When choreographer Megan Bridge first heard composer Robert Ashley’s 1998 opera “Dust,” she immediately fell in love with the music, but didn’t envision dancing to it. Usually dismissive of combining text with dance, Bridge couldn’t see a way to work with the text-heavy opera, which was inspired by the ramblings of homeless people in New York City.
“It was always just something that I liked to listen to,” Bridge says. “But over the years I became more and more intrigued by it and started to feel physical responses arising in my own body to the sound of it. Then in the fall of 2012 I opened my inbox and found an email from Robert Ashley, which was one of the most amazing moments in my life.”
As it turns out, Ashley was trying to reach Bridge’s husband and collaborator, composer/electronic musician Peter Price. But as she forwarded the message, she also broached the subject of choreographing “Dust.” As she recalls, “He wrote back he said, ‘No one has ever danced to “Dust.” Good luck.’ I took that as a challenge — or at least permission.”
The end result of that process will debut this weekend as FringeArts presents the premiere of Bridge’s choreography for “Dust.” The piece features five dancers as well as video design by Price, which in the show’s first half responds automatically to the dancers’ movement via infrared sensors. In its second half, Price will control the video, improvising live in response to the dance. Given the density of Ashley’s original libretto, Bridge chose not to create choreography that attempted to tell the story of the opera, but encouraged the dancers to respond to the pure sound of the words, knowing that audiences would project their own narratives onto the work.
While Ashley granted his permission for Bridge to pursue her version of “Dust,” he passed away last March before it was completed. His death, Bridge says, “gave the whole project higher stakes. Now it’s not just a little project that he approved; all of a sudden it became a continuation of his legacy.”
April 16-18, 8 p.m.
140 N. Columbus Blvd.