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Philadelphia-based dance troupe anonymous bodies explores the shopping experience 

click to enlarge The art of shopping: Kate Watson-Wallace's STORE.
  • The art of shopping: Kate Watson-Wallace's STORE.

First came HOUSE (2006), a dance work set in an abandoned row house. Then came CAR (2008), set in and around a moving vehicle. Now Philadelphia-based choreographer Kate Watson-Wallace completes her site-based American Spaces trilogy with STORE, a work exploring the psyche of American consumers. 

Excerpts of STORE previewed last season, at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater's newMoves dance festival. The theater brings back Watson-Wallace and her anonymous bodies dance company to perform the full version Nov. 6 and 7.

Part examination of the shopping experience, part dance party, the 60-minute STORE is a collection of non-narrative scenes. The work for six dancers and mounds and mounds of clothing takes place in a post-apocalyptic version of a retail outlet where even in the midst of devastation the processes of shopping continue, says Watson-Wallace. The dancers, for instance, try on clothes to explore the nature of the shopping experience.

Her athletic modern-dance choreography resembles the movement style of locals Attack Theatre. The dancers are accompanied throughout by a "shopping lady" avatar projected on video screens, who pitches products to them and offers advice on shopping etiquette and protocol.

Speaking by phone from Philadelphia, Watson-Wallace says the work "doesn't try to make a particular statement about the way we shop, but just puts those observations out there." 

STORE, like the other works in the trilogy, is set to a sound design by composer Josh Cicetti, using a palette of indie, pop and hip hop from the likes of Britney Spears, Lil Wayne and TV on the Radio. (The latter group, coincidentally, has Pittsburgh roots.) 

The completed work premiered earlier this year at the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival. In keeping with Watson-Wallace's desire that American Spaces be performed in actual spaces, rather than theaters, the venue was the interior of an abandoned Rite Aid. That allowed audiences to bring "their own cultural memories surrounding those spaces to the performance," she says.

However, in order to tour STORE, Watson-Wallace had to make certain compromises, the biggest being to package the work for performance in theaters, on a proscenium stage.

"It will be a different but, I think, equally as interesting [an] experience for audiences in Pittsburgh to see the work on a stage as opposed to being in an actual store," says Watson-Wallace. "All the ideas for the work are still there. You just see them through a different lens."

 

Kate Watson-Wallace/anonymous bodies performs STORE 9 p.m. Fri., Nov. 6, and 7 p.m. Sat., Nov. 7. Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Ave., East Liberty. $5-20. 412-363-3000 or www.kelly-strayhorn.org

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