When I think of Dan Mont-Eton’s “Homeward” I think ambient – a word derived from ambire in Latin, meaning “to go around” - and around and around. I think of the dancers’ almost constant physical contact when dancing together, each an integral part of the other’s environment, supported by textural music composed by Michael Wall. If the dancers weren’t in physical contact, they were in unison, or at least close proximity. This relationship made it seem as if the three were one entity, all clad in cream-colored clothes.
I think of how jarring it was when Amy Falls first left the stage, breaking performative contact with Mont-Eton and Samantha Matsukawa, but watching them, waiting to be swept back into movement that never ceased for the forty-minute long performance. This sense of isolation or incompleteness when one dancer was gone was a reaction stemming from their connectivity when together; there was a phrase in which they all lay down on their sides “spooning” one another and linking their top arms to become one arm moving in a snake-like way. This phrase was repeated on the floor, and then standing; each repetition was changed by location and what came before or after it. When they did the “spoon-snake” close to the audience, they broke their connected arms by rolling to their backs and began weaving their opposite hands through their arms. I could have experienced this mesmerizing arm weave for a longer duration, but it ended as soon as it began to develop a visual pattern, like a braid left unfinished, the image quickly unraveled.
This unraveling fits the idea that homeward is not quite home - the piece did not settle, it was constantly moving to the next possibility either by relocating to a new physical location, or falling into new choreography. Falling was a constant - much of the movement was initiated by a sustained fall into a run, or collapse to the ground, or into another dancer. Toward the end of the piece, after Mont-Eton had danced separate duets with Matsukawa and Falls, he was left alone. He swept one leg into an arabesque in an upstage corner, then fell into a run on the diagonal to the opposite corner repeatedly until Matsukawa joined, then Falls. The three repeated this alternately sustained and sweeping phrase, providing a visual palate-cleanser after so much axial movement with one another.
For most of the piece, the performers expressions were stern, brows slightly furrowed, as if they really were searching for something elusive to provide a sense of comfort typically found at home. They repeatedly made a triangular shape with their legs and let one arm shift back and forth between their legs like a grandfather clock, evoking a sense of waiting, their arms like a compass hand that they would use to decide where to go next.
Sometimes the next place was an angular house-like shape with their bodies; they would shift out of this - or any shape - very quickly by running away or slapping one hand to the opposite forearm while turning or slapping one foot on the ground. At one point all three ran to the wall of the Studio Theater black-box and slapped their hands against it, leaning into it as if they were trying to push it away. Mont-Eton and Matsukawa’s duet was similar as they would move fluidly with together, but quickly become rigid towards each other, arms connected but firmly pushing away before the cycle continued. All of this pushing in conjunction with the lighting design casting a shadow of window blinds on the ground made them seem trapped inside. It makes sense that one would not be comfortable being a house just as much as they wouldn’t be comfortable trapped inside one.
“Homeward” ended in the same corner that it began, but instead of standing in isolation, all three dancers were lying down next to one another, facing away from the audience. Falls traced a design onto Matsukawa’s back, who then traced another (secret message?) onto Mont-Eton’s back, who received the message as the lights went dark. The ambience of this piece was brooding, leaving me to wonder what a dance called “Home” would be like.
Follow this link for more photos of "Homeward" by Dat Nyguyen/Motion Vivid.
Emma Wilson received her BFA in Modern Dance at the University of Utah and has since been making solo works, choreographing for Deseret Experimental Opera (DEXO), and working as the Salt Lake City Library’s Community Garden Coordinator.