Debra Loewen founded Wild Space Dance Company in 1986 following a career as an independent choreographer and solo performer. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Loewen began her dance training in Stevens Point, later earning a BFA in dance from the University of Illinois-Champaign Urbana and an MFA in dance from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her early performance work in the 1970s involved computers and site-specific choreography, which helped shape the aesthetic she continues to work with today. Her movement style, experimental musical tastes, application of improvisational structures and process-oriented choreography can be traced to this early work.
While teaching at the University of Delaware, Loewen formed her first company -- New Space Company. Site-specific choreography and performance events were New Space Company's hallmark, with performances in buildings, public spaces and natural settings. She later traveled and lived in Bogota, Colombia and Lima, Peru, where she taught, choreographed and performed with Ballet Moderno and the National Ballet of Peru. Returning to the states, Loewen lived and performed in New York, studying with Robert Ellis Dunn, a leading proponent of post-modern theories and improvisational "menus" for choreographic development. She continued to work with him as her mentor on an annual basis until his death in 1996. As a teacher, Loewen imparts many of Dunn's concepts, teaching methods and improvisation techniques.
A 2011 Milwaukee Arts Board Artist of the Year, Loewen has garnered critical acclaim and awards for her choreography, including fellowships from Milwaukee County, the Wisconsin Arts Board and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2007, she was US Postal Service “Women Putting Their Stamp on Metro Milwaukee” honoree. She has created more than 120 works for Wild Space, many of which have been performed to critical acclaim throughout Wisconsin and in Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, Italy, Japan, and Korea.
A senior lecturer at UW-Milwaukee Peck School of the Arts, Loewen has taught at the University of Delaware, Alverno College, Lawrence University and has conducted workshops in choreography and improvisation throughout the Midwest. She leads Wild Space's residencies at Lawrence University and Lincoln Center Middle School of the Arts, and has consulted with K-12 educators to help design dance residencies and promote arts-in-education projects throughout Wisconsin.
During the summer of 2007, Loewen participated in La Mama ETC’s International Symposium of Theater Directors and Choreographers in Umbria, Italy. In addition to presenting a workshop on site-specific performance, she met and worked with renowned directors Yoshi Oida, Andre Serban, Putu Wijaya, Ellen Stewart and Oliver Stone. Her work has been the focus of two articles in Dance Magazine. In June 2009, Loewen presented a site-specific dance workshop at Stanford University, and was accepted as one of six choreographers in the nation to take part in a workshop hosted by noted choreographer Susan Marshall in New York.