Fall Into Your Own Wild Heart With This Contemporary Dance Company

Wild Heart Dance
Wild Heart Dance Heather Gray
Wild Heart pushes the limits of contemporary dance.

The group's works are not plot-heavy, and the movements, while performed by professionally trained dancers, are rooted less in specifically named steps and more in feeling. Imagine someone pulled across the stage by a notion or a concept rather than prescribed moves. That's the aim of Wild Heart.

"Our whole beings are on the line. The audience gets to ride our curves, be inside our flesh, move through our muscles, and put their weight on our bones," the company's website states.

Artistic director Kat Gurley, who founded Wild Heart in 2013, knew that if she truly wanted to break convention by exploring those concepts fully, she might have to seek financial support outside of grants and a board of directors. She started asking her audience to donate via the Patreon platform and offered sponsorship opportunities on the Wild Heart website. This allowed her artistic freedom.

Westword chatted with Gurley about the inspiration behind a company that thrives off intimate, sometimes unusual settings and how the up-close-and-personal experience at a Wild Heart show is a far cry from the familiar experiences audiences encounter watching companies such as Colorado Ballet or Wonderbound.

Westword: What was the inspiration for forming this company?

Kat Gurley: Wild Heart was formed out of a calling to create work that was unapologetically athletic, fierce and powerful while at the same time being vulnerable, intimate and transformative. I feel that the richness of these seemingly opposite expressions give an immediacy that draws the audience in and doesn't let go.

For those who may not have experience watching contemporary movement, describe something to which this form might be similar. Ballet? Jazz?

I would call what Wild Heart does contemporary modern — meaning it has its roots in modern but is contemporary in its execution, mission and vision. We use the word "contemporary" in more of the global definition, which is kind of a catchall phrase for any dance that is current or is being innovated right now. This generally means there are many influences. Contemporary artists, including all Wild Heart dancers, are being trained in multiple disciplines, so you'll see elements of modern, ballet, rhythm-based styles, contact improvisation, acrobatics etc. This is the form of contemporary that Wild Heart is practicing. 

There is another form of contemporary that has been popularized by television that is more closely related to what used to be called lyrical (dancing to the lyrics). The main difference between these styles has more to do with the presentation than physicality. The contemporary dance we perform is generally presented with length, a long arch or journey, and has a three-dimensionality, meaning it's not always presented frontally or in a proscenium. In the case of "The Fall," part of the audience is sitting on the stage with us. They aren't asked to interact with us like immersive dance/theater, but they are able to see the work from multiple vantage points.

click to enlarge Wild Heart Dance - HEATHER GRAY
Wild Heart Dance
Heather Gray
Do the dancers primarily perform barefoot?

Yes. This type of dance and movement requires a rooted connection to the floor. Instead of stylizing the movement away from our animal bodies, we encourage and go into the use of hands and feet on the floor, moving in ways that are virtuosic yet organic and exploratory in their execution.

You describe the company as utilizing 'physical transformation' in addition to dance and music for your performances. Describe what that means and what audiences can expect.

Physical transformation is what can happen through very intimate and powerful dance. Dance can communicate and express many things about life as a human being. It can be conceptual — conveying an idea someone has. It can be narrative or tell a story, or highly emotional, expressing some of life's experiences, to name only a few. Yet it can also transcend the body while being firmly rooted in the body.

This is, of course, a paradoxical experience. So through entering our most human expression, the physical body, and dancing until our spirits are not only awakened but set outward, transformation can occur. It's a non-intellectual pursuit and experience, and it's not even emotional at its core. It's like the body can wake up from dreaming in moments, and at the same time be fully felt as a glorious expression of spirit. This, of course, cannot happen all the time, yet occasionally it does, and this is Wild Heart's mission.

Through the releasing of each dancer's spirit, a blueprint is offered to the audience. It has a mirroring effect. Through each physical transformation, the dancer mirrors what is possible for each audience member. I don't mean each audience member will experience this through dance, but in some way in each of their lives that is unique to them, the door may be opened for them to also have this experience.

Your upcoming show is called The Fall. Tell us what it's about.

Wild Heart Dance’s newest creation, The Fall, is an edgeless journey without a beginning, middle or end. Here the dancers concede what is not true and find themselves in freefall. They ebb and flow within form into the formless. No movement is without connection, and no compass is needed because there is nowhere to go and nowhere to get to. The dancers discover that whether you are falling from grace or falling into grace, you are within the same space. This opening is where they encounter truth independent of belief and a knowing so intimate and yet so vast that there is nothing left to do but fall.

Primarily, The Fall is a journey of descent and loss. At first this may sound slightly depressing or fatalistic, but in reality it leads to a deeper discovery. Through falling or descending, the dancers can find deeper meaning in their lives and their connections to each other. It's more about falling or surrendering into something greater than yourself; finding that which you have lost may not be as important as you imagined it to be, and that which you have gained is of infinitely more value.

The audience arrives mid-journey, set down into a time and place that is familiar and foreign at the same time. With the lights and the stage, the environment has an otherworldly feel, like you've entered an alternate universe. The dancers move through seven parts, and each part has a distinctive energy or flavor, yet there are also pieces of each part present within any section.  

The Fall will be performed at 7:30 p.m. April 12 and 13, 4 p.m. April 14, and 7:30 p.m. April 18, 19 and 20 at the Nomad Playhouse, 1410 Quince Avenue in Boulder. Tickets, $25, are available at
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