Jennifer Wester. courtesy artist

Music

A Figure Skater’s Ode to Shadow, Light and Balance

Jennifer Wester will make you see shadows in ways you never have before in a Cedars parking lot, as part of Soluna Saturday.

A friend asked artist and figure skater Jennifer Wester about Soluna’s call for proposals, keyed to light and shadow.  What did she think of the theme?

“I said, ‘I think my entire career has been based on it,'” Wester remembers.

With the 40-minute Breaking Shadows, Wester explores the dichotomy of perception and orientation felt by the “regular world” and the ice world figure skaters inhabit.

“Our coordinate system is based on the ground being white and the sky being dark,” she says. “I want to shift that perspective for others as well.”

The synthetic surface Wester’s using is made of a material from Switzerland. On this she will carve the blade tracings she calls “a temporal diary of balance.” A concave backdrop she developed will increase the speed at which cast shadows move across the surface. The idea is to capture shadow—skating no longer a skill or sport, but a medium for the extraction and expression of shadow. “How far can I push shadows influencing me?” she challenged herself. “Instead of my choreography simply creating shadows, it would be the shadows creating my choreography.” Wester worked with maquettes, tiny flashlights trained on silhouette cut-outs of herself in the dark. The process of choreography, she says, was “like capturing a ghost.”

Meanwhile, the site-specific performance’s sonic components push the sense of what sounds are created from the skates as medium: “The crackling and brutalization of the surface in this effortless movement, full of grace, that’s really ripping and tearing at everything—the body, the blades, the surface, the air.”

As she collaborated with Dutch sonic artist Baz Laarakkers, Wester created “sheet music,” developing a notation for the sounds her blades made. “I was learning to see again, learning to hear again. Recognizing what sounds my skates were making. Learning to play the blades like an instrument,” she says. To challenge herself further, Wester devised hand-skates, which challenge her sense of contact with the surface.

The performance, reflecting the DSO’s attitude towards sonic art forms, is part of what Wester sees as a much-needed momentum to bridge the perceived chasm between contemporary art and the viewer. “The more we continue to [foist] these experiences into public spaces and out into the world, the better off we’ll be in continuing the long tradition of asking, ‘What is art?’” she says.

Ultimately, at times in rehearsal, Wester would find herself attempting to move a particular limb and realize she was lost in her own shadow. For 40 minutes on Saturday, I suspect we will be, too.

Location: The Cedars Union, where a metal carport’s undulations will be one of the surfaces across which shadows will play at 8 p.m.

Extra perks: Before the performance of Breaking Shadows, viewers will experience the six-minute art piece SoundSkate, a percussive piece (and collaboration with an Italian music artist), which debuted in Leovarden and was, according to Wester, “my first, real foray into this.”

Editor’s note: We just received an update regarding location and parking. See below.

NEW LOCATION: Breaking Shadows will take place at the original venue at 1201 S. Ervay Street, Dallas TX 75215, however, the event has been moved inside the building and will no longer be held in the venue parking lot as originally planned.

PARKING AND ENTRY: Parking for Breaking Shadows is limited to street parking around the venue so ride shares such as Lyft and Uber are highly encouraged. The entrance for the performance is through the parking lot of 1201 S. Ervay. You will be greeted at the main entrance staircase when you arrive.

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