The creative process is complicated. What toll does the actualization of an idea take on the artist? "The Architect," choreographed by Mathew Janczewski and Timmy Wagner of Arena Dances, set out to answer this question on Friday night in the James Sewell Ballet Tek Box at the Cowles Center in Minneapolis.
Wagner performed the contemplative solo work as homage to the collaboration between head, heart and body. It was a deeply personal exploration that delivered welcome insight into a dancer who is more often seen in ensemble works.
The visual elements acted as key partners to the movement. Onstage, Wagner inhabited a bright white space that sometimes was crisscrossed with colorful fabric created by Margarita Jane Arguedas — stretched to the point that the fibers became weblike. This aspect, combined with the softly shifting lighting from Heidi Eckwall, projected imagery by Meena Mangalvedhekar and a minimalist sound score including Steve Reich, suggested the active life of the mind.
Wagner's movement, while grounded in Janczewski's subtly elegant aesthetic, revealed an interdependence. The artists are known as mentor and muse — but this was a pairing of equals.
Scrolling text introduced the work, rendering Wagner's inner thoughts writ large: "We create ourselves, we create all sorts of mistakes and problems." The title itself confirms this point — an architect is a conduit between the ever-calculating mind and the physical world. How often are the outlines erased, shifted and reframed? Too many to count, but in the end what once existed only as concept becomes the stuff of three-dimensional reality.
Wagner's task throughout the work was to calmly respond to his surroundings. When a piece of fabric drifted to the ground he improvised another way to hold it aloft — some of the falls were opening-night surprises, but they worked. Seeing Wagner thinking on his feet — literally and figuratively — provided a source of tension but also satisfaction.
Mangalvedhekar's projections added rapidly changing imagery, most notably numbers running by like computer code. It was as if Wagner's brain was wired to show us the mounting accumulation of information inspired by the choreography, the physical effort and the whims of the moment. Overall, "The Architect" offered a glimpse into the creative mind at work, a loving ode to the neurons that make it all possible.
Caroline Palmer is a Twin Cities dance critic.