I stepped inside the door to darkness and intense humming noise, like you’d put in a movie soundtrack at the part where the main character is putting it all together to discover the horrible, terrible truth that she wants so badly to deny.
After a minute I decided to keep walking the same direction and hope that I would run into something and be able to turn a corner to get to somewhere that I could see. My bravery was rewarded with the sight of a small audience, which I joined to enjoy a captivating show as a part of the Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival held at Westminster College.
Organized mainly in duets, with moments of larger interactions, this Dan Higgins choreographic work featured Dan himself along with Natalie Border, Jalen Williams, Micah Burkhardt, Nell Josephine and Jessica Liu.
Jalen and Micah performed choreography in which they twisted their spines violently (which I thought must have been painful to repeatedly rehearse), clutched at each other desperately, and lifted each other smoothly.
Throughout this section, Jalen and Micah pointedly avoided a square kerchief that was laid flat on the floor. Later, Nell and Jessica ended up wrapping the kerchief around themselves and each other in a nice exploration of ways to dance with a scarf. Both dancers exhibited gorgeous movement quality, with unclear inspiration.
The kerchief ended up with Dan and Natalie, and though they didn’t do as much with it, the prop was successful in helping to tie together the various sections of the performance (which continued without any breaks for applause, something I very much appreciated).
The choreography featuring Natalie and Dan stood out among the short series of duets. They started with a stare-down from either side of a table with a chair in front of it, and made good use of these props without being overly focused on them. Natalie didn’t move of her own volition very much, but was more often moved by Dan in a controlling, maybe even abusive manner. Natalie reacted, but very much seemed to accept without question whatever fate he gave her.
Dan mumbled quietly and incomprehensibly at first, which I found delightful, especially because his volume eventually grew and his words were repetitive. He was telling the same story with varying order of events, like someone who was traumatized and trying to sort out the memories they had instinctively pushed out of reach. The haunting narrative, by Cooper Smith, mentioned running alongside a white wolf, wolves surrounding a small girl who told them ‘I’m lonely,’ the wolves eating that girl, and the wolves always coming back.
One of the most memorable moments was when Natalie was sitting on the floor, leaning against the table, and Dan, with a vocal outburst amid his story-telling, swiftly lifted her off the ground and slammed her onto the table. She reacted as if he had done something much milder, and slowly raised her arms, allowing him to lay the kerchief over her face.
Moments of quiet and stillness in combination, with the outbursts of loud speech and stretches of oppressively intense music, kept the audience on-edge the whole time, and I found myself gripping my wallet and not breathing very much.
Lighting also played a role in setting the tone. I thought it was most effective when a bright spotlight cast harsh spooky shadows on Dan as he ended the show by reiterating that the wolves always come back.
My friends and I discussed “( ____ )” and its potential meaning for a while afterward. The mystery was captivating enough in the performance, but to make it even more so, the title of the show is the answer to a riddle featured in the one-page program:
I was birthed in shadow,
nurtured by repetition and time,
I am friend to no one, yet I know many intimately,
my strength, invisible, yet I am more powerful than you can imagine.
I have no legs, but can be found anywhere,
Especially when the conditions are just right. just right.
You can be sure I am just around every corner, waiting to visit again.
I want to guess “anxiety” or “self-doubt,” but according to a preview of the show by Dat Nguyen of MotionVivid, Higgins said, “The answer is four words, often heard as an acronym.”
The best guess I’ve heard is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but even that doesn’t seem to fit the riddle quite perfectly enough. I wish the show would have led me to a more clear ‘ah-ha’ moment. But maybe self-doubt is just making me anxious about my guesses?
Overall, I thought that “( ____ )” was very interesting and beautiful, and I look forward to seeing more Dan Higgins creations in the future.
Kendall Fischer serves as the Artistic Director of and performs with Myriad Dance Company. She has also enjoyed recent performance opportunities with SBDance, Municipal Ballet Co., La Rouge Entertainment, and Voodoo Productions, among others.