Credit: Christian DeKnock

The creators of Khecari’s weeklong dance event,
The Retreat
, encourage audience members to fall asleep. Or rather Khecari’s artistic
directors, Jonathan Meyer and Julia Rae Antonick, who have been developing
the project since 2014, fuse improvisation and highly structured
choreography into an amorphous performance designed to put viewers in a
meditative headspace.

Meyer and Antonick want to evoke the feeling of being in the wilderness,
using fabric and light to transform Pilsen’s Glass Factory into a living
environment. “There’s things happening sometimes, but it’s always
existing,” says Antonick. “Your attention can go away, go inward, and then
something will happen that stimulates your brain. There’s a lot of ways of
interacting with the world.”

Those interactions include optional movement, drawing, and writing
workshops. Audience members are asked to complete an application when they
book their tickets so the company can individualize their experiences.
Stays range from two hours to the entire week, but instant immersion is the
goal. “You can step out into the wilderness for five minutes, and it’s not
a different feel than what you get in a day or two,” says Meyer. “You
experience more, but the feel is clear from the beginning.”

The scope of The Retreat introduces a slew of logistical
challenges. “Who’s cleaning every day so the space feels good?” asks Meyer.
“How’s laundry getting done, because you can’t perform in sweaty, nasty
clothing? They’re mundane issues, but incredibly important to how everyone
is feeling.” Comfort for the audience and performers is a primary concern
in creating a relaxed atmosphere where viewers can engage with material on
their own terms as its develops organically before their eyes, open or
closed.   v