Hedwig Dances is known for incorporating props in stunning ways. The company’s 2013 ASCENDance employed 5-foot-10 paper sculptures that resembled origami accordions, and 2016’s Trio M had three dancers bounding over, through, and underneath a bright red bench. Hedwig’s latest work, Futura, has its share of props as well. For example, designer Sanja Manakoski has created white shrouds to envelop one of the performers like a cocoon while real-time images (created by video designer John Boesche) are projected onto his body.
Still, the company’s founder and artistic director, Jan Bartoszek, sees Futura as much sparer than a typical Hedwig production. “Throughout my career I’ve integrated visual design, and the idea of going back to basics was very intriguing to me,” says Bartoszek, whose formative years were largely spent at the MoMing Dance and Arts Center, which for 16 years was ground zero for experimental — and often visual-heavy — dance in Chicago.
For Futura, Bartoszek strips movement down to basic elements of lines and shapes. The dancers stack eight-foot-long red sticks to confine their activity and create a barrier separating them from each other — and the audience. These representations of restriction and isolation are meant to draw parallels between authoritarian regimes throughout history and today’s political climate. “I’m trying to create metaphors, but I think people will read them in different ways,” says Bartoszek. “There’s a story there, but I’m not trying to make it about Donald Trump.”