PREHISTORIC BODY THEATER is a contemporary dance-theater company conceived and founded by interdisciplinary artistic director Ari Rudenko. Prehistoric Body Theater performances feature animal dance forms and theatrical narratives based on the latest paleontological models of the behavior and anatomy of extinct organisms and the prehistoric ecosystems within which they lived. This project explores the implications of a deep-time perspective on human identity, and our interconnected story with the evolution of other vertebrate lineages on the phylogenetic Tree of Life - celebrating our ancestral inheritance of over 500 million years of unbroken survival and adaptation.
The Prehistoric Body Theater performance method is derived from a fusion of comparative anatomy studies and mentorship with leading paleontologists, technical and aesthetic inspirations from Indonesian animal dance traditions and Japanese butoh theater, and theatrical mimicry research with living animals. The Prehistoric Body Theater is intended as a transcultural art-science interface endeavor, forming aesthetic and philosophical dialogs between contemporary art and science practices, and global and indigenous animal dance traditions and perspectives on human-animal-ecology relations.
The Prehistoric Body Theater project won the 2017 Bergstrom Award for Art-Science Interface, which will fund the 2017-2018 development process and prototype performance of GHOSTS of HELL CREEK.
GHOSTS of HELL CREEK is the first feature Prehistoric Body Theater production, presenting the story of the Hell Creek ecosystem — a prehistoric flood-jungle located in present day Montana, that captures a world from just before, during, and after the apocalyptic Chicxulub asteroid impact 66 million years ago, and the ensuing mass extinction of the dinosaurs and other exquisite fauna. The Hell Creek ecosystem captures the critical transition from a dinosaur-dominated world to a mammal-dominated world, and holds the fossils of our first direct-lineage ancestor, the earliest known primate named Purgatorius.
The story of GHOSTS of HELL CREEK stars the last of the magnificently feathered and bird-like, hyper carnivorous dromeosaur, or “raptor” dinosaurs - named Acheroraptor temertyorum. Acheroraptor is named after the Acheron, the “river of woe” running through the entrance of the Greek underworld Hades. GHOSTS of HELL CREEK will follow a pack of Acheroraptor on their journey from the world of the living, through the ashes of the Deccan Traps (one of the largest volcanic eruptions in Earth’s history) to their final obliteration in the inferno of the asteroid impact.
GHOSTS of HELL CREEK then follows the rise of our ancient ancestor, the earliest known primate Purgatorius unio. Purgatorius was a squirrel sized arboreal mammal from the Hell Creek region, who first appears in the fossil record 200,000 years after the asteroid impact, rising from the ashes of the mass extinction. Fleshy fruits make their first appearance in the fossil record during this time, and Purgatorius is the first known fruit eater. This Eden-like world is the birthplace of the primate lineage who will go on to diversify and thrive for the next 65 million years, evolving into the very bodies dancing on stage, and watching in the audience.
GHOSTS of HELL CREEK is being developed as a feature dance-theater performance designed for the proscenium stage, with an ensemble of nine dancers (including scenes performed by Ari Rudenko). The performance will feature innovative choreographies, and striking original costume, stage, lighting, and sound designs. This work is both aesthetically, technically, and organizationally inspired by the famous Japanese butoh dance companies Sankai Juku and Dairakudakan.
The Prehistoric Body Theater project and GHOSTS of HELL CREEK were initially conceived and developed by Ari Rudenko in Indonesia, inspired by Indonesian animal dance traditions. The choreographic techniques for developing the species characters in GHOSTS of HELL CREEK utilize unique forms of flexibility and strength that Indonesian dancers embody. Ari Rudenko intends for the professional GHOSTS of HELL CREEK ensemble to be comprised of primarily Indonesian and Papuan dancers, forming a globally oriented dance company that celebrates diverse ethnic, artistic, and philosophical representation on the global contemporary arts and culture stage.