Word Dance’s ‘Once Wild: Isadora in Russia’ Premieres May 3

Word Dance Theater's "Once Wild," Varshavianka | Theo Kossenas, Media4Artists

A unique dance theater premieres “Once Wild: Isadora in Russia” at Georgetown University May 3. Its multi-disciplinary outlook seems infectious as different kinds of people have come together to make the debut a success, as if moved by the spirit of Isadora Duncan.

To celebrate the opening, raise some funds and get the word out, an April 20 benefit was held at the home of Colman and Richard Riddell with neighborhood boosters along with members of the performing and visual arts communities. It was unique in itself with Word Dance Theater founder Cynthia Word performing for the guests and sculptor Claire McArdle offering her art for auction to assist the group.

The innovative performing arts company Word Dance Theater joins forces with Georgetown University’s Davis Performing Arts Center and award-­winning stage director Derek Goldman to produce the multi-­disciplinary theatrical collaboration, “Once Wild: Isadora in Russia.” Written by Helen Hayes Award-­winning playwright Norman Allen with original music by renowned composer Dominik Maican, and choreography by Cynthia Word (“Preludes: Duncan, Sand and Chopin”), “Once Wild” steps across creative boundaries to offer a bold, new vision of seminal artist Isadora Duncan, her work and her years in Bolshevik Russia.

The storyline: At the invitation of the Bolshevik government, Isadora Duncan and her adopted daughter Irma arrive in Russia determined to ignite its children’s minds and bodies through a new school of dance. Immersed in the revolutionary spirit, Duncan created some of her most groundbreaking work and faced some of her greatest personal challenges. Seen through Irma’s eyes, “Once Wild” explores Duncan’s Russian years, her romance with poet Sergei Esenin and her lasting legacy.

The central role of Irma Duncan, Isadora’s adopted daughter, will be shared by actress Kimberly Schraf and dancer Ingrid Zimmer. Philip Fletcher, known for his work with Synetic Theater, portrays volatile Russian poet Sergei Esenin, and Cynthia Word dances the lead role of Isadora.

“Isadora Duncan changed forever the way we think about dance and, thus, the way we think about theater,” playwright Allen said. “She broke the rules. It’s exciting to be immersed in a creative process that attempt to do the same.

“Cross-­discipline work breaks through the isolation of individual art-­forms. It challenges even the most collaborative of artists to work with unfamiliar tools, and to communicate with new artistic vocabularies,” choreographer Word said. “Because of the challenges inherent in the process, cross-­discipline work is also extraordinarily rich in possibility. It reflects a broader shift of consciousness toward global thinking, conflict resolution and problem solving that we feel throughout the culture. Perhaps most important, the work models our own belief in the capacity of the human spirit to be continuously reborn through hacks of creation.”

“The piece we are creating speaks to the connection between individual artistic vision and global politics,” said director Goldman. “By introducing us to Irma Duncan, one of Isadora’s disciples and adopted daughters, the piece engages questions about teaching, memory and revolution — and about how personal and artistic legacies are passed on from generation to generation, particularly in the ephemeral art form of performance.”

“Once Wild: Isadora in Russia,” co-­produced by Word Dance Theater and Georgetown University’s Davis Performing Arts Center Performance (Gonda Theatre), Friday and Saturday, May 3 and 4 at 8 p.m., Sunday, May 5 at 2 p.m. 37th & O Streets, NW. Tickets: $25, general; $18. faculty, staff, alumni, senior; $10, student. For tickets, visit performingarts.georgetown.edu — or call 202-687-­ARTS-2787. (Post-­performance reception on May 3 and discussion with artists on May 4.)

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