Recently it feels like we have taken on three new company members; all of who are heavy, blind, and with little sense of direction. It doesn’t sound like the greatest asset for a dance company known for their athletic movement style in the process of creating a new piece; and yet they are essential partners with whom we are all learning to dance.
They are walls.
Or more accurately they are mobile structures created by our ingenious set designer Nolan O’Bryan, out of metal scaffolding and wood. They collapse into flat, weight-bearing surfaces and stand tall as monolithic planes. They are six, eight and ten feet wide and stand on industrial wheels that have locks that clamp down like jaws. They are the set of our new piece, Bound, and between, under and upon them we are creating and inhabiting a world where destruction, imagination and isolation reign.
These days we are learning the nooks and crannies where wood meets metal, how hinges fold down, and negotiating the pokey bits of screws and washers. They are heavy and difficult and sometimes they hurt us; yet I for one am in love with them almost as if they were made of flesh and bone. For they do their jobs so well and so effectively. They block off space and sight-lines, they make areas shrink and expand, and more than anything they give me the sensation of inhabiting a place where I am not free; where space is restricted and movement is a struggle.
And as we create these characters living under occupation in this fictional land, I find that with these walls I am not pretending; I’m not acting or imagining how I might feel; I am simply reacting to their very presence as I strain against their strength. As a dancer (and maybe as an American) such infringements on my personal freedom strike at the very center of my sense of well-being. And I have to live with this, at least for every minute that I am on stage dancing Bound.