At the root of it, Domestic/Wild at Performanceworks Northwest this past weekend hinged on the question asked by artist Karin Bolender in one of her monologues, “What distinguishes the wild outside the door from that within or that within ourselves?” Ten women (dancers, artist, performers) addressed this and related issues via movement, movement video, and monologue in a performance “devised” by Emily Stone.
Thematic threads loosely tangled around introducing wildness into a domestic situation (and mining the wildness just under the calm domestic surface) and the domestic entering the wild (dancemaking beyond the studio walls). One moment, three women in white danced sequences that were both gentle and frantic, borrowing movement from the domestic life. The next, white-clad dancers doing what looked like involuntary movement pulled by unseen forces jerked and spun into and out of the door (a recurring motif) of a shed in a video piece or did mini-dances in kitchens that felt feral. Shot throughout were a sequence of videos shot in the out of doors in which dancers explored grass, mud, bramble, and water and explored animal-like movement (once wearing Muppet-like animal-ish costumes). One captivating segment found dancers in house dresses dancing in the headlights of a car on a country road. Three dancers on the dimly lit stage mimicked the movements, melancholy shadows.
A claustrophobic video sequence found Stone crouched on a kitchen counter, yanking on the edge of the countertop, bouncing with a jackhammer insistence. Here and elsewhere she’s exploring a whole new vocabulary of movement, movement that is one part machine and one part animal, movement that is accompanied by vocalized sound that might be a whir and a click, might be a throaty growl. And this is the heart of Stone’s project, of which one might guess that Domestic/Wild is a single moment. Like that of Woolly Mammoth Comes to Dinner (Kathleen Keogh and Rikki Rothenberg represented for WMCTD here), Stone’s movement is often unexpected and unexpectedly beautiful, particularly given that it occasionally comes with slapstick overtones.
Providing a gentle throughline, the delicious score, improvised by Jonathan Sielaff (bass clarinet) and Matt Carlson (synthesizer) was both pensive and playful with subtle synth-generated texture.
At the beginning of the piece, there was a pile of crumpled brown wrapping paper on the back wall and floor, a hanging rack of white clothes, and tangles of branches overhead. At the end, the floor was strewn with a pile of laundry, ping pong balls, dirt, and hay, and the back wall smeared with mud.
During intermission with the many children who attended the matinee performance messing around on the stage, Rikki Rothenberg danced a flailing dance in a rectangle marked off by masking tape on the floor. Kestrel Gates taped the rectangle off smaller and smaller as she danced. A subplot of the performance was not only the domestic, but life with small children (four of the performers are mothers of small children). By addressing in her performance practice the boxing in that can happen when one is a mother of small children, Stone, with one daughter in attendance and another child on the way (she ended the performance by stripping to her underwear from the bear costume she wore for much of the show) demonstrates she’s clearly transcended it. Lucky for us.