Known Once: Update #5 – Thank you to our seniors!


Update #5 – Thank you to our seniors!  You can catch a glimpse of our work with the seniors and hear LFD dancer Sarah Dionne Woods-LaDue talk about the experience in the short video below:

From Liss: We had no idea how moved we would be by the openness and thoughtfulness of the seniors who we worked with at The Redwoods in Mill Valley, by their stories and images that have deepened over decades.

Charles telling us about living with his family on a boat and taking the night watch—the darkness, the rocking, and the water surrounding him with peacefulness. He lay on the floor and rolled side to side as he described the joy of lying alone on the deck. He told us about the chores involved with living on a boat, and how he wished his own children had experienced that.

Walter shaking his hands non-stop and taking small tentative steps when describing his family’s neurotic, nervous dog. This 93-year old gentle and sophisticated man became his dog. Later, in telling us the story of how he met his wife, he asked me to dance the story with him—he sat on the floor and improvised her movements from 65 years ago and I improvised his. How wonderful for me to be invited to join in his story.

Letty with her hands up as if pressed against glass as she told the story of looking through a window at her mother teaching dance to children, not being able to go into the studio.

Katherine recreated living in Saudi Arabia, where she taught Saudi girls in the 1950’s. The desert sand was worn by the wind into perfectly spherical grains; she danced this, bending low and swaying side to side while moving across the floor.

A few of the 90+ year-old seniors talked about the limited time they have left. Their vigor and depth belie that. It will be so interesting to show them pieces of Known Once as we build it, and so wonderful to have them see the performances in May.

Charles, Letty, Walter, Maria, Katherine, Joyce, Toba—you are so spirited and gracious. Thank you so much for sharing your lives with us.

If you would like to follow along as we create a new evening-length performance installation for spring 2017 inspired by our work with the seniors and middle school students at 826 Valencia, please sign up for the LFD Email List and follow us on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. We’ll be sending news to the folks on our list and posting updates when we return to the studio in 2017!


The Installation Environment

In the company’s performance installation works, the performers are always inside the installation and visible, whether or not they are actively dancing. The dancers use the architecture of the installation to travel between areas, without disappearing from view. Because the audience sees the dancers who are watching and waiting, the relationships between the dancers are a part of the work. The way the dancers stand and watch, how they approach one another and move away are thought-out. In the background, they add emotional depth to the work. The concentration, passion, vulnerability and resolve of the performers stay with them as they quietly watch.

The Imperfect is Our Paradise: Installation for ODC Theater September 2014

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.

After the Light….almost at the end

I just listened to the recording of the actors, Val Sinckler and Marty Pistone, speaking the text, from The Waves, that will be in the piece. Listening to this felt like a moment of reckoning—does the text, short fragments from the novel, convey images of people looking at their lives, themselves and their friends, from different perspectives of time, and of the force of nature moving everything forwards with unstoppable momentum. The text and the characters’ voices become the internal thoughts and the back story for the dancers. The actors aren’t onstage; their voices are part of the score.

I’ve used the text as a scaffolding to build the dance on. I’m interested in the characters’ reflections on what they see in each other and themselves, and on time passing.  Virginia Woolf’s writing unfolds the vivid energy of the present moment that exists in childhood, the forceful and confident energy of people who feel they own the future, the quiet assessment of what is and what was and what will and will never be, the layers of life that become apparent over time.

 Now I am close to the end of After the Light and I’m thinking about where it will go, what I feel the energy and final images should be. The continual coming and going and the emotional images of the movement are leading to this point. I want to combine the forcefulness of the imagery—“Darkness rolled its waves….”—with the quietness of the darkness. So far, I haven’t figured this out.