Meaningful moves

Lostwax’s Melt searches for beauty
By JOHNETTE RODRIGUEZ  |  October 24, 2007

What do you get when you combine three dancers, two six-foot sheets of melting ice, tiny video transmitters, and footage of Alaskan glaciers and ice caves? A new piece titled Melt, by the multimedia dance theater Lostwax, to be presented as part of the FirstWorksProv Festival on October 26 and 27 at the Pell Chafee Performance Center (
Lostwax refers to the lost-wax process in which a positive form in wax is cast with a heat-resistant material, such as clay, which can then be cast in metal. The wax is “lost” in the baking of the first mold. Lostwax co-founder and choreographer Jamie Jewett does a similar thing in his creations, where “a lot of different things go into the process, but they leave something different in the end.”
Providence resident Jewett, 39, received his undergraduate degree in movement and Buddhist studies at Naropa University in Colorado. He’s as steeped in the iconography of Tibetan Buddhism — the many figures that populate the religion — as in its contemplative underpinnings. His background also includes the Japanese avant-garde movement called Butoh; the “release-technique” developed by Trisha Brown and other New York-based dancer/choreographers; and Indonesian ritual performance.
For Melt, he was inspired by the White Tara, a figure of compassion born from a tear of the Buddha, which prompted Jewett to think about the whole cycle of water. He and wife Thalia Field have spent much time in Alaska — where he filmed the video used in Melt — and one view of this piece, he readily admits, is as “a requiem for the glacier.
“I’ve been working on this for two years,” Jewett emphasized, in a recent phone conversation, “and a lot of things get folded into the process. When you distill something, you put a bunch of things in the pot. You get something that’s essential but not what you started with.
“When you have a dance that goes through the distillation of your creative process, it has the flavor of the initial information but has also become a new thing.”
The Buddhist Tara, who has eyes on her forehead, in the palms of her hand, and in the soles of her feet, prompted Jewett to place tiny video transmitters in those places on his dancers.

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