The Lonely makes leap from drawings to dance floor

By Joe Riina-Ferrie

The Lonely is an example of a work of art being successfully reimagined in another form. A theatrical dance show based on the drawings of William Steig, it is an energetic blend of many forms of expression. With so much going on at once, the simple black-and-white drawings may have been in danger of getting lost or obscured, but instead they only grew more vivid.

Director Kate Blomquist knew what she wanted to do almost from the moment she first saw a book of Steig’s drawings.

“Whenever I looked at the drawings, I could already see the dances in my head,” said Blomquist. She chose eight dancers to bring the show to life. Eric Zabriskie, who graduated from the College last year, composed original music for the dances, blending melancholy keyboard, computer, and guitar progressions with striking melodies to create music of almost cinematic affect.

The dances themselves are both engaging and imaginative. They range from choreographed stage combat to dancers hiding in rectangular black boxes or sobbing and playing the tambourine. Many seem quite dark, but they all maintain a sort of whimsical, childlike feeling.

One of the main reasons that the dances are so engaging is the characters of the dancers. While the show has no spoken lines, its dances are character-based, and it involves a lot of acting. Each dance is also a sort of interpretive narrative inspired by the drawing it is based on. With this in mind, Blomquist chose a mix of actors and dancers for her cast. She was extremely pleased with how successfully they managed to balance both.

“A lot of them really had to step out of where they were comfortable,” she said of her dancers.

The theatrical aspect is one reason that Blomquist decided to do the show through UT rather than one of the dance groups on campus. The show’s format is that of a narrative rather than a recital. But perhaps the most beneficial aspects of working with UT were the set, costume, and lighting design. The costumes and lighting, especially, added immensely to the effect of the show. Lighting effects as simple as a colored background to match the mood of the piece and as precise as controlled boxes of light following the choreography emphasized the already intense movements of the dancers.

Through the dances, one thing that comes through clearly is Blomquist’s love of and enthusiasm for Steig’s drawings. One of her hopes in performing the piece here is that more people will come to know Steig’s work, which included drawings for adults, cartoons in The New Yorker, and many children’s books. Steig’s work may not have such an impact on everyone, but it is fascinating, at the very least, to see it interpreted as dance.

The Lonely is playing this Thursday through Saturday at 8pm in the Reynolds Club’s First Floor Theater. Even those with little interest in dance are sure to be entertained.