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TROUPE TAKES ARTISTIC PLUNGE AT POOL

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Nothing turns on the Company of Four like a SPACE. Their eyes bug out, their palms get sweaty and their breath comes in short gasps as they contemplate the performance possibilities suggested by the ins and outs of a SPACE.

Utahns have observed these versatile dancers performing the choreography and stunts dictated by various provocative spaces-about-town. "During the last four years, we have left the proscenium to do pieces on site, and they are exciting because every space creates different challenges," said company member Susan McGee Lowdermilk.But now the company members have a space equal to their highest aspirations - the old Wasatch Plunge. There they will produce "Aquacade," a 50-minute, site-specific performance with some impressive national funding.

The abandoned swimming pool used to be the main attraction in the building now used by the Children's Museum of Utah, 840 N. 300 West. Soon it will yield to remodeling as reception space, but not before the Company of Four has had its way with it.

"Aquacade" will show Wednesday-Saturday, May 11-14, at 8:30 p.m., and it's free, thanks to an OnSITE Dancing in the Streets award of $25,000, which Company of Four matched. But seating is limited, so you'd best show up early.

OnSITE is an international commissioning fund that administers money from the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund and the National Endowment for the Arts. The fund was established "to encourage the creation of performances specific to out-of-the-ordinary architectural or natural settings that have special significance to their communities." For this honor, the old plunge qualifies in all respects.

"`We knew at once that this space was magnificent, but we didn't know what to do with it. It needs a lot of movement to fill it," said Lowdermilk, sitting at a table in the shallow end of the pool. She, her husband, Mark, and Gary Vlasic comprise a current three-legged Company of Four, which gets together on an ad hoc basis for such projects as this.

"The pool was closed to the public in the 1950s, and it still has that vintage look. It was filthy when we came in, but we're used to working in dirty old places."

"There was junk all the way into the deep end - props, mannequins, wax heads, toilets, even an old heart-and-lung machine!" said Mark Lowdermilk.

"We thought with all that money, we could hire such things done, but we've ended up scrubbing and sweeping and mopping under the leaky roof, because this space inspires us," said Susan McGee Lowdermilk. "The dancers were horrified at first, but they've gotten excited about it, they've all contributed movement ideas."

This is the last time the plunge can be seen as such. It's also the biggest effort ever by the Company of Four, and probably its last, since Mark Lowdermilk has completed medical school and has a residency in Washington state, so the two will be moving in June.

"We have abstractly drawn on the history of the pool, which was fed by Wasatch Hot Springs, until the water became polluted. We looked up museum records, we put ads in the papers and other places, visited senior aerobics classes to find people who swam here, who could tell us their memories. They remembered it being humid, and that there were occasional drownings," said Susan McGee Lowdermilk.

"We won't be too literal," said Mark Lowdermilk, "but we do have goggles and costumes that suggest wetsuits. We have a huge tank filled with water, and an aluminum pendulum that will swing throughout the performance to suggest the time element. Two dancers will be `flying' in this piece."

The Lowdermilks agree that there's an element of ghostliness to the show. One image is a woman in a gigantic black dress, which can be interpreted in many ways, from supernatural to pioneer.

A cast of 22 will include eight dancers - "an incredible cast," said Susan McGee Lowdermilk. Besides the original three, there are Jacque Lynn Bell, Christopher Ivins, Peter Francyk, Leslie Martin and Miguel Azcue.

"There will be children under 10 years of age and a smattering of adults, including some who swam here long ago," said Mark Lowdermilk. "Clay Olsen, a child, moves through, and he is really the glue of the piece, a little human thread whose youth and innocence make a silent commentary.

"We even came up with some old swimsuits, monogrammed "Wasatch,' which some little girls will wear while they usher," said Susan McGee Lowdermilk.

"All windows will be blacked out, and Oasis Stage Works will bring in a gigantic lighting setup, with design by Ken White," said Mark Lowdermilk. "The music, Quartets 1, 2 and 3 of Michael Nyman, who wrote the score for `The Piano,' will be played live by a double string quartet conducted by Henry Wolking. Music reverberates so beautifully here.

"The show is like a film, with a barrage of imagery, tapes, narrations, sound effects. Expect the unexpected."