In the blur of movement, it’s easy to forget that as talented as the Terpsichore Modern Dance Company is, these women's day jobs are physicians and lawyers and teachers and mothers.
Their passion for dance takes over come show time, and when you're sitting in the audience or watching a rehearsal, you can’t imagine them doing anything else.
Terpsichore, now in its seventh season, is performing at 7 p.m. on March 3 and 4 at the Babcock Theatre.
The show is titled “Hiraeth,” a Welsh word that means yearning or grieving for lost places in your past. Terpsichore director Ricki Feeley created the production in 11 chapters that tell the story of how women are connected to nature through the moon, the tides and the seasons. As our culture starts to lose that connection, there is longing and a sense of loss.
“It’s about how we find refuge in nature,” Feeley said. “It’s about how women are similar to wolves, with their loyalty and their fierceness and playfulness.”
Feeley grew up in Lewistown where she enjoyed freedom to roam the hills, but she worries that children are losing those opportunities. A new condition, nature deficit disorder, is affecting us because we don't get outside often enough.
During rehearsal on Sunday, Feeley taped a hand-written list of dances on the wall, showing how she grouped them together by theme.
“Some are memories and nostalgia from my childhood. This one is ‘Tree,’ which is about a tree from my childhood. This one is about being in the field with my grandfather. There are dances about love, loss and recovery and how it keeps happening over and over.”
It starts with "Wolves."
A lone dancer curls on the floor in a fetal position. The other dancers move around her, leaping and flipping each other over their backs. It's a display of strength and trust, building in intensity until the final moment when dancers form a line and claw the air.
The scene breaks the barrier between dancers and the audience, and hopefully makes people squirm a bit at the live performance.
Feeley enlisted three cousins, Angela Biehl, Naomi Atkins and Hillary Wandler, to play live bluegrass music during the dance performances. They will also sing an acoustic version of one of Feeley’s favorite songs, “Little Sparrow.”
Knowing the second verse of the bluegrass tune helped her get through rehearsal Sunday as Feeley's digital version only had the first verse. Feeley's voice, a soft soprano, brought a sweet sentimentality to the dance.
As you would expect, “Little Sparrow” features arm movements simulating flight, but there are other surprises in the dance, including one intense moment where a dancer walks across the backs of the others before leaping to the floor.
Feeley choreographed most of the show, but Seattle dancer and choreographer Kirsten Cooper and Diversity Dance owners Lisa Oppengaard and Amantha Vandiviere also choreographed pieces for the show. Oppengaard, Vandiviere and dancers from Motion Arts Dance Company will perform in the show.
One beautiful dance, “Aha,” uses three hoop skirts shared by six dancers who pass the large white skirts from dancer to dancer in movements so rhythmic and flowing that there is no pause when one woman steps out of a skirt and another cinches it up.
Billings writer and performer Anna Paige adds her original poetry, written specifically for the production. When Paige performed during rehearsal it was the first time the dancers had heard the poems and they quickly connected to the rhythm of the words, leaping and twisting and rolling across the floor to the melodic flow of words.
"Hiraeth" taps into primal longings, but it also helps us celebrate the connections and strength we draw from each other.