FRINGE SHORTS: Cathy Wright’s “Thrower of Light”

Dance critic Lightsey Darst will be sending in dispatches and short reviews throughout this year's Fringe Festival. Here, she kicks off our Fringe coverage with a brief on Cathy Wright's itch-and-grit movement piece, "Thrower of Light."


IF YOU’RE STARTING YOUR FRINGE AS I DID, after a long and tiring day, you could do worse than Cathy Wright‘s Thrower of Light. Whatever you think of her work, she’ll at least keep you awake as she goes straight for the jugular‚ or crotch, or child self. Wright throws lots of moody light and industrial/embryonic sound (mostly composed by Matthew S. Smith) around her psycho-sexual ritual-dramas, which are full of heavy breathing and muscle-clenching cross-body torsion, peppered with odd vocalizations, and so deeply dug into the stage that you expect her to leave ruts.

Just because the dance is emotional, though, doesn’t mean that emotion always gets across. Wright tends to just wham right in, no prologue, and sometimes it’s hard to find an entrance to her feeling. Who are these super-intense half-feral people? When three guys apparently call a facemask penalty with one hand and grab their crotches with the other, where am I supposed to be? Is this camp? Is it serious? Both?

Whatever it is, there’s no doubt about this: it’s alive, and this makes me happy. Though she needs dramaturgical aid (and help with names: come on, Thrower of Light sounds like a bad fantasy novel), I wouldn’t want Wright to quit mining her pagan-anarcho-punk-feminist Tom Waits/Madonna/David Lynch itch-n-grit aesthetic. The couple of pieces in this show that step outside that sphere are banal, but in her deepest explorations of it (like “The Demon Familiar,” which Wright wants to expand into an evening-length work — yes!), she really gets her black-polish claws into a crucial nerve.

And, just to show she knows she’s crazy, Wright finishes up with a punk-pirate romp. This is great fun because everyone’s whooping, one guy is caroming around stage in back flips, and hey, who doesn’t love a pirate? Or, given the current geopolitical situation, perhaps a more appropriate question would be who doesn’t love Christine Maginnis in a black corset? I thought so.

Speaking of performers, Wright’s collected some serious movers who work to their last inch and drop of sweat, such as Maginnis, Debra McGee, and how about Rachel Barnes? She was utterly new to me, but clearly an old soul in her impassioned yet scrupulous dance. Or Jennifer Mack, who flings her Olive Oyl frame with abandon. (Aside to Ms. Mack: Don’t think your little odyssey across the TC dance scene is going unnoticed; I’ve been enjoying seeing you try out every form you can find. But now I’m starting to want to see you build something. It looks to me like you have more to give.)

Wright’s performers wouldn’t look so good without Wright’s movement, though. There’s more solid movement invention in this concert than I’ve seen in a while. It doesn’t all work for me, as I’ve said, but there are plenty of moments I’d like to see again. No mistake, Wright’s spent some time in a studio, exploring form and opposition — bound/free, control/release, pigeon-toed/turned-out — all tending towards a technique of transformation. The body undone and redone by life — that’s Wright’s deep theme.


Fringe Festival performance details for this show:

Cathy Wright: Thrower of Light is on stage at the Ritz Theater: August 3 @ 8:30 pm, August 6 @ 7 pm, August 8 @ 4 pm

Check back regularly throughout the Fringe Festival for more short reviews on, sent in from our intrepid performance critics

About the writer: Lightsey Darst writes on dance for Mpls/St Paul magazine. She is also a poet who served as the founding coordinator of’s What Light: This Week’s Poem publication project, and the founder and host of a monthly writers’ salon, The Works, at the Bryant Lake Bowl.

Lightsey  Darst

Lightsey Darst is a writer and critic based in Durham. She has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts for both literature and dance criticism, as well as a Minnesota Book Award. Her books of poetry are Find the Girl and DANCE (2010 and 2013, both from Coffee House Press). Her criticism is online at,, The Huffington Post, and Bookslut. …   read more