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Jose Hernandez, arguably a key figure in the genesis of the project, was in the Weber County Correctional Facility in Ogden for a gun-possession conviction and facing deportation upon his release. Nevertheless, he was available for those able to make the 7 a.m. Sunday morning visitors’ call. For whatever reason, Boye-Christensen did not get to interview Hernandez through the jail’s Plexiglas window.
“I was reaching a point of complete desperation,” Boye-Christensen says. “The people I was collaborating with were disappearing.” By August, she was balking at using “Kids Without a Country” as a title. “It doesn’t work for me at the moment,” she said then. “It’s very specific. I want to create something more subtle, not an anthropological research paper.”
Hunter’s hopes for a piece that could go to schools and even go on a national tour to draw attention to the issues facing undocumented youth seemed doomed. Still, he took Boye-Christensen to a cramped West Valley basement to interview Jesus Silva. His former gang life intrigued her. “There are strange hierarchies implicit in these gangs,” she says, “a strong, primitive energy that is kind of fascinating to me.”
The rawness and restlessness of Silva’s art caught her attention. So did he. “Sitting there on his bed, in that tiny room in that messy house, it struck me he’s so innocent,” Boye-Christensen says. She envies him what she describes as “childlike qualities.”
Hunter also took the choreographer to meet another of his ex-Boys & Girls’ Club members, Marisela Perez. “When Walt was at the club, I would go every single day,” Perez recalls. “It absorbed me, took me away from my house. Just to be alone, it eats you inside.”
Perez felt alone, even though at that time she was living with her father. Her mother had suffered a nervous breakdown and moved to Mexico to be with her family. Her father, Perez says, “is cold as a rock.” She was used to her mother hugging and kissing her. “I realized what I had lost,” she says. With Hunter she wrote her first poem, “I Remember.” “Thoughts came out of me like a tornado.”
Along with Silva’s paintings and Perez’s poems, Boye-Christensen found inspiration in her own crisis. At 38, Boye-Christensen arrived at a crossroads. “A lot of things in my life are in disarray. With these questions came a lot of frustration and potent anger.” There was also, she says, “a sense of desperation I really wanted to emphasize.”
That desperation came through loud and clear a week before the piece was to open at the Rose Wagner. Partly it’s in the music. Boye-Christensen found the primal energy she wanted in The Doors’ “L.A. Woman.” That’s followed by words and music from Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire. On the soundtrack, actor Bruno Ganz intones lines from a poem in German about the wonder of childhood. Boye-Christensen lived in Berlin and speaks fluent German. The piece finishes with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ seminal tortured love song, “From Her to Eternity,” also featured in the Wenders movie.
“You’ll either love it or hate it,” Boye-Christensen predicts. Indeed, “Lost” does not always make for comfortable viewing.
The three men fling one of the female dancers in the air like she’s a toy. The women sit on the men’s shoulders, then slide down, the men’s hands around their neck. Whether they are strangling or caressing their partner is open to interpretation. The work is rife with a murky ambiguity. Which is perhaps why this piece is, as Boye-Christensen believes, “so bloody successful.”
There are repeated motifs of bodies rolling across the floor, of dancers pushing one another out the way, breaking up other dance partners holding hands. It’s a dark, sensual piece, full of repressed violence, of figures reaching up with yearning hands, writhing above each other, ever more frenetic.