Memphis dance troupe Project: Motion may call itself a modern dance company, but this weekend’s performance comes wrapped in an antiquarian package.
“House Happening” is an evening of dance created specifically for the historic Woodruff-Fontaine House at 680 Adams.
Built in 1870, the French Victorian mansion is a tourist attraction and popular venue for weddings.
“We wanted to get out of the theater and challenge ourselves as choreographers,” said longtime Project: Motion dancer and choreographer Louisa Koeppel. “We had been batting around the idea of site-specific work for a while. We looked at various places of architectural interest. Then we got a tour of the space, and the entire house was very intriguing.”
Koeppel calls the house the “Holy Grail” of historic properties that have contributed to the city’s artistic culture.
In fact, the Memphis College of Art had its beginnings as a free art school in the house before relocating to Overton Park in 1959.
A group that would later become Theatre Memphis produced plays in the carriage house in the back of the property located on a street once known as “Millionaires’ Row.”
Six choreographers helped create dances for the event that takes place in various rooms and outside the house. Each of the four showings can accommodate between 40 and 50 viewers. They will be divided into two groups and led through the house by docents who add narrative and some context to the pieces.
“The goal is to reflect the house and its little bits of history,” Koeppel said. “We are not trying to be a living Madame Tussauds.”
Koeppel’s dance, a solo performance, touches on facets of visual art linked to the house’s history. Bethany Bak’s “Ornament of Society” offers a campy commentary on Victorian feminism by having corseted women struggle with their clothing in the formal parlor of the house.
Emily Hefley explores a historical time shift when women began wearing pants instead of dresses. Rebecca Cochran’s piece, “Suffragette,” glimpses into a secret society of Victorian women’s rights activists.
Koeppel hopes that Project: Motion will plan more site-specific works in the future.
“The trend that many companies are talking about is taking things to the people,” Koeppel said. “We want to make people aware of the cultural gems that we have in Memphis.”
Project: Motion’s ‘House Happening’
7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 and 7 p.m. Sunday at the Woodruff-Fontaine House, 680 Adams. Tickets are $25 adults, $10 children. Call 901-214-LEAP.