PEARSONWIDRIG DANCETHEATER has gained an international following for their concert stage choreography, site-specific dance installations, and community performance projects since 1987. Supported by many national and international funding institutions including the NEA, the Maryland State Arts Council, the New York State Council on the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Performance Network, the Rockefeller, Altria, Harkness, Jerome, Joyce Mertz-Gilmore, Leon Lowenstein, O’Donnell-Green, Puffin, Swiss Center, Sequoia, and Lifton Family Foundations, the American Music Center Live Music for Dance Program, the Asian Cultural Council, Arts International, and United States Artists at International Festivals (administered by the MidAtlantic Arts Foundation), they have presented “American dance theater at its funniest and most compelling” (NZZ, Switzerland) throughout the United States (Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Central Park SummerStage, City Center Fall for Dance, Joyce Theater, Bates Dance Festival, Jacob’s Pillow), Europe, Latin America, Asia, and New Zealand.
For the 2014-15 season, engagements include two new site-specific performance projects, one at the Open Look Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia, the other in New York City, creative and performing residencies in India and Switzerland, a performance season at Dance Place as well as an appearance at the re-opening gala of their newly renovated theater. In 12 evening-length works and over 30 company, duet, and solo works for the stage, Pearson and Widrig’s choreographic sensibility extends far beyond the body. The audience is as likely to see 300 oranges, swirling arcs of salt, or a 200lb block of ice being smashed – images that delightfully shock the senses and awaken the heart – as they are to be irresistibly drawn in by their “electrifying, lush, and delightful” dancing (Dance Magazine) and their “extremely original” movement vocabulary (Calcutta Times, India).
Through dance, text, and video, the ideas they explore range from the socio-political Unmoored (Love Letters to New Orleans) [“Heart-wrenching and wryly comic.” The Washington Post] and Do You Remember?, to the intense and virtuosic Drama, to the contemplative Oashisu (Oasis), to the hip and outrageous Kré, Kré, Kré, to the lush they are of threaded glass., to Sayonara, Dear, a stylishly minimalist ode to aging, to the poetic Thaw [“Carries enough everyday magic for several productions.” Eva Yaa Asantewaa], to the mystical The Return of Lot’s Wife [“Unfolds with the pulsating rhythm of a carefully crafted poem - one part Woody Allen narrative, one part prayer.” The Daily Gazette, Schenectady, NY], to the historical Alpsegen [in which Mr. Widrig takes a critical look at his native Switzerland’s role during WWII], to their early, emotionally charged duets Partners Who Touch, Partners Who Don’t Touch and Heimweh (homesick), to the “Most amazing! Most enjoyable!” (The New York Times) Ordinary Festivals, which has been seen by over 20,000 people on three continents.In their acclaimed site-specific installations and community performance projects, habitual assumptions of what art is, where art happens, and of who participates, are broken wide open. These projects have taken them from rowboats in Central Park to the Great Lawn at Jacob’s Pillow to the Eiun-In Buddhist temple in Kyoto to the modern architecture of I. M. Pei’s Portland Museum of Art and to Wave Hill, the bucolic estate in the Bronx. Their most recent site-adaptive work, Paradise Pond, was a 90-minute colorful visual feast celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Bates Dance Festival. The work was described by festival director Laura Faure as “the most creative, transformative, visually beautiful and successful production we have ever mounted in our 25 year history.”
Elizabeth Zimmer of the Village Voice wrote of heir site-adaptive extravaganza A Curious Invasion: “In over a decade of watching Wave Hill events, I’ve never had such a good time. It really was perfect.” ACI has been performed at Gilsland Farm Audubon Sanctuary, Falmouth, Maine, commissioned by the Bates Dance Festival; Wave Hill, Bronx, New York, co-commissioned by Dancing in the Streets and Wave Hill; Dartmouth College, commissioned by the Hopkins Center, Hanover, New Hampshire; and at Connecticut College.
Collaborations with composers have formed a vital part of Pearson and Widrig’s artistic vision and include music created by Obie and Bessie Award winner Robert Een, James Nyoraku Schlefer, Lauren Burke, Andy Teirstein, Philip Hamilton, Carman Moore, and Hollywood composer Carter Burwell, who created “one of the finest scores for modern dance” (Back Stage) for The Return of Lot’s Wife.
Sara Pearson and Patrik Widrig have been full-time associate professors at the University of Maryland College Park’s School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies since 2009.