Here are some things you should know first about Bitterroot resident Jon Turk: He's a scientist who got his doctorate in Boulder, Colo. in organic chemistry, and he and his friend Erik Boomer won the 2012 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year award for a harrowing 1,485-mile journeyby kayak, ski and on footaround Ellesmere Island near Greenland.
Those who know Turk as a writer, however, know that his life made an interesting turn into the spiritual realm a few years ago when he visited Siberia and encountered a shaman. According to Turk, a shaman named Moolynaut summoned the spirit of a raven to help mend Turk's pelvis, which had been fractured in a mountaineering accident. The scientist was bowled over by the spiritual experience. He wrote a book called The Raven's Gift that detailed his journey with the shaman. "And the world started viewing me as a crackpot," Turk says. "But I couldn't help it. This is exactly what happened."
Turk has now added one more dimension to his credits: performer. He's co-written a dance and storytelling piece with Jody Weber of Boston's Weber Dance Company based on The Raven's Gift. Synchronicity and the Sacred Space will be performed with the Weber Dance Company in and around Missoula in the next couple of weeks. It features Turk as the storyteller who, in seven sections, relays the details of his experience. In between stories, the dancers perform pieces meant to evoke the feelings Turk had during his time in Siberia. Dancers perform in front of a slideshow of natural landscapes.
The collaboration came about because Weber had already been thinking about creating a dance piece based on the idea of spirituality in a modern world. "She'd been working on a dance about this mental landscape that we go through and wanted to know if I would I be interested in creating a joint performance," says Turk. "We started working together. She came out to Montana for a week and then I went out to Boston for three weeks and we started exploring a larger issue."
The title is easy to roll your eyes at: Synchronicity to one person is just coincidence to another. But this project isn't just a therapeutic rabbit-hole. Turk and crew received a grant from the Boston Performing Arts Council to create the piece in a Boston warehouse and perform it around the city. So far, the production has garnered praise by critics in both the Boston Globe and the Boston Phoenix. "People get hung up on the word 'shamanism' and they say 'I believe' or 'I don't believe,' which isn't the point," Turk says. "The point is that we here in Montana, especially, live in a world with a close relationship to nature. Really what [this piece] is exploring is what that relationship to nature is in this oil-soaked, internet-crazed world, and we're trying to do that through a mixed media and do it in an ecstatic, happy way."
Synchronicity and the Sacred Space is a joyful dance piece that gets more joyous as it goes on. It's not meant to ignore the reality of the modern age and Western views. It's meant to tell the story of a scientist who encountered something beyond his scope of understanding and embraced it anyway.
"I'm still a westerner," says Turk. "I own computers and fly in airplanes, but in the story I talk about how, 'Okay, I had this experience...how do I take this joyful emotion and integrate it into this world that I live in, which is 21st century North America?"
Jon Turk and the Weber Dance Company perform Synchronicity and the Sacred Space at the Downtown Dance Collective Sat., Nov. 10, and Sun., Nov. 11. They perform it at the Hamilton Performing Arts Center Wed., Nov. 14, and at the O'Shaughnessy Cultural Arts Center in Whitefish Fri., Nov. 16. 7 PM nightly. $20.