The Well




On Sunday, June 30th dancers and musicians performed an improvisational score at Spiva Center for the Arts as the final event in the exhibit ArtWorkers: Creativity and America, which closes Sunday, July 7th.  Dancers Susan Rieger and David Ollington and musicians Tom Polett, Ray Castrey, and Marcy Kamler presented “The Well” for a captivated audience.

“The Well”, an improvisational score created by Pauline Oliveros in 1962, provides a loose framework for performers to create and interpret based on a five-point star formation. Musicians begin by using the same pitch, and the entire ensemble interacts as performers shift between the points of Listen, Merge, Match, Support, and Soar.

Confused? Don’t be. No two interpretations of “The Well” will ever be identical. Ensembles can include as few as four or as many as fourteen performers and musical instruments vary. Musical instruments in this performance included a trombone, violin, melodica, and mouth harp.

In Sunday’s performance, the dancers inspired the musicians, and the musicians inspired the dancers. In a Q&A session, the performers also spoke about finding inspiration to interpret from the art hanging on the walls in the gallery. Dancers and musicians moved around the room, interacting with one another and their surroundings. They covered the span of Listen, Merge, Match, Support, and Soar, sometimes performing in corners or behind walls away from the audience, sometimes performing, literally, on top of one another.  At one point during the performance, one dancer even placed his head in the trombone’s horn. Nothing was off limits.

True to art, contemporary music and dance is a vast venue for exploring the human experience. As the performers interpreted “The Well”, they also interpreted a plethora of ideas and emotions relevant to everyday life. Each audience member seemed to take away something different. Contemporary improvisational performance is not so foreign that the audience is left grappling to interpret the meaning themselves.

If you have an opportunity to see “The Well” performed in the future, seize it. This was really one of the most artful performances and unique uses of space the Spiva Center for the Arts has witnessed.

-Bailey Stehm, MSSU English Major


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