Jump to content

Ligia Lewis
Water Will (in Melody)

Ligia Lewis Water Will (in Melody) video still


Content Warning

This performance contains strobe lighting, loud sounds, water-based fog effects, brief nudity, and sexually suggestive gestures.


In Water Will (in Melody), the stage is another world—one so dark, cavernous, and disorienting we can only let go of symbolism and theater as we know it. This dystopian fantasy of text and movement encourages the tension between known and unknown.

How can a theater—its illusions, its tropes, its metaphors—transform how we think and perceive? What can choreography do to our ideas about the figures we see onstage? About how race and gender play out across a body?

In this devised choreographic work for four performers, melodrama and darkness—both literally onstage and psychologically—are points of departure for wrestling with notions of the “willful” black femme figure in action. Playing with how mime both over-performs and under-describes our reality, Berlin-based choreographer Ligia Lewis creates a grotesque mash-up of natural landscape and human behavior. In Water Will {bio: (in Melody), Lewis returns to Chicago to use the MCA theater as a cavernous space for negotiating desire, imagining the future, and shifting our perceptions—a space at once rife with potential and full of impossibility, where the familiar symbolism of the body comes unhinged. Unfolding in a wet, dystopian, gothic landscape, Lewis's disorienting fantasy undoes the senses to reform them anew, paving the way for an “othered” organization of experiencing the world, in a fiction that invites instability, re-creation, and catastrophe.

Water Will (in Melody) is the final chapter of Lewis's Blue, Red, White triptych which began with Sorrow Swag (2014)} in blue and minor matter(2016) in red. Each piece takes on a different color, texture, and emotional palette to grapple with the ways that dancing subjects show up on stage in front of an audience, by altering expectations about race, gender, and choreographed movement.

This performance was organized by Tara Aisha Willis, Associate Curator of Performance Programs.


HAU Hebbel am Ufer is the lead producer of Water Will (in Melody) with coproduction support by Biennale de l'Image en Mouvement 2018 / Centre D'Art Contemporain {bio: (Geneva), tanzhause nrw (Düsseldorf), Arsenic Centre d'art scénique contemporain (Lausanne), donaufestival (Krems), Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), and Münchner Kammerspiele. The work is funded by Berlin Senate Department for Culture and Europe, with addition support from Baryshnikov Arts Center (NYC). Special thanks to Jarrett Gregory for residency support.

Like the best science fiction, Lewis’ work is most successful in its insistence that the spare can be made spectacular.

Catherine Damman, Artforum

Water Will (in Melody) [is] one of the most memorable choreographies of 2018.

Astrid Kaminski, van-magazin.de

Special Performances

Pre-Show Sip and Chat

  • Thu, Jan 30, 7–7:45 pm

The Commons

Arrive early and get primed for the performance! One hour before the start of the show, join MCA staff members in a participatory conversation on the themes and content of the work.

Water Will (in Melody) opens by retelling a version of "The Willful Child," a lesser-known fairy tale by the Grimm Brothers, before launching into a mysterious exploration of how society responds to willfulness. We'll dive deeper into the performance's subject matter by reading this short text together. Stop by Marisol for refreshments and then head up to the Commons for a rich conversation! We'll be sure to leave enough time for you to pick up your tickets from will call and find a seat.

RSVP to this free event by emailing Laura Paige at [email protected].

Post-Show Talk

Fri, Jan 31, immediately following the performance

Performance scholars Tina Post, of the University of Chicago, and Joshua Chambers-Letson, of Northwestern University, are joined by choreographer and performer Ligia Lewis for an in-depth conversation on her work and process.

Accessible Performance

Fri, Jan 31, Audio Description

Victor Cole provides an optional live audio description for patrons who are blind or have low vision. Headsets can be reserved by calling our Box Office at 312-397-4010 or by emailing [email protected].