Morgan Thorson's 'Spaceholder Festival' performs at Red Eye Theater

Morgan Thorson's 'Spaceholder Festival' performs at Red Eye Theater
Photo courtesy Red Eye Theater 

Morgan Thorson's new dance work, playing through Thursday at the Red Eye Theater, meditates on the act of excavation, digging into the bits and pieces that make up our thoughts and memories. "Spaceholder Festival" features a surprising vocabulary of rigid, often humorous yet still emotionless gestures paired with a killer sound score composed by Sxip Shirey. The sound design is by Thorson and Karen Sherman, who also performs in the piece along with Hannah Kramer, Kristin Van Loon, Jessica Cressey, and Max Wirsing. 

The six dancers perform on a stage sectioned in a grid pattern with a line of cheap, full-length mirrors on one side. Their movements vary from synchronized, tongue-in-cheek choreography (at one point they mime playing marching band instruments) to isolated dancing, but they always move with precision and control. 

A major element in the piece are the things that the dancers encounter, both within the performance space and on their bodies. The things -- such as Styrofoam, shoes, and various odds and ends -- have a mystery to them. At one point the dancers sift through the objects on a table, searching for something in the random pile. At another point, the objects are kicked forcefully across the stage. The Styrofoam also appears on the dancers' bodies, becoming growths bulging out of their nylon-covered hips and arms.
Morgan Thorson's 'Spaceholder Festival' performs at Red Eye Theater
Photo courtesy Red Eye Theater 

The objects become a metaphor for the thoughts and fears inside the mind, making it possible to search through memories as if they are a tangible thing that one could pick up and examine. At times, these thoughts and memories crop up unexpectedly, attaching to the dancers in unwanted ways. While the dancers can kick the objects, exchange them, or pick through them, they never really go away. 

Another important element to the piece is the sound composition by Shirey and the sound design by Sherman and Thorson. The sound of the piece is incongruous to what is happening onstage, always changing, and dramatically alters the world that the dancers exist in. What starts as a mix of car noises, scraping, and liquid dripping in a cave transitions seamlessly into what sounds like an intense moment in a scary movie. It then switches just as seamlessly into disco music. Later, it becomes a kind of circus themed background noise.

The changing sounds effectively transport the action, creating new meanings to the movements and a sense of placelessness. The dancers often move as if to fill a void. They literally become placeholders, occupying space as though they are searching for a reason to be there. 

For the most part, they dance without emotion. Thorson's complex choreography is intellectual and reflective. At times, it becomes dreary, but it is also meditative. Ultimately, the work seems to be about a search for why we exist, and what drives us to do what we do. 


"Spaceholder Festival"
8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday
Red Eye Theater
15 W 14th Street, Minneapolis

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Red Eye Theater

15 W. 14th St.
Minneapolis, MN 55403


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