Three years ago Ole Ole Puppet and Dance Theater founder Wendy Clinard explored the myth of Cupid and Psyche in a puppetry piece commissioned by the city for a Halloween parade. A year later she put together The Quest of Theseus, continuing to address ancient mythology in the context of puppetry–and adding flamenco dance, which she fell in love with nine years ago and has studied ever since.

Now Clinard abandons mythic narrative to pursue a much more impressionistic piece inspired in part by the illusionistic techniques of French theater artist Philippe Genty. Shifting Landscapes is about the journey of water, which like figures from mythology undergoes its own transformations. In one dreamlike sequence, flamenco costumes and the movements of modern dance evoke waterfalls: a profusion of “tail” flamenco skirts–the traditional bata de cola–in cobalt, white, pale green, and aqua cascades over the base of a human pyramid and onto the floor. In front are the waves: figures in stark white undulating across the floor in pairs. Flamenco, which is highly percussive, is used in the storm sequences; guest artist Edwin Aparicio–a renowned dancer who divides his time between Spain and Washington, D.C.–plays the eye of the storm.

“I have all the rebels of flamenco,” Clinard says of her dancers, laughing. Performer Karen Stelling, who danced with Ensemble Espanol Spanish Dance Theater for almost ten years, describes Clinard’s work as “a great combination of the passion of flamenco with the lyrical quality of modern dance–so much of modern dance feels pretty cold.”

The 90-minute Shifting Landscapes features the puppets (mostly shadow puppets) of sculptor Susan Clinard (Wendy’s sister), 15 dancers, six musicians (including vocalist David Gonzalez of Las Guitarras de Espana), and five puppeteers. It opens next Thursday, September 6, at 8 PM and runs Friday and Saturday, September 7 and 8, at 8 PM and Sunday, September 9, at 2 PM at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State. Tickets are $15-$18; call 312-455-1541 for tickets and information.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jim Newberry.