Almost every dance I make begins with my interest in the people I am making it with. I am compelled by my collaborators as people, as movers, and embed aspects of them and their lives into the dances. I don’t consider what I do storytelling but instead more anthropological – I study the people and sort through how to weave details of them into the work, and from there content becomes exposed.
When I began building (an)other with Justine Comfort and Denise Solleza, we’d just come off of working closely together on a full-length ensemble piece. We’d spent every day together for some time and then after a 10-show run, we began rehearsals for this piece the day after closing. It wasn’t the best idea to begin something new when we were all exhausted but it was the schedule we needed to stick to as we were to premiere the duet in Montreal at the end of our process.
When we began I had no solid ideas. This is unusual as I normally start with some kind of jumping off point. But I had been deeply invested in this other project and wasn’t thinking ahead. We arrived at the studio – Denise had broken her toe in our final show the night before; Justine was bone tired; and I was almost 7 months pregnant – and I immediately got out two metal chairs for them to sit in. These two chairs became integral to the dance but at first I think they were an offering to alleviate some of my guilt over pulling them into rehearsal when they needed the day to rest and go through the post-show blues.
Everything in this duet is a version of dialogue – conversations which are offered, missed, overheard, whispered, argued, screamed and overlapped. Justine and Denise’s real-life friendship is strong which set me up well to dive into the ugliness of not being heard. Every task I asked of them, every direction I gave them, had to do with trying to get the other to listen. From this exploration, themes of otherness and loneliness arose, and often they found themselves negotiating the line between tenderness and aggression. I think we do this well, as dancers and women, and so I directed them not to avoid the oppositional pulls but rather go to those two extreme places whenever they felt it. As they performed the work, over time they dove deeper into intimacy and conflict, and the dance has become louder, larger and more meaningful as a result.
Photo by: Craig Chambers (Justine Comfort & Denise Solleza in Tracey Norman’s (an)other)