Exile Nothing

This work was created for NACHMO 2020 during the month of January, and performed in February one year after the death of my first daughter. It is a layered work, and in many ways still in progress. The premiere at NACHMO garnered mixed reviews: people either adored it or hated it, and had no trouble sharing either stance.

The dance vocabulary grew out of our responses to the following quote:

“The ‘night sea journey’ is the journey into the parts of ourselves that are split off, disavowed, unknown, unwanted, cast out, and exiled to the various subterranean worlds of consciousness…. The goal of this journey is to reunite us with ourselves. Such a homecoming can be surprisingly painful, even brutal. In order to undertake it, we must first agree to exile nothing.”

Stephen Cope, as printed in The Body Keeps the Score

On top of offset choreography and strong partnering, I placed plain black outfits with a simple vellum colored skirt, from the art of Barbara Januszkiewicz. I also opted for live music – acoustic guitar and vocals – a rendition of Big Star’s “The Ballad of El Goodo.”

The resulting piece is surprisingly polarizing. It isn’t performative, and it doesn’t hand viewers a narrative. The elements exist in the same space, and yet they don’t come from the same place. It’s disquieting. But that’s grief, that’s life, and that’s art. It doesn’t always fit into a nice little box that can be easily explained. Sometimes we have to work at it, and bring something of ourselves to the viewing. This dance requires that viewers make their own meaning.

Make of it what you will.