Since LED first debuted in 2013, the Boise-based multimedia company has been turning heads. It started as Lauren Edson + Dancers. That eponymous start never defined this company. It has continued to grow, morph and expand its vision with each performance, changing LED into a representation of collaboration and artistic excellence.
Founded by Idaho choreographer and dancer Edson, and composer and musician Andrew Stensaas — they are a married couple — this group’s seemingly unstoppable momentum came to a halt just as it began to surge in early 2020. There was a tour in the works, and Dance Magazine had named the company as one of 2020’s “25 to Watch” when the coronavirus pandemic shut down live performances globally.
LED took that moment to heart, and in stride.
“The immediate change in the environment forced us to look at ... our role as artists in this community,” Edson said during a FaceTime interview. “In that moment, we decided to keep it simple and be with our family — to be present for our two boys — and figure out how we’re going to make it through this. Then, the performing arts future looked grim. We needed to do the small steps and make things the only way we can, and process these events.”
So, during the pandemic lockdown months, Edson and Stensaas partnered with the culinary artists of KIN, an experience-centered restaurant in downtown Boise, for its creative “piKINic” series of outdoor picnic-style dining and inventive entertainment. The LED dancers and musicians masked up, stayed socially distant from the audiences, and danced and played their hearts out.
In their COVID creative bubble, they produced exclusive online videos for their audience; filmed the movie “Silver City,” which will be released independently of the stage show; collaborated with internationally known company Bandaloop; and brought the stage half of “Silver City” to life for its return to live performance.
With its full company on board, LED’s “Silver City” is rearing to go after nearly two years away from full-on live shows.
This is the second core Boise arts group to make the move indoors so far this season.
Live cinematic experience on stage
LED’s work has an inescapable cinematic quality — from lighting, sets and rich, layered musical scoring to a literal use of projection and film on stage. The “Silver City” show at the Morrison Center seeks to take that to the next level, Stensaas said.
“You’re engrossed in cinema on stage that gets magnified by the live performance,” he said.
“Silver City” gives a contemporary twist on the mythology of the American West — pulling from the “spaghetti western” genre set against an Idaho backdrop. It’s the tale of the lone stranger looking to make his way in the world and the townsfolk he encounters at the local saloon. These artists are holding their cards close to the vest, and not giving too many details. And although the story seems straightforward, they want to turn those well-known movie tropes on their heads.
The locale is the actual ghost town of Silver City in Owyhee County — where the company filmed for the movie, and where the characters evolve.
“This is the first time we’ve tried to tackle something cinematically from top to bottom — and it works,” Edson said. “You see the intimacy of a character revealing something about themselves as individuals through physicality, and the way the set is constructed, the audience feels like voyeurs looking into their lives.”
“It’s like an Easter egg of melodrama, laced with depth and emotionality,” she added. “It goes down easy and it tastes good.”
What makes it work is how the dancers and musicians interact with the film, and the high level of theatricality wielded through set, lighting and sound design, Edson said.
Returning to live indoor performance also is scary. Strict protocols will be in place. Audience members will have to show proof of vaccination or a negative test taken within 48 hours. And masks will be required for everyone while in the building.
“We didn’t decide to do this lightly, Stensaas said. “ We know that will limit the number of people who are willing to show up, but there’s too much at stake. What we hope is that for those who do come, it will feel special.”
Learn more at LEDBoise.com.
Go see it
What: LED’s “Silver City”
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23
Where: Morrison Center, 2201 Cesar Chavez Lane, Boise.
Tickets: $69.00, $39.50, $29.50 at MorrisonCenter.com.