Control and chaos. Order and impulse. The place where opposites collide is explored in "Wilderness," a new dance composition by Brian Brooks to be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 28, at the Sheldon Theatre in Red Wing.
An award-winning choreographer who has toured worldwide, Brooks is known for his ability to "shatter conventional notions of the human capacity for strength and endurance," according to Dance Magazine.
"Wilderness" continues to challenge traditional limits. But it does more.
"It feels more uncontained" than the precise, refined works he has created in the past, Brooks said. Those dances were influenced by the urban landscape — New York, Boston, Chicago — where he has lived, studied and worked.
"The wilderness is a place — a great expanse of open space, open territory, where there is a natural order. Things grow and take shape," he explained.
"It's kind of my wild side in choreography ... almost a minimal, abstract view of what I imagine as the wilderness."
He finds inspiration in community, he added — "the way people and animals interact." In the wilderness as in this dance, movement becomes more fluid and more explosive — hence "uncontained."
Visually, Brooks described the performance as "like a black and white photo, a simple palate with high contrast. The dancers almost look like ink on a piece of paper, forming and re-forming. ... You can let your mind wander."
He is still discovering the piece, Brooks added, because it's one of his newest works. "Wilderness" was commissioned by the American Dance Institute; it premiered in New York in June 2016.
The music that accompanies the dancers is an original work created by Jerome Begin and performed by the four members of Sandbox Percussion. The Red Wing performance will be a recording.
"The energy in the percussion is extraordinary," Brooks said, noting that the musicians drum on about 50 different types of things — from drums and triangles to glass bottles and kick drums.
"It's a score that is at times lyrical, melodic, with crescendos of rhythm," he said. The sound of a pen writing on paper becomes part of the rhythm; cymbals become the chirp of birds in a meadow.
"Wilderness" comes at a time of change for Brooks. He has been appointed as the inaugural choreographer in residence at Chicago's Harris Theater for Music and Dance. The three-year fellowship supports several commissions each season, including Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Miami City Ballet and his New York-based group.
"A lot has changed in my career. It's very dramatic, and very exciting," he said. As he builds a company structure that supports what he is doing now as a choreographer, the group that was called Brian Brooks Moving Company is "loosening up."
"It's not the same as when I started," Brooks said, but is "transforming or transitioning to better represent what I do."
Appropriately, this transformation involves a group of dancers who have been performing his works for years.
"We do a lot of experimentation," he said. "The seven dancers (in 'Wilderness') have spent more time in the studio with me than anyone else in the world. We have a base of knowledge and experience" to support more complicated, investigative pieces.
They look forward to the Sheldon visit, Brooks said. Currently in the state for a performance this weekend at the University of Minnesota, he came to Red Wing to confirm that the space is workable.
"I've seen it — it's pretty special. It's a really charming spot," he said. While in Red Wing he also will conduct a movement workshop (see related story).
"Wilderness" is part of the Sheldon's Enlighten Series, a group of powerful contemporary works that invite audiences to explore, discover and wonder.
Tickets are $18-$30, plus it is a Kids Play Free event. Admission is free for a child 12 and under with the purchase of an adult admission.
Visit the box office, call the Sheldon at 651-388-8700 or go online to www.sheldontheatre.org. A preview of the dance can be seen on the Sheldon's website.