‘Mysterium’ weaves together multimedia portrait of trauma, hope

Alex Hagen

On Friday, May 4 and Saturday, May 5, Whitman Dance Theater will present “Mysterium,” its final show of the school year. “Mysterium,” a modern dance production featuring choreography by Adjunct Instructor of Dance Vicki Lloid and senior Rhya Milici, also integrates elements of music, poetry, film and art into an hour-long, seven-movement dance performance.

Credit: Catie Bergman

Inspiration for “Mysterium” came from Lloid’s close friends Phoebe Neville, a choreographer and dancer with whom Lloid worked in New York, and poet Tess Gallagher. The three artists have each undergone similar traumatic circumstances and events in their lives, and each have responded to these events in different artistic ways. “Mysterium” as a whole deals with the idea of trauma and how we react to it. Lloid said that “Mysterium” ultimately takes an encouraging view of tragic events.

“All three of us very much believe in somehow taking those traumatic events and trying to find a resolution that’s hopeful,” said Lloid. “We share the belief that optimism is your only hope.”

Credit: Catie Bergman

The various multimedia elements of “Mysterium” each work together to create a cohesive whole. The choreography and music were both inspired by a piece of art by Aislinn Adams, which appears on the “Mysterium” posters and programs.

Music Assistant Kristin Vining, who composed the show’s music, will perform it during “Mysterium” alongside Whitman music students. Vining discussed the cooperative nature of the different media.

“Just like the dance draws inspiration from the poetry and the art, so does the music, so that’s a good way to connect all the things together,” she said. “I’ll be playing music during the film segments, even when there’s not other dancing going on, so that’s definitely the thing that connects the whole show.”

Vining also discussed the musicians’ freedom to improvise within her compositions.

“There’s a lot of room for improvisation, so the other musicians also get to improvise with me,” she said. “So there’s a framework, but we have a lot of freedom to respond to what the dancers are doing in that framework.”

Milici, who has danced and worked alongside Lloid for four years, described their tight, consistent collaborative style.

Credit: Catie Bergman

“Normally, if you had two choreographers, it would have the feeling of, ‘A, B, A, B,’ and instead we’ve come together for a ‘C,’ and everything just weaves together,” she said. “Vicki and I have gotten to the place where we can’t remember who came up with what originally because we’ve edited and revised each other’s work so much, and pulled motifs from each other’s work throughout.”

Both choreographers strongly encouraged the Whitman community to attend the performance.

“There aren’t a lot of opportunities to see dance in Walla Walla of this caliber and this scope,” Milici said. “The music that Kristin Vining has created is really extraordinary because so much of it, you can tell, is motivated from movement energy, whereas oftentimes music, for me, sits in the air and is pretty––this music moves through the space beautifully,” she added.

“I think it’ll be a very powerful and moving performance,” said Lloid. “I think just overall it’s going to be visually and emotionally very very compelling and very moving.”