Fittingly, it’s cold in the north studio at the [node:177651 link=Drucker Center;] in Lincoln Park. I have three glossy photos of paintings by Andrew Rauhauser in my bag, given to me before rehearsal by his fiancée, Enid Smith. Titled Frozen Pilings, Ice Form and Ice Vent, the paintings, oils on panel, are from a series Rauhauser began in 2008 of Lake Michigan in the winter. They inspired Smith’s new dance I’m about to watch, Pier, which premieres on Friday 26.
Rauhauser’s father was a sailor; as a boy in Wilmette, Rauhauser spent weekends at Langdon Beach. In his teens, the artist, now 54, would walk along the lake shore looking at “ice forms and ice bridges in all of these fantastic shapes,” he said by phone before the rehearsal. Rauhauser later moved to New York, where he met Smith, now 33, in 2000; she modeled for figure-drawing classes he took. (They plan to marry next month and have two daughters: Beatrice, 4, and Louisa, born earlier this summer.)
When the couple moved to Evanston together in 2007, Rauhauser resumed his lakeside strolls. “I actually pick days when the weather is really ferocious, when you literally can’t see because your eyes are tearing up, and just hold up the camera and start shooting.”
The photos become works such as Ice Form, in which an ice tusk reaches toward the lake’s surface from a snow-covered overhang, creating a silhouette like a walrus’s or a Smilodon’s head. The snow is old, stained brown and yellow by dirt and maybe dogs’ urine. Earth tones are as prominent in Rauhauser’s series as are white and cool blue, reflected in the costumes Smith designed for Pier.
Pier begins with two dancers whose bodies are locked in space as if frozen. Their upraised forearms start stirring the air. Part of a mass for St. Anthony of Padua by early Renaissance composer Guillaume Dufay plays, later replaced by the sound of footsteps on ice, by Brett Jarvis (recently sound designer and technical supervisor for The Ride, an interactive bus tour through the streets of Manhattan).
Dufay’s mass was Rauhauser’s soundtrack while painting the series. “The music that he listens to in the studio, while he’s working, I’ve taken into my studio as well,” Smith says. I ask her the inevitable question about using images of stillness as inspiration for movement.
“They’re not paintings of smooth ice and snow. They’re pretty harsh, they’re dirty and speak angles and layers,” she replies. “I’m [node:52503 link=Cunningham;]-trained, so I like shape and form.”
An original composition by Jarvis, which scores another duet, surrounds high piano notes with empty space, reminding me of first snowflakes. Again, two dancers stir with their feet glued to the floor, but more freely, twisting from their waists instead of just from their elbows. Activity peaks and dips throughout Pier’s 12 short sections, like cycles of freeze and thaw, but overall the piece progresses toward more movement and less unison, as if the five dancers (including Smith) are lake-water molecules as winter yields to spring.
Pier also gives Smith and Rauhauser an opportunity to swap roles. “We’ve collaborated in his art form for years. I’ve sat for him for paintings; he’s done several drawings of me. He’s always been more of a figurative artist, but recently his work has become a little more abstract, and that’s when I started thinking, Okay, that speaks movement to me. I can make a dance out of that.”
Smith’s Pier shares a bill called “iced.coffee” with Lauren Warnecke’s Grind at Links Hall, Friday 26 through Sunday 28.