The Glacier Creek Prairie Project started with an unusual request, which Metal-Corbin couldn’t resist: “There was only one time during all of those decades when someone came to me, this very enthusiastic environmentalist, Barbi Hayes, and said, ‘We are inaugurating a prairie up north, and I would like these dancers.’ She envisioned them as waving blades of grass. She invited me without me being behind the scenes as I usually was. It was such a moment when someone else envisioned dance and invited me” (Metal-Corbin. 26 Apr. 2017). The Glacier Creek Prairie Project is a collaboration with the Rivertown String Band, the NU Foundation, and the UNO Biology and Music departments. “The stage was a tall grass prairie. Some of the grass had fallen over. The surface was spongy, not solid. The dancers didn’t know where they would land, and crickets were flying up their dresses. A violinist and a flutist played up on the ridge. The dancers were down in the ridge. “There were some graduate biology students who looked at us like what the heck are dancers doing in our territory? But then, the music started” (Metal-Corbin. 26 Apr. 2017). John Price from the English Department, read a poem. Then, Natasha Kessler, a poetry student in the University’s low-residency MFA in Writing program, recited a poem she had written for the dance: “’Go poems. Go dancers. Go music.’ Then just as they were going into a turn, this blackbird flies by. ‘Go bird’! Then there was ‘Go Thunder.’ It was just this synchronization of nature and dancers and music” (Metal-Corbin. 26 Apr. 2017).
The most important thing about site-specific work that makes it different from the traditional proscenium stage is the fourth wall. On the proscenium stage, there is the back wall and stage right and stage left. Upstage is the back. The audience is in front of the bridge – the division between the audience and the dancers. In site-specific work, when dancers are out on the pedestrian bridge, or at the zoo, or dancing on tall prairie grass, that division is broken, because there is no stage. The fourth wall is that space between the audience and the performers typically. In site-specific work, that wall becomes permeable; the dancer isn’t confined and can move into the audience. This permeable fourth wall represents Metal-Corbin’s work perfectly: “If anyone knows my work, and would express it in one sentence, it would be that I was a collaborator. I would bring people together. It’s what I did very well, because I didn’t feel people were threatening my turf. I wanted to learn about their turf. I’ve worked with mathematicians, with scientists, as well as with artists. I love that. I always came away inspired for the choreography, and I knew that the dancers would be challenged to be in different spaces, other than just the proscenium theater” (Metal-Corbin. 26 Apr. 2017).
Josie Metal-Corbin is cognizant that she inherited a well-established, progressive dance program from her predecessors. “My success is predicated on the work of my successors in The Moving Company: Ruth Diamond Levinson and Vera Lundahl” (Metal-Corbin. 26 Apr. 2017). Ruth Levinson Diamond founded Orchesis in 1935, and directed the University’s chapter of this nationwide honorary club for modern dance, for which faculty sponsorship was provided during the early decades. Orchesis became The Moving Company in 1973 under the direction of Dr.Vera Lundahl.
She is also very grateful to Lauren Kotulak Bartels, who was the first student Metal-Corbin met at UNO. She also has been her Associate Director from 1993-2015. Metal-Corbin said Kotulak Bartels provided inspiration and counsel, and contributed artistically and administratively for the proscenium-based concerts and the site-specific works, the Sunday classes, and the everyday tasks. Without her, Metal-Corbin