Editor’s note: This post has been updated to reflect the inclusion of costume designer Athena Lawton and dancer Paige O’Mara in Sugar Houses.
The house is always haunted. Rosanna Gamson, faculty in The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance, identifies this as one of the big ideas of her dance company Rosanna Gamson/World Wide’s (RGWW) latest theatrical dance piece Sugar Houses. The work, which was recently awarded a National Dance Project (NDP) Production Grant of $45,000, further seeks to implicate the audience and assert that everything on earth, animate or inanimate, has a voice.
Pulling a “deconstructed narrative from Hansel and Gretel and jump scares from horror movies,” Sugar Houses is choreographed to explore the extremes of physicality, the “grotesquery and violence of fairy tales,” and the “savage intimacy of siblings.” Hansel and Gretel, famously recorded by the Grimm Brothers and considered the most beloved German folk tale, troublingly affirms antisemitic stereotypes through the witch’s character.
“The wicked witch who gets shoved in the oven provides a template for the antisemitic stereotype—greedy, big-nosed, devious, short-sighted, limping, etc.,” Gamson told 24700 in a recent email interview. “So that is one area of research that continued to pay off parallels between witches and Jews—see the Judenhut, etc. The other inspiration is my own pretty dysfunctional family and my close bond with my brother, a relationship that saved my psychic life over and over.”
A score of CalArtian dancers and performers are involved in Sugar Houses, including Mallory Fabian (Dance BFA 16), Clementine Gamson Levy, Kearian Giertz (Dance BFA 16), Kayla Johnson (Dance BFA 16), Dion Pratt (Dance BFA 17), Paige O’Mara (Dance BFA 19), and Ricco Ross. Additional CalArtian contributions comes courtesy of sound design by Simon Greenberg (Dance BFA 17), production design by Tony Shayne, vocal coaching and arrangement by Fahad Siadat (Music MFA 09, DMA 18), costume design by Athena Lawton (Theater BFA 15), dramaturgy by School of Theater faculty Mona Heinze, and additional text and advisement by School of Critical Studies faculty Brian Evenson.
“The process of creating the piece depends so much on the performers, who dance, sing, act, and create the lighting and the set as the piece goes on,” said Gamson. “We have been working together for a couple of years now, developing the project from its first incarnation that was part of the Evelyn Sharp Choreographic Residency at CalArts.”
The piece will premiere at REDCAT, running from Wednesday, March 25 to Sunday, March 29, followed by a US tour (dates and venues to be announced). Sugar Houses is Gamson’s fourth work premiering at REDCAT, following Still/Restless (2016), Tov (2010), and Aura (2005). Gamson cites REDCAT as one of the only Los Angeles venues actively commissioning local artists.
RGWW is the recipient of support and awards from National Dance Project, National Performance Network, Contacto Cultural, the Trust for Mutual Understanding, the COLA Department of Cultural Affairs’ Cultural Exchange International, and six Lester Horton Dance Awards, among which was a Special Dance Innovator Award for Gamson.