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Preview: This time it’s “Fire” as Beacon Dance takes elemental series to Decatur Cemetery

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The ensemble uses nature as its stage. (Photos courtesy of Beacon Dance)

A candlelit figure in white will appear around dusk this weekend in Decatur Cemetery. Sounds of wind chimes that once hung from a tree, breathing sounds and whispers, may fill the air. Though it may seem like a ghostly visitation, the performance by Patton White and his ensemble, Beacon Dance, will be very real.

White’s site-specific pieces can create the feeling that the work has always been there, silent and invisible, waiting for White and his group of performing artists to unveil it. Whether around a creek, on an old railroad bridge or in a graveyard, it’s as if the performance space has more than just a history, but has a consciousness of moods and memories that White’s imagination makes visible.

Beacon Dance will perform “The Elemental Project 2012: Section 16, Part 1 (Fire)” at the cemetery this Friday through Sunday at 6 p.m. daily, rain or shine. The free performance is the third installment of its season-long series of site-specific works inspired by water, earth, fire and air, the four traditional elements.

Juana Farfel of Beacon Dance.

In the series, White explained, each of the elements represents a stage in life. Water is a metaphor for birth and origins, earth for corporeal experience on life’s path, fire for passage into the unknown, and air for what is beyond this existence. Fire is found in many cultures as a way of honoring or dealing with death, such as in funeral pyres and cremation, White said. In some cultures, he said, the burning of prayer papers symbolizes the transformation of tangible things into the ethereal.

The “Section 16, Part 1″ in the work’s title refers to the location in the cemetery where cremated remains are interred — “a wonderful, contemplative, peaceful spot,” White said, that sits on a hill overlooking the oldest part of the cemetery. He described the event as “a slowly unfolding ritual,” and audience members will be free to move around the performance area to view the proceedings from multiple perspectives as the work unravels to live accompaniment by composer (and ArtsCriticATL contributor) Jon Ciliberto.

The purpose, the choreographer said, is “to bring people into that contemplative state of being … in that space with many generations past very present.”

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