Wire Monkey:
Evolved to Dance

Wire Monkey performs September 13 outside on the Fine Arts Center Plaza and outside on the Pyramids at Southwest. Admission is free and open to the public.

Published 9/1/2001
UMASS Fine Arts Center Spotlight


For all dancers, a sense of connection to their dance space, or environment, is essential. A great spatial connection allows for maximum creativity and safety when performing or rehearsing; a poor one means distractions, injuries and flared tempers. When Jennifer Polins and Saliq Francis Savage were coming up with their concept for an innovative new dance troupe, Wire Monkey, they were completely unsatisfied with traditional, flat, dance spaces - so they disregarded conventional standards and created something altogether different.

Wire Monkey is a performance on towers of steel scaffolding that creates a unique and exciting arena for movement. Seven international dancers stretch the bounds of physicality as they wing, leap and fly through a set that transforms from a prison to a playground. The performance feels more like an installation than a traditional dance because the audience is invited to stand and view the work from different viewpoints. Wire Monkey performs at noon on September 13 on the Fine Arts Center Plaza, and at 7PM that day at the Pyramids at Southwest Residential Area.

According to Polins, "When Saliq was growing up he'd always be thinking about how he could get from class to class without ever touching the ground - he?d think about scaling the walls, the pipes and doorframes." That kind of youthful exuberance never died, but grew, fueling a life long career of teaching and dancing that has taken him around the world and back again. Twenty years later, he met Polins, and the couple - both masters of movement who also share knowledge of a variety of dance styles - divide their time between teaching, operating their own dance company, directing, and choreographing dances that question our perception of reality and environment. Having assembled an group of dancers who share their vision, Savage and Polins are now free to ponder the possibilities of dancing on scaffolding, high above the ground, as monkeys "wire monkeys"would.

More than just a fanciful fantasy, however, Wire Monkey is a means for its directors to articulate their political, social and economic philosophies. The group makes their home in an old theatre in Holyoke, which has, since its founding in the 1920's, been a vaudeville house, an auditorium, a tobacco factory and now a showcase under renovation. The theater's environment - a community suffering from population loss and an economic recession - serves as the perfect analogy for the group's ultimate goal: to be a positive force in the world by bringing us back, if only for an hour or two, to our instincts. In short, to break the binds of gravity and environment and soar as our spirits were meant to.

Their choice of venue couldn't have been more appropriate. After all, with urban sprawl, an interesting parallel is emerging: we are creating our own jungles. In a time when more and more people are loosing the option of taking a weekend drive in the countryside, Wire Monkey shows how the lamp poles, telephone cables, fire escapes and asphalt inherent of modern cities are the new trees, vines, and dirt of tomorrow. While they remind us of our inborn wishes to break free of what binds us to the metal and marble of our surroundings, a thought emerges: that just like one of Savage and Polin's "wire monkeys," we too could take control of our environment - and thus, our lives... If only we could be so elegant in the process.

Wire Monkey will be performing on September 13, outside on the Plaza at the Fine Arts Center at the end of Haigis Mall at noon, and on the Pyramids at Southwest at 7PM. Admission is free and open to the public. For information, check out the Fine Arts Center web site at www.fineartscenter.com or call the Fine Arts Center Box Office at 545-2511 or 1-800-999-UMAS.