That odd, doubling sensation is part of a new piece that I’m dancing in with Liss Fain Dance. The Water is Clear and Still is a performance installation, which means the choreography is spread across a space that the audience enters alongside the dancers. They are theoretically given the freedom to choose their point of view, to move from one angle to another, to see things or not see things as they see fit. The piece makes use of text from Jamaica Kincaid’s short story collection, At the Bottom of the River, and animates it with the skills of actress Val Sinckler, who moves around the dancers and the audience, shaping the emphasis and attention of both.
|Stage notes marked in the text|
The stories we’re using are full of fantastical, vivid images. A mother turns into a lizard. A ghost drinks rum and taps his foot out of longing for his lost accordion. A woman murders a man with her smile. Soldiers cause night to fall forever. These are the kind of details that would normally slide under my skin and make me eager to read closely and leisurely, the kind of details that make me imagine a story in full, overly saturated specificity. But when I dance to them, they become landmarks and routes. Still striking and fascinating, but somehow more abstract. Icons of something instead of the thing itself. I feel, when I’m dancing to these stories, like I’m being taken on a guided tour led by someone who vacillates between a deep, unusual understanding and a stunningly blunt blindness. Certain things slide right by (I’ve heard these stories so many times, but I still can’t recite one for you whole), and certain things hit me between the eyes every time we go through the piece (I can’t curve my leg around in a particular way without hearing the words, “wearing his nice white suit).
It has been (as I keep mentioning) a strange way of experiencing stories. But I hope our audience will feel the same. It’s a new viewpoint from which to see both movement and literature, a collision that hopefully bestows an unexpected freshness and a carefully manufactured, but still absolutely genuine, intimacy.