The dancers are running through the new work, breaking out into small groups, then rejoining the larger ensemble, kicks, turns and jumps punctuating the frenetic movement. They form two diagonal rows, then break apart again, circling to the edge of the rehearsal studio to await the next entry, which comes quickly.
In character, Jon Michael Perry sits in contemplation downstage as the ensemble of mostly women roll shoulders, extend arms and turn hips, embodying the inner tumult of an active mind.
Perry is Edgar Allan Poe. The chorus of dancers represent Poe’s imagination. The writer is in the process of realizing a new poem, “The Raven,” his dark thoughts flooded with images and words.
This is “Poe: A Play in the Dark,” the latest collaborative production from Dancefx and Entropy Arts, featuring the Charleston Dance Project. It features Perry as Poe, Starla Kurtz as the Raven and Crystal Wellman as Poe’s wife, Virginia.
The music is a mash-up constructed by Entropy’s Andrew Walker. Inspired by Richard Wagner, the score employs the complete Faust Overture, then another 30 minutes or so of original music.
The expressive choreography is by Kurtz, Dancefx director Jenny Broe, Sara Sumner and Stephanie Burg.
“Sara Sumner and I wanted to do something related to Poe,” Broe said, referring to the origins of the idea for this production. She took the seed of an idea to Walker who in turn ruminated on it as he listened to Wagner’s Faust Overture.
“It was kind of like a Poe moment,” he said.
A storyline emerged in his mind: Poe’s creative journey, the writing of “The Raven.” In the poem, the narrator laments the loss of his great love Lenore and descends into madness.
The dance would depict this descent, and at the same time reveal the process of creation. Poe himself would play a leading role, interacting with his avian character, his wife and his inner demons as the poem is narrated by a disembodied voice.
“We follow him into a dark world” — his subconscious — “while he is writing,” Walker said. “We get to watch him write the piece in real time.”
This is the latest in a series of collaborations between Entropy Arts and the Charleston Dance Project. In 2012, the two groups presented a piece called “Ebb and Flow.” Last year, they created the high-concept “Mannequin: The American Dream.” And they’ve worked together on the Jail Break potpourri held each year at the Old City Jail downtown.
“Poe” runs at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Sottile Theatre. Preceding the 45-minute piece, at 7 p.m., is the seventh annual Dancefx Spring Concert, featuring the Dancefx Performance Company and dancers from the Adult Studio Program.
For “Poe,” Broe, Sumner and Burg are creating movement that reflects the turmoil of the creative process.
“Poe is making a deal with the darkness to yield brilliance,” Broe said.
Walker’s music, which he creates by looping and layering sounds electronically, then playing over this musical texture on the keyboard, is meant to be as responsive as possible to the movement on stage. He is adapting and bending the music according to cues he receives from the dancers, he said.
Wagner’s music begins the piece, then the music gives way to new sounds: bass drones, staccato figures, music reminiscent of Phillip Glass, then Pink Floyd, then 1960s surf rock, then a little psychedelic pop.
Inserted in the score are two songs, Timber Timbre’s 2014 release “Run From Me,” a slow, simple, moody lament, and “Love Never Changes,” the 1956 close-harmony waltz sung by the Chordettes. The effect is a pleasant disruption that changes the overall mood of an otherwise intense, pulsating piece.
After the run-through, Burg offers the dancers a few observations: They should keep their angles sharp, work on their creepy monster characters, stay in line and tighten up the movements.
This rehearsal is devoted to the choreography, but soon the ensemble will delve into character development and storyline, Walker said. They will don extravagant costumes by Laura Bland and strive to convey something intangible: the creative force.
“They’re representations of Poe’s mind, in all its craziness, awesomeness,” Broe said.
Reach Adam Parker at 937-5902. Follow him at www.facebook.com/aparkerwriter.