Heidi Duckler’s ‘Cloud’ initiates a dance series that merges the past, present and future of public art

By Christina Campodonico

Culver City City Hall’s “Hanging Garden” stained glass installation is one of the backdrops for “1988”
Photo by Mae Koo

Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre is known for setting dance performances in unconventional spaces — a Laundromat, abandoned movie theater, empty swimming pool and the side of an architectural firm’s building among them.

The latter, called “Space Opera,” took place two years ago at Morphosis, the Culver City-based firm of Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne. In that work, Duckler’s dancers dangled and slung themselves across that building’s façade — a 40-foot-high metal grid — transforming it into an aloft urban jungle gym perfect for aerial antics.

“Picture a dance performance on the sheer vertical cliff face of Half Dome next to El Capitan at Yosemite,” KCRW architecture and design writer Bennet Stein wrote of the show: “… The dancers were scarily plunging off, swinging around and hanging upside-down with the loucheness of one enjoying a smoke in a great big double bed — except at a 90-degree angle to the cement ground.”

Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre will attempt to reach such elevated heights again this Sunday when the company returns to Culver City to perform the first installment of its “1988” dance series, which celebrates Culver City’s Centennial and the city’s adoption of the Art in Public Places Program Ordinance.

Entitled “Cloud,” the piece happens at various times between 4 and 6:30 p.m. at Access Culver City, where company soloist Teresa “Toogie” Barcelo will perform around the dance’s namesake — a metal Möbius strip sculpture by Merge Conceptual Design — accompanied by live saxophone music.

Duckler worked with the city and former Culver City Cultural Affairs Commissioner Marla Koosed to select the site and bring attention to Culver City’s extensive collection of public art.

“It’s a beautiful sculpture right in the middle of this cross-section of Washington Boulevard,” says Duckler of the sculpture. “It’s kind of obvious and hidden at the same time. You drive by and never notice it, so I thought it would be nice to get people to really gather and take a look at it — see it from above and below.”

“‘Cloud’ is really a piece that talks about the Earth’s water cycle, both above and below the Earth’s surface,” adds Koosed, explaining how the sculpture plays with water to disappear and reappear into its urban landscape.

“It emits a mist on a frequent basis that envelopes the sculpture into a fog or cloud,” she notes.

In other words, sometimes you see it; sometimes you don’t.

Duckler was not only intrigued by the somewhat ephemeral nature of the structure, but also that of time itself with regard to Culver City’s Centennial.

“One-hundred years — so much change happens during that time,” muses Duckler. “It was an interesting celebration of the possibility of the permanent and the celebration of the temporary.”

Koosed, who is also producing “1988,” says that the dance series looks not only to times past but also to the future of Culver City, noting how “Cloud” and “Technicolor Drip” — a psychedelic rainbow mural on the side of the Platform shopping center, where the third installment of “1988” will be performed in August — are in the heart of Culver City’s newly developed areas.

“Both artworks are situated in the transit-oriented district area of Culver City, right across from the Expo Line,” says Koosed. “So it really speaks to where Culver City’s going.”

The second installment of “1988” will happen on May 7 among artist Jeff Kopp’s giant question marks, ampersands and commas at Westfield Culver City, with students from Culver City High School’s dance department performing.

But fear not, history buffs. The final installment of “1988” will happen in September at Culver City’s historic city hall, among the building’s “La Ballona” fountain piece, “Hanging Garden” stained glass and “Quotation Courtyard” & “Panoramic” outdoor installations.

“We want to show the future Culver City and the old, historical Culver City,” says Koosed.

With “1988,” the past, present and future move together as one.

“The ‘1988’ Series: Cloud” happens at 4, 5 and 6 p.m. on Sunday, April 23, at Access Culver City, 8770 Washington Blvd., Culver City. Free. Search “The ‘1998’ Series: Cloud” at eventbrite.com to reserve tickets.