Dancing through Development
with Stephanie Leathers

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.”

Our city, Durham, will be like this only once. Durham of the Nineties is not the Durham of today, any more than the New York City of today is not the New York City of the Seventies.

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).

from the Fishmonger's rehearsal

from the Fishmonger’s rehearsal

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.

Photos by Chris Vitiello from the last one of kind Stephanie Leathers performance art dance piece “Quadrants” performed on the roof of the old Bargain Furniture Store as seen from The Durham Hotel.

photo by Chris Vitiello, shot from the roof of The Durham Hotel

photo by Chris Vitiello, shot from the roof of The Durham Hotel

photo by Chris Vitiello, shot from the roof of The Durham Hotel

photo by Chris Vitiello, shot from the roof of The Durham Hotel

photo by Chris Vitiello, shot from the roof of The Durham Hotel

photo by Chris Vitiello, shot from the roof of The Durham Hotel

photo by Chris Vitiello, shot from the roof of The Durham Hotel

photo by Chris Vitiello, shot from the roof of The Durham Hotel

Aaron Mandel

Aaron Mandel is a writer and an accomplished public speaker. He is the publisher of the Clarion Content. For more than a decade, the Clarion Content has covered Durham’s arts, politics, music, and cultural milieu. From breaking news stories to the hottest local acts, the Clarion Content is on the scene. The Clarion Content published more than twenty distinguished guest columnists and garnered nearly a million views. Mandel is a volunteer for the Durham Mighty Pen Literacy Project and serves as the President of the Board of Sustain-A-Bull Durham, a local small business collective with more than 200 members. He writes regularly on the Clarion Content and has been quietly writing fiction since the 4th grade. Mandel has been published in the Raleigh News and Observer. He has also produced numerous art shows, including, “Durham under Development”. He was a featured speaker at “The State of Publishing” conference. He has presented to Durham Chamber of Commerce, “Chamber U” on the “New Media”. He has also served as the play-by-play announcer for the D.B.L., a Durham youth basketball league. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Religious Studies from Indiana University in Bloomington. An avid policy debater at Indiana and a Nation Debate Tournament qualifier, Mandel was also a member of the New Jersey State Champion two-person Policy Debate Team. He has lived in North Carolina, New Jersey, California, Texas, Illinois, Colorado, Indiana, and Baja California, Mexico.

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