Every man enjoys a guys' night out with his buddies once in a while, and seasoned choreographer and dancer Scott Wells is no different. The only distinction is that he opts for hitting the studio with his posse of male colleagues, as he explains, "instead of playing poker or going to strip clubs." Wells grew up on military bases, playing football with his older brothers and enduring the physical battering that comes with being the baby of the family. Growing up in such a macho environment, it is not surprising that as an artist Wells is compelled to examine the male psyche. His electrifying, athletic choreography -- including many of his high-powered pieces, such as Wrestling With Affection and Chaos Dance -- helps shatter stereotypes of male dancers as sissies.
Wells' latest work, One Fell Swoop: The Art of Skateboarding, is a bold piece that blends dynamic, fearless dancing with high-octane skateboarding. The "dance spectacle," premiering Thursday at Theater Artaud, was initially inspired by curiosity, after Wells saw the countless daredevil tricks performed by young skaters congregating in parks throughout the city. "Archetypically they are outsiders who gather as loose knit groups with their own codes of interacting and watching," Wells explains. "I became inspired seeing how they interact with the architecture of the city. Most of us accept the authority of the landscape. Skateboarders question and rebel in a way I find artistic."
Although Wells won't be clearing the gap anytime soon, he admires the athletic prowess required by the sport. "I'm attracted to the fluidity -- the smoothness and the danger of it, the speed and unexpected flight." In fact, Wells admits he is personally scared of the game, a surprising admission from a man who can bounce off the floor and leap through the air like a bona fide Spider-Man.
For One Fell Swoop, Theater Artaud was transformed into a mini skate park, complete with ramps, ledges, boxes, and walls. Showing off his trademark charged, contact-improv style, Wells choreographed the piece to integrate high physicality and risk-taking action with, as he puts it, "images and ideas that amuse and provoke." Although there are fixed patterns and set courses for the boarders to run, Wells also allows them a great deal of freedom in their movement, leaving an element of chance that adds to the drama. The performance begins with contrast: high-speed runs juxtaposed with quiet scenes, where dancers incorporate skateboards into their moves. In the final series, the dancers and the boarders come together, symbolizing the collision of high art with street culture -- a union Wells relishes. "I want to keep [the boarders'] street flavor. There's a rawness in what they do, a little bit of uncertainty, which is what I like. I like their wildness."