The impermanence of dance mirrors the impermanence of place. Unlike a canvas on a wall, a dance exists only once in the moment and then it is gone. Surely, it can be performed again, but it will never be exactly the same twice. It is an apt metaphor for development and cities.
Stephanie Leathers has been demonstrating and documenting the reality of that metaphor through her photography and performance art since 2012. As her website puts it, she seeks to illuminate the tensions between the human body and “the civic landscape we are so rapidly revising.”
Stephanie Leathers, and her dancers, Alison Lloyd, Kristin Taylor, and Sydney Vigotov, have been dancing across Durham to call awareness to the changes afoot. The ‘here and now’ like the dance, is available only once. How can we affect the outcome? How are we affected by the outcome?
This Thursday through Saturday, November 10th through 12th as part of the Durham Independent Dance Artists season, Leather’s will be presenting a multimedia and performance installation called “Home: the metamorphosis”.
They will literally be dancing across the city (in the dark). The performance begins at 109 West Parrish at Empower Dance Studio (a door over from the old Carrack location, if you’ve been in Durham that long) and adjacent to Loaf Bakery. Leathers and performers Alison Lloyd, Kristin Taylor, and Sydney Vigotov will guide the audience helping them explore Durham through the lens of local development and sustainability. Having spoken to Leathers on multiple occasions, we share a fascination with development and change, I understand “Home: the metamorphosis” is a fully immersive experience. There will be sound, an original score by Jonathan Le Sueur, aka J-La. There will be projection. There will be audience participation. The site warns, “Audience members should be prepared to stand and walk during the performance. Audience members are encouraged to use Durham’s [FREE bus] the Bull City Connector to travel between sites.”
I watched a rehearsal after dark last night in the old, empty Fishmonger’s (after seeing a daylight incarnation back in August).
There were ropes and bodies dangling from them, intertwined, caught-up, ensnared—dancers leaned out of the open windows of the secret Pirate Bar. Downstairs was backlit by those floor to ceiling windows. Leathers told me there will be multiple seating locations in the room, available first come, first serve. I could feel the weight symbolism embedded in the bodies’ movements as they scraped across the dusty floor of an abandoned restaurant on Main Street. Here the paint peels off the walls to its own time scale. Until it doesn’t, because somebody scrapes it off, or somebody comes and tears the old building down.
Don’t fight to preserve all things at all costs. It is a fool’s errand. Do fight to preserve character and a sustainable, if mortal, existence.
There is memory and there is being in the now. “Home: the metamorphosis” encompasses both.
Performance art is ephemeral, and in its ephemerality, it reminds us of our mortality.
Though our city will be this way only once, let’s keep the je ne sais quoi. Let it always be the kind of place where performance art can exist in the streets and the abandoned buildings. Let it never become sterile, hidebound, or unaffordably exclusive.
They will dance it this way once and then not again.
One of kind performances this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Tickets $15 here.