There is often a recurring tone of loneliness in Laura Holway’s work that resonates with me on some base level. Song of your Choice, a duet of sorts for Erika Hansen and Charles Campbell in four sections separated by lights-out, offered glimpses of that tone.
BLB’s reds closed and dance announcements began. It was a crowded house and, this being the last piece of the night, the audience was wiggly. This restlessness felt like part of the piece and I tried to get a glimpse between the front curtains as I was sure it had already started. The last couple of pieces I’ve seen of Laura’s have blurred that line between audience and performer in a friendly way. Even though in hindsight I don’t think this was her intention with this particular piece, it made me feel welcome with its potential familiarity.
There is something about her choices of color and line in her dances. They remind me of a decorated birthday cake on display, with unapologetically bright icing and smooth ridges and a promise of sweetness. There is something cheery on the surface, yet portentous when you draw the knife through it. I enjoy the discovery of those darker moments that sometimes linger in Laura’s work.
The curtains burst open to reveal Erika balancing and not balancing on a brightly lit stage, her eyes searching and face expressively open to the audience, wearing a polkadotted underlayer that echoed the circle she drew in chalk around herself. At some point Charles emerged with a bucket of fortune cookies and placed each one in a line across the front of the stage. The two did not interact in any way other than dancing in a shared space simultaneously.
A recording of Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s (host of National Public Radio’s The Splendid Table) voice joined the performance as she and a caller discussed latke-cooking techniques. Her words loomed over the stage and crowded the dancers. LRK’s directive “A little acid in there wouldn’t hurt”, possible meta-commentary on the choreography, deflated the movements and the expressions on Erika and Charles’s faces. This stage picture struck me as funny but then also supremely lonely, and made me consider the intimacy of a kitchen, family recipes, someone changing your recipe, advice-giving, the pressure of holiday cooking, and the concept of too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen as power play. I got distracted thinking of how awkward and out of place I feel in my family’s kitchens as an adult. I snapped back into it as Charles arrived at a mic stand only to have the lights bump off.
In Part 2 the dancers traced their paths across the floor side to side. Chattery classical vocals (again, a woman’s voice) seemed to override the dancers’ swingy hips, the displacement of Charles’s glasses and the addition of more chalk-drawing. The dancers remained independent and abstained from noticing another body in the space but these efforts were foiled by the music; the movement was enough, and the song was like that last unnecessary ingredient the recipe doesn’t call for but you think, hey, what else am I going to do with all this fresh thyme…
Part 3 opened more hopefully, with Erika looking tenderly at Charles, whose back was to her. But no connection formed between them. He drew a chalk right-angled “U” around her circle and then performed some serious ribcage shifts facing the audience as Erika moved along in a sort of gestural bounce. As they ran back and forth to the edges of the stage they leaned their bodies in towards the side curtains, briefly burying their heads in the velvet folds. They never lingered long enough for this image to be satisfying to me. This side hiding felt like a suggestion of anguish or devastation, like crawling back into bed searching for comfort, but its impermanence made me not take the image seriously. To be clear: I wanted to hold on to it, and wanted more luxuriating in those curtains. While Erika thrust one arm into the air, a question that went unanswered, her movement held and taut, Charles carved the space fluidly, angularly, diagonally, his elbows reminiscent of Spirograph loops.
Part 4 began where the two had left off in Part 2, with Charles at the mic. He proceeded to open and chew the fortune cookie 300 times (as instructed by recorded fluxus vocal scores), the aural version of his previous angular phrase. Erika’s instruction seemed to be to remain inside of the chalk circle. I would have liked for her to exit the circle more, as its significance was not shared with us. I felt like the choreography provided Charles with more freedom and agency than it did for Erika. Perhaps this was because I was seated behind “the pole”, which is a frustrating place from which to view, but their detachment from/with each other was troubling, or at least lonesome. Was I watching a portrayal of a disconnected relationship still mysteriously in close proximity, or just a dance for two people? Yet these two particular people seemed key; they were not randomly chosen nor accidental. Therefore, I wanted to learn more about them and their particular chemistries through this dance and was left wanting more.
[Random words I jotted down during the post-piece discussion: sorrow, longing, touches of humanity, super awkward conversation.] I was far less engaged when the Fluxus scores provided the soundscore than when The Splendid Table did. A few audience members expressed concern with Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s free will and whether she knew her voice was being used. This was especially curious since I never hear that same concern expressed when choreographers use recorded music (which, for economic reasons, we do without permission almost constantly). Laura revealed her self-assignment: to make a dance in four sections. While I found the sections discrete because of the up/down lighting cues, the movements in each section were less so. I found the dance to be relatively interchangeable; and needed more differentiation than just new songs for each section.
Song of your Choice
9 x 22 Dance/Lab, Bryant-Lake Bowl