I Don’t Know and Never Will is based on excerpts of letters Liss Fain received decades ago. It recreates the intimacy, the deeply personal connections and the introspection of a relationship frozen in time through letters.
The dance is completed. And now the dancers have begun dancing in the soil. Their movement pushes through it, pushes it aside. The soil, contained in the corridors of the installation at first, invades the entire world of the installation as the dancers move. Watching the dancers in it, you feel the soil, smell it, see the movement’s sweep and delicacy in it.
The three percussionists—Jordan Glenn, Nava Dunkelman, Jacob Felix Heule—and their varied and wonderful collection of traditional and odd instruments are in the rehearsal studio with us this week, coordinating with the dancers. What a pleasure to have live music. And what amazing musicians, innovative and thoughtful.
I am taking my installation work in a new direction with I Don’t Know and Never Will. The smell of damp earth and leaves fills ODC Theater. Tactile and not really recognizable objects gradually collect in one of the three performance areas. My memories of a friendship from decades ago that is frozen in time and kept vivid by our letters makes I Don’t Know and Never Will the most personal work I have made. Written without editing or premeditation, with immediacy and forthrightness, his letters juxtapose descriptions, observations and feelings so acutely that I can see, feel, hear and smell it all. I’ve lost touch with him. I picked up a very old thread and wrote him. I want to know who he is now, but he hasn’t replied.
Speaking excerpts of the letters, actor Val Sinckler is inside the installation alongside the dancers (Jeremiah Crank, Sonja Dale, Megan Kurashige, Shannon Kurashige, Sarah Woods-LaDue). A commissioned score by percussionist Jordan Glenn is played live by three musicians from platforms placed over the theater seats. The world of these letters is made complete by Matthew Antaky’s installation design and Mary Domenico’s costumes.
An installation in the lobby of ODC Theater invites the audience and a broad range of people in the community to write a letter or note (anonymously) to the prompt: Write to someone about something you wish you had done and didn’t do. At one point in the piece, excerpts of a few of these will be read, with dancers and musicians improvising.
LFD has a new website! We designed this one ourselves with the help of the wonderful Squarespace website building platform. We wanted to make the navigation clear and we wanted to make it easy for visitors to find more information on the company’s various projects. We also got to add more of the beautiful photos that RJ Muna and Benjamin Hersh have taken of LFD over the past few years.
Check out the new website HERE. We’d love to hear what you think! Leave a comment here or drop us a line via our new contact page!
Website building by LFD dancer/projects manager Megan Kurashige. Photo on the LFD homepage by Benjamin Hersh.
Literature is a huge influence on and inspiration for the work that Liss Fain Dance does, particularly for the company’s recent pieces that have incorporated text from writers like Lydia Davis, Jamaica Kincaid, Virginia Woolf, and William Faulkner. Liss is a voracious reader. She’s been reading piles of books for both fun and research for her next piece, which will premiere in October. Here are some titles that she recommends.
H Is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald
This is so multifaceted—a precise and poetic description of hawks and the history of falconry, the natural world, the author’s grief, her training of and communication with her hawk. Her language embodies the strength and single mindedness of the hawk and of herself.
At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcón
War by Candlelight by Daniel Alarcón
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
I know this is old, and I read it many years ago, but it is more poignant reading it again now—about choosing what we value in the world, how and why we (the characters in the book) choose what to do/to be.
What is the What by Dave Eggers (about Valentino Achak Deng)
Now here is a vivd story about fortitude, ingenuity, will, luck, great faith and compassion that I can’t come close to describing except to say that it is humbling.
The Imperfect is Our Paradise is structured around relationships, and the continually changing context that drives their evolution. The unanticipated juxtapositions of duets and groups throughout the work establish the underlying questions and energy that infuse our lives with excitement, introspection, courage, sorrow, resolve.
The work began with my interest in the way the trajectory of history shapes peoples’ lives; how they adapt to, push back against, get pulled into the personal, political and social forces that create their environment. The title—from a line in the Wallace Steven’s poem The Poems of Our Climate—sums up, to me, the circumstances of our lives. The text is from The Sound and the Fury.
As I worked on the movement and on incorporating text from The Sound and the Fury into the score, I felt that I needed to make the juxtaposition of duets, solos and groups more erratic and unexpected, to reflect the way Faulkner has memories interrupt ongoing conversations and thoughts–you feel the energy created by their unannounced intrusion.
That rawness, introspection and fearlessness became the source of the structure and the movement of The Imperfect is Our Paradise.
We’ve been in rehearsal for two weeks now. As I work on the piece and think about using text to ground it and add depth, I keep returning to Faulkner and The Sound and the Fury. There are sections that are driving my ideas, however the language is both too abstract and too specific to the characters to use as large excerpts. Dan Wool had a really interesting idea of how to use the text and not get bogged down in too much text/narrative/dialogue. His suggestion is to take some longer passages from The Sound and the Fury where the imagery and cadence of the language support the movement, and have them read as if the audience was hearing something in passing—so that in the beginning the words are hard to distinguish, as if coming from a distance, then they become clearly audible and fade out. The effect is of dropping into and out of an ongoing story, experiencing some of the language and ideas and not expecting to get the narrative.
So that is where we now stand with Faulkner.
This is a section I love; it begins “The three quarters began…..” and then goes into “and i it doesn’t have to be even that long for a man of courage and he do you consider that courage and i yes sir don’t you and he every man is the arbiter of his own virtues whether or not you consider it courageous is of more importance than the act itself than any act otherwise you could not be in earnest ………”
I’ve begun working on The Imperfect is Our Paradise, the new installation work we premiere in September at ODC. I’m thinking of using text again, and have read and re-read The Sound and the Fury, which is more powerful and startling each time. Faulkner constructs sentences that rip open the emotional core–having memory intrude into the narrative unexpectedly, in mid-thought, making time exist on multiple levels simultaneously. There is seldom punctuation to the memories. The sentences and fragments have no real beginnings or endings; I don’t always know who is speaking when dialogue is recounted. So I feel exactly like I am in the character’s mind, experiencing the rawness, relentlessness of his emotions. The triple negatives drive home the emotional confusion. The language moves like a river with strong and gentle currents, eddies, whirlpools—what is on the surface moving differently than what is below. Faulkner swirls the two together, abruptly bringing memory to the front in the middle of sentences.
I typed out some sections to see how the excerpts read–the trouble is that the narrative is continually threaded through, with lots of characters, and the narrative is complicated. Taken apart as excerpts, it doesn’t make sense.
So I am now listening to a recording of Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, by Wallace Stevens. I like the image of the blackbird, I like the blackness and I like the way Stevens uses colors–colors represent vibrancy and life to him—it is stark and thoughtful and vibrant. Not restrained and not lush.
Meanwhile I am choreographing movement and designing structure. Variations of duets and solos will reappear unexpectedly, like the inseparable and intertwining past and present.