“Would we have dreamed up this idea in a pre-COVID world? Would we have dared to ask an audience to stand outside in late January for a solid 45 minutes? I do not believe so,” says Bethany Bak, Director of Movement Education for the Indianapolis Movement Arts Collective (IMAC).
And thankfully, through innovation and a passion to create, the invitation stands. On Saturday, January 23, IMAC and the Indianapolis Opera will present, A Light in the Window – Odes to Winter. The one-night-only event, hosted by the Indianapolis Opera, will take place at the Basile Opera Center, located at 40th and Pennsylvania Streets. Audience members will take a guided outdoor stroll around the Basile Opera Center and view an eclectic array of performers through windows in a safe, yet intimate environment. Usha Sirimalle, Indy Bollywood’s organizer and a performer in the show, says she appreciates the opportunity to dance and the logistical design of the performance. “I was very impressed with the creative thought of IMAC,” she says, “and how they planned an event to look so beautiful while being careful and following COVID regulations.”
A Light in the Window features independent artists and organizations including the Indianapolis Opera, NoExit Performance, Justin Sears-Watson, Usha Sirimalle of Indy Bollywood, Mary Jo DeMyer, Luther DeMyer, Hadar Tann, and Lani Weissbach. “What makes our specific performance unique, I believe,” says Bak, “is how varied the installations are. How each artist approached the task of poetically interpreting winter in their own unique way. Some using dance/movement, some theatre, voice, some with a multidisciplinary approach.”
The innovation of each performance mirrors the spirit of innovation driving the project. “These circumstances we find ourselves in have forced us, as the NoExit Performance says, to re-imagine more,” says Bak. “I love that phrase because it shifts our mindset to thinking about what is possible instead of what is not possible. What if we viewed these challenges or limits to our creative practices or daily lives as a gift instead of a hindrance? What if we let go of how things used to be and embraced, for the time being, how things are?
David Starkey, general director of the Indianapolis Opera, agrees, saying, “In these times we need to be sure to connect and come together. We hope A Light in the Window pulls the blinds. We want to share with our neighbors what we have to offer — music, art, and dance.”
Weissbach, EmbodieDance, and Butoh Teacher, echoes those sentiments and considers the need for collective experiences. “We have all experienced varying levels of difficulty with this pandemic,” she says, “and there is no doubt that the physical isolation and loss of regular, in-person contact with others has negatively affected our well-being. This performance will provide us with the rare opportunity to get off our couches and away from our screens even for just a short period of time, and will remind us of what we can easily forget — that our growth and health as humans depends on our ability to be physically present (albeit at a safe distance for now) with other humans.”
The spirit of reciprocity remains at the heart of the project. “I hope when the performers look out from their winter worlds, they see eyes filled with wonder and delight, and are reminded just how vital their art-making is to our community and the world,” says Bak. “I hope when the audience experiences the work of these incredible artists, that their curiosity is sparked, that they are moved in some way, and that they remember how much value art brings to their lives.”