Dance center plants “The Wanton Seed”

By The Columbia Chronicle

Columbia’s Dance Center and the Mad Shak Dance Company presented “The Wanton Seed” last weekend. This three-night run, based loosely on the work of Anthony Burgess, excited the audience with imagery using charged movement, small amounts of narrative, and expressive lighting. The hour-long presentation allowed the viewer a personal evaluation by allowing his or her imagination to take over.

The title of this story is taken from an English folk-song about “an old ritual of fornicating atop freshly laid seeds to show them a good example.” “The Wanton Seed” portrays the future when the world is overpopulated and resources are very scarce. The play also shows elements of desperation by showing people engaging in cannibalism. Buried within this story is a love triangle between a women, her husband, and her husband’s brother. The woman, Beatrice-Joanna performed by Molly Shanahan, prays to the sea to get pregnant. Her husband Tristram, played by Kevin O’Donnell, believes she had an affair. The third character Derek, the husband’s brother, is a powerful character who is affluent. The different movements choreographed for this scene shows the overlying conflict between the two characters. This is portrayed by Beatrice-Joanna and Tristram pushing each other away and at one point going in circles.

The performance does not imitate the book completely, but some dialogue is reproduced to show direction to the piece. Without the dialogue the audience may have felt lost in the imagery. Kevin O’Donnell uses literature as an element of his character, for instance, uses an insert from Burgess’ book while four dancers form a circle to the left of him. The movements by the dancers are in-sync that bonds this “future” community into one. Even though my brain couldn’t absorb everything the reader was expressing, the movements by the dancers continued the flow of the scene.

Molly Shanahan and Jane Ledford Adkins show great artistic abilities when designing the costumes. Each character dresses differently for each scene, but Shanahan begins by wearing crushed velvet and carries that theme throughout by having one member wear the velvet. This is to show universalism between Beatrice, Tristram and Derek, said Shanahan. This way, their characteristics can be dispersed. The dancers were all barefoot; this accentuated the costumes, but it also adds to the feeling of the music. As the stomping echoed over the music, a feeling of nature and innocence came over me.

“Wanton Seed’s” music is scored by Kevin O’Donnell and David Dieckmann. The extraordinary songs add an eerie and cold element to this piece. The music was written while the dancers were still rehearsing, said O’Donnell; “we really didn’t intend to pick up a vibe by the music,” but the music and dancing fit the piece fit just fine.

Abstractly the dancing is used to show the world is in chaos. Craig Brandt, in one example, is eating peanuts at the edge of the stage. Shanahan said this is to show the casual disregard of Derek, to show how powerful he is and how he really doesn’t care about the society. Another example of the chaos is when the dancers slide across the floor connected with those who were upright.

The final piece, “Backed With”, pulls the performance together with an unsettling finish. It did not leave me with a happy feeling and I felt like there was still a missing link. This feeling was of great fear for what is in store in our future, but I believe the performers wanted the viewer to feel this way. “The Wanton Seed” created by Mad Shak’s, Kevin O’Donnell and Molly Shanahan is one that I would recommend. Not only do O’Donnell and Shanahan take an active role with the creation of “The Wanton Seed”, their dancing expertise show great leadership for potential performers.

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