If you go
What: Frequent Flyers present "The Bird House"
When: 8 p.m. Friday, May 2; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, May 3; 2 p.m. Sunday, May 4
Where: The Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder
Tickets: $25 for adults, $18 for children 12 and younger and seniors 65 and older
Valerie Morris' dance is not pretty.
It's the opposite of what aerial fabric is known for: smooth transitions; lovely, long body lines; languid movements while hanging from a long silk fabric from the ceiling.
It's fighting. It's jerking. It's trapped and strained and ugly. The Boulder woman wears a swan-like tutu, completely inappropriate for a traditional fabric performance. And the costume sheds feathers throughout the song, as she struggles in fabric that is covered in trash.
It's not the embodyment of a typical bird, either. Although that's what she's representing.
Morris is one of the performers in the Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance troupe's newest original production, "The Bird House."
Though the aerial dance group puts together a new, full-length show every spring, Boulder has not seen a show quite like this one, says Nancy Smith, founder and artistic director.
"The Bird House" hatched out of thoughts about birds from the point of view of dancers who are trying to fly. Smith says she has always been intrigued by the meaning and stories human attach to creatures that don't speak our language, and the show explores that relationship in an abstract way. It doesn't follow a narrative plot with dialogue, as a play does. Smith says she wants to leave the interpretation up to the audience — as they "take a trip to a very odd but, hopefully, intriguing aviary.
The show fuses choreography by seven different dancers who all express winged creatures differently. You will see influences of mythology, Native American bird medicine, social and environmental commentary and a look at avian behaviors, from flocking to perching to nesting.
"We played with the concept of caged versus free, and a little social commentary, although it's very subtle," Smith says. "It may or may not spark deeper thinking with both our relationship to birds and nature and capitivity, as well as some other aspects of bird social behavior."
For Morris, her piece touches on environmental issues that are important to her. She is also a geochemist at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research on the University of Colorado-Boulder campus. She analyzes ice cores that are drilled in Antarctica to examine climate change.
In the past, she says, she has kept her two worlds — dance and environmental studies — separate.
"It's exciting to do a piecee commenting on environmental issues," she says, "tying my two worlds together."
She didn't set out to make a statement; in fact, at one point, her dance was a comedy, following a silly bird caught in the fabric. The message grew deeper as she developed the character.
"The creative process isn't always a straight line," Morris says. "Things sometimes evolve on their own."