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Arts & Life

Theater Production Celebrates Sculpture Project

Photo by Joleen Zoller

The “Passage of Wind and Water” sculpture project at Rapid City’s Main Street Square is having an impact on diverse sections of the Black Hills community – from local students to area and regional artists. We visited the Rapid City Performing Arts Center recently for a cross-artistic theater presentation featuring modern dance, film, poetry, and music inspired by the largest privately-funded art project in the country.

When Masayuki Nagase began work last year on his sculpture “Passage of Wind and Water”, his artistic influence echoed far beyond the boundaries of downtown Rapid City. 

One of those impacted by the master sculptor’s carving of images related to the Badlands was Christine Stewart - an associate professor at South Dakota State University and a poet. Stewart was invited to share her expertise in communication with the spoken word for the presentation called: “Echoing Passages – Chapter One – A Badlands Tapestry.”

“I thought, ‘Yeah, it’d be great to write some poems in the Badlands but it’s pretty silly to do that solo when the whole spirit of the project is collaboration and community,” recalls Stewart. “ So I’d remembered reading chorale poems before and I thought, ‘Well, I’ll go ahead and try to do a multi-voiced poem.”

Stewart obtained the words for that multi-voiced poem by holding writing workshops in Rapid City and through submissions by area students and members of the South Dakota State Poetry Society.

“And so it became this really dynamic process where I would take someone’s words…elaborate… mix them together…take one poem and…put them all together,” Stewart explains. “So, maybe…I don’t know, I didn’t count…but maybe fifty percent of it’s…quote…my words…but it’s all mixed in with how others’ words inspired my own.”

Credit Photo by Joleen Zoller
Heidi Carlson, Hannah Sorestad and Sara Olivier (l to r) performing during "Echoing Passages: Chapter One - A Badlands Tapestry".

Following Christine Stewart’s chorale poem are three presentations by choreographer Sara Olivier and a group of young dancers. Olivier says taped rehearsals actually took place .in the Badlands and are part of a video presentation.

What is it like for Olivier recreating this on a stage as opposed to actually doing it out in the Badlands?

“They’re slightly different,” she explains. “So what we danced here tonight was different from what we did in the Badlands. We are able to do things on a stage that we weren’t able to do there. So it’s kind of nice to have a bit of both.”

But, adds Olivier, having the experience of actually dancing in the Badlands under her feet was invaluable.

“Yes, it was definitely a benefit to have danced there first and then bring that to the stage.”

Credit Photo by Joleen Zoller
Lily Hilt performing during "Echoing Passages: Chapter One - A Badlands Tapestry".

A Badlands Tapestry’s dance segments, though separated by the chorale poem and Randall Iverson’s video of Masayuki Nagase’s work on the sculpture and scenes of the Badlands, were intended to flow from one to another effortlessly , says Olivier.

“Each segment was actually a variation on a theme. So not each one said something different, but they each focused on those same ideas of transformation and community and hope for the future.”

As indicated in the title of the theatrical presentation, this is Chapter One of an artistic collaboration that will continue for the next four years…until Masayuki Nagase has completed the Passage of Wind and Water sculpture. After the Badlands Garden section is finished, Yuki will begin work on the second half of the project – which explores the Black Hills through the sculptor’s images on granite.

With each strike of his chisel on the stones at Main Street Square, words, dance and video images will accompany Yuki’s vision through the eyes, voices and movements of fellow artists.