at the Egyptian Theatre. The event kicks off a national tour that will include performances at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas; Dance Gallery Festival in New York; and, finally, Dance Under the Stars Choreography Competition in Palm Desert, Calif.
At the Egyptian, they will present two award-winning dances—“Two Against One,” which took the grand prize at the Dance Under the Stars Choreography Competition, and “I Hit the Ground,” winner of the Audience Favorite Award at Milwaukee Ballet’s 2013 Genesis International Choreographic Competition—and the husband and wife’s first collaboration, which is set for full presentation at the Dance Gallery Festival in New York, “Shatter on the Rocks or Cover Your Ears.”
Edson and Stensaas had long talked about collaborating on a dance piece, but in June, the two finally got their chance to work together on “Shatter.” Though the dance itself is conceptual, the process began with shared inspiration from a favorite movie.
“We started off talking about The Goonies,” Stensaas said.
Like the 1985 Richard Donner classic, the dance seeks to validate the virtues of children, like imagination, open-mindedness and a sense of wonder. But the similarities don’t stop there. Much of the dance takes place on a boat, where a woman (played by Nell Rollins) uses her childlike virtues to wrestle with self-imposed limitations.
Edson herself portrays the antagonist, strengthening the barriers the protagonist has constructed around herself. According to Edson, this antagonist is a living force in everyone, constraining people through fear and inertia.
“I represent this darkness holding her back within her psyche,” Edson said.
The protagonist is not intended to be over-familiar to the audience, Edson added. Though she personifies a psychologically conservative force, Edson emphasized that the character, mirroring the narrative of the dance itself, is open to the audience’s analysis. This is an extension of her own tastes, which, she says, lean toward conceptual musings rather than hand-holding expositions.
“The art I enjoy the most is something I can dig into. We want to give people room to interpret,” she said.
To achieve that end, Edson limited the props used in the dance to a few nylon masks; used dancers to represent the set, including the ship on which the protagonist undergoes her trials; and brought to the choreography her unique kinetic sensibilities—what she calls her “vocabulary of movement.”
“I try to come in with a toolbox,” she said.
Her toolbox is a collection of kinetic phrases that make dance the language through which Edson tells her story.
Edson’s other trick is Stensaas, whose score for “Shatter” has been described by lauren edson + dancers performer Yurek Hansen as “EDM and venetian snares—layers of insanity.” Thrown into the mix are sound effects, including the creaking of ship timbers on rough seas, children’s music and the wind.
“As the music progresses it becomes part of the narrative of the piece,” Stensaas said.
As a member of Edmond Dantes
—along with Ryan Peck—Stensaas describes his musical taste as a combination of indie, soul and big band; but for “Shatter,” he drew on his full repertoire of influences to fulfill the audio and musical demands of Edson’s piece. During rehearsal, the dancers and Stensaas discovered the synchronicity of their media.
“We’re using the music with our shapes and our timing. You can dance to the music, you can dance with the music, you can dance against the music, but the way this has been laid out is, it’s very driven and connected to the voice, which is the music,” said Hansen.
In “Shatter,” he plays one of the antagonist’s male minions. Preparing for that role, he said, has been tremendously difficult because of the technicality of the piece and Edson’s driving dance vocabulary.
“It’s some of the most interesting, unique and extreme work that I’ve done,” said Hansen, who has trained with Edson since both were just starting out as artists.
Particularly it’s her intense style that made “Shatter” such a personal and challenging project. “Any chance to work with her again I’d take,” he said.
Despite the uniqueness of Edson’s work, Stensaas is confident a broader audience will be moved by her choreography—especially in the City of Trees.
Saturday, Sept. 28. 8 p.m. $15. Egyptian Theatre, 700 W. Main St., Boise, 208-345-0454, laurenedson.com.