Wednesday, January 20, 2021

"What the Body Holds"

Jenna Marie in What the Body Holds
Photo Matthew McKee
Amy Seiwert’s Imagery
SKETCH Films: Red Thread

Over the past four months, the dance world has been blessed by the tenth iteration of Amy Seiwert’s Imagery’s SKETCH series, a platform that encourages dancemakers to move outside of comfort zones and create new work around a specific question or theme. For SKETCH Films: Red Thread, Artistic Director Amy Seiwert challenged four choreographers (herself included), “to create a dance film following social distance protocols, inspired by those who have been impacted by the recent health, economic, and injustice crises.” Each met the task with care, creativity and depth, tackling issues like industry decimation, racial injustice and the early days of the AIDS pandemic. The first of these films debuted back in October and the final offering premiered last Friday, What the Body Holds, a collaborative project led by Imagery Artistic Fellow Ben Needham-Wood and filmmaker Matthew McKee. 

Inspired by the work of Svetlana Pivchik, an activist who works with domestic violence and trauma survivors, What the Body Holds bravely shares personal traumas and journeys of survival. Links and connections - between the body and trauma, between physicality/emotion/cognition - drive the striking dissertation, as it boldly looks at movement as a healing practice, and mines its power to hear, reclaim and create new pathways within the self. It’s raw. Vulnerable. What the Body Holds is mighty. 

Throughout its fifteen minutes, What the Body Holds repeatedly returns to scenes of soloist Jenna Marie, almost like a choreographic ritornello. And in those returns, one witnesses the notion of a journey. In the first dance chapters, all choreographed by Needham-Wood, Marie’s eyes are often closed, her body, purposefully tense. Clinging to the walls, her torso violently contracts and her limbs fly frantically through the air. Later sequences feel quite different. Certainly still charged, but with a renewed dynamic and intention. Marie moves into the middle of the space, claiming it. Her hands and palms reach outward. She embraces herself. Turns, leaps, and even stillness, are undeniably freeing. Legs and arms continue to extend, though with an openness not present before. All of Needham-Wood’s choreography was breathtaking as was Marie’s performance of each step and phrase. But it was the evolution of tone that most struck – through movement, Needham-Wood had captured the idea of active, in process change.