The 50-minute quintet, Wet Road (2006) was my first evening-length work and my first time collaborating with a full slate of designers at once: sound, scenic, light and costume. It also marks the moment when my dance company first formed. It was a fantastic, heady period as I working intensely with a core group of dancers I admired, and who, thrillingly, were deeply invested in process. I was obsessed to the point of not sleeping with the movement and the metaphoric content of Wet Road. The work as a whole articulates my feelings as a young woman toward vulnerability, dominance and the power issues of sex.
I had just begun studying Argentine tango the year before. Tango shook something loose in me. It had the formal power structure built right into it that so irked me as a feminist - the man led, the woman followed - and yet when I was dancing tango I felt a freedom to relate and to relax into connection. It rubbed me the wrong way but it also felt so right.
Wet Road sprung straight from such paradoxical feelings. There was a lot of fantasy in the dance; like one man takes his clothes off and several women stand-off to claim him and end up wrapping him in a skirt. Or a woman and man take turns putting hoods on each other to erase identity for freedom and pleasure play. These were all explorations about how sometimes structures that increase distance or charge can seem to bring us closer.
I was also blown away by the brilliant mechanics of tango; the way metaphor is built into the form itself. Trapping, blocking, sidewinding, displacing and embellishing: these are all concepts that tango uses to articulate the complexities of attraction and relationship. I transposed these concepts toward my own urges and instincts about choreography.
Research for Wet Road yielded a huge wellspring of ideas around partnering for me, so many of which continue to influence my choreography today. I learned that if partners can mesh their weight around a central axis then a woman can take control of a man’s weight with power and authenticity. It took serious grounding of the center and a clarity of listening between partners, but not too much upper body strength - an exciting discovery! And this weighted, daring, precise partnering didn’t have to feel cooperative the way release partnering often does - it could be charged and antagonistic, which also excited me.
Video of Wet Road edited by Nikki Theroux and Keira Heu-Jwyn Chang
Dancers: Adrian Clark, Lindsey Dietz Marchant, Leslie Kraus, Jason Marchant and Kate Weare