The piece also features ambient music by Valley composers Ryan Breen and Kristofer Hill. Ryan Breen is a current instructor in the music department at Metro, and Kristofer Hill is a former Metro instructor who now lives in Spain.
Scorpius Dance Theatre is best-known for “A Vampire Tale,” a sexy goth romp that serves a “Nutcracker” for Halloween. But Scorpius founder Lisa Starry will be showing a different side of her choreographic personality in “Dreaming in Water.”
“This is one of my only shows that is family-friendly,” Starry says. “The music’s playful, it’s not too scary. There are a lot of great visuals in it, great light design, very colorful.”
The show is a family affair in another way: It stars her 6-year-old son, Leo, in video-projection form. He serves as a sort of tour guide through a series of fantasy sequences inspired by water in its many incarnations. The multimedia work includes cinematic imagery of dancers underwater, in a sort of conversation with the movement being performed on the stage — and above it, in Cirque du Soleil-style aerial dances.
For example, there’s a comic piece that contrasts video of synchronized swimming a la Esther Williams with six dancers attempting to execute a similar routine in an inflatable kiddie pool.
The concert, which will be Saturday, April 13, at the Chandler Center for the Arts, is a revision of “Water Dreams,” Starry’s first full-length work with Scorpius, from 2002. It features ambient music by Valley composers Ryan Breen and Kristofer Hill.
For the update, Starry and filmmaker Josh Kasselman shot all-new footage.
“We had to shoot a few months ago and it was still cold,” Starry says. “So trying to find a pool that was heated and deep enough was a little bit of a challenge, because I didn’t want to get my dancers sick.”
The troupe ended up at the Clarendon Hotel in Scottsdale, where they spent two full days experimenting with underwater movement. Some of the dancers had trouble with holding their breath, opening their eyes or just staying underwater without bobbing to the surface. But others got the hang of it quickly, including three-year member Gavin Sisson, who also serves as Scorpius’ aerial dance captain.
“The moment that your feet come off the ground, your body tends to move in different ways than you’re used to,” he says. “So being in the air is very similar to being underwater.”
There are some differences as well, however.
“Because you’re moving so slowly, you really have to articulate every muscle and stretch through everything, which really goes with hard-core ballet training,” he says.
Starry says she also needed new video of the child guide. The first time out, that role was played by her older son Christian, now 17.
“Christian was perfect,” she says. “He modeled when he was little, and he would just do whatever you want. He’d smile when you say smile.
“Now, Leo is totally opposite. He has autism spectrum disorder, so you have to navigate him very differently. So Josh and I decided to film Leo in a more casual kind of way, where we would put him in these environments and we would film how he naturally responded to it. Because as soon as we tried to get him to act, it just would not work.
“We would have to do things to kind of trick him.”