Choreography is essentially a work-in-progress. It is a living entity, not a static one. In fact, no piece is ever performed the exact same way twice. The constant adjustments to new dancers, new spaces and new ideas require that even finished pieces remain in a continuous state of flux. This is most apparent when there is an opportunity to see the same dance performed by the same company but in different locations. Such was the case with CityDance Ensemble's Wishes of the Sailor, presented last weekend at The Music Center at Strathmore and then on Tuesday at the Capitol Center in D.C. Both locales were small enough to provide a strong personal connection with the work. And, each site necessitated its own adjustments and changes, deletions and additions. The second space brought a different perspective to the project which drew my attention to surprising elements.
The duet between Alice Belle Wylie and William Smith spoke differently at the second performance. They danced the section equally well at both showings, but the Capitol's auditorium added a new dimension. With the stage raised above the audience's eye level and a projected image of a young girl playing the piano (a new component), the portrayal of loss took on added depth. While Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata swept through the room, these two dancers performed a haunting pas de deux where they never touched. They reached and stretched for each other but to no avail. This longing depicted the precarious and fleeting notion of connection, in which bonds exist and endure even in the face of absence.
An interview section occurs mid-way through Wishes of the Sailor where the performers sit at tables and simultaneously describe the experiences of individual refugees. At Strathmore, this took place on the perimeter of the performance space. At the Capitol, the dancers jumped off the stage and sat at tables directly in front of the first audience row. Most likely, this was necessitated by the parameters of the second space. Nonetheless, it was a very powerful statement. The action of the piece really moved into the viewer's consciousness with the dancers coming from the stage to the audience's level. Issues cannot remain at a distance, they are much closer than we imagine or than we care to admit.
The original venue for Wishes of the Sailor (The Music Center at Strathmore) was my preferential setting. But, I am glad that I was able to see the work done in these two divergent spaces. Different contexts provide an imperative newness to this demanding material.