Date of Submission

Spring 2011

Academic Program



Jean Churchill

Abstract/Artist's Statement


Created Fall 2010

Performed by: LeAnne Harvey, Allison Brainard, Anna Bikales, Ayana Enomoto-Hurst, Melissa Longiaru, Stephanie Saywell, Zia Morter. Lighting Design: Brian Aldous. Costume Design: Moe Schell.

Coil is designed specifically to play to the strengths of having an audience seated on each of the four sides of a square stage. Two trios perform identical movement on opposite sides of the stage, separated by a diamond-shaped room made of opaque walls. Each individual audience member can generally only see one group at a time, but may catch glimpses of the other through spaces between the the walls or when both groups are at the corners of the stage. The two groups begin at opposite corners and move clockwise from corner to corner, always staying exactly opposite from the other group. A single, long phrase is responsible for the movement from one corner to the next. This phrase is composed of calm and precise movement (much of it gestural), a continuous, linear trajectory near the edge of the stage, and the unlikely interweaving of human shapes. The groups perform the phrase (with slight changes in each repetition) two and a half times. The seventh performer relaxes in the central room on a comfy couch or chair, reading, drawing, or drinking tea. After each repetition, this person joins one of the outer groups and a new performer takes their place to relax in the middle room. From time to time, the performers create dissonant clusters of sound by singing all at once. Each performer is responsible for sustaining a single note of unspecified pitch for a specific length of time. Finally, as the frequency of the singing increases, the two groups are drawn into and converge upon the central room, their voices intertwining into a tense knot of sound. At last all seven performers explode outward from the room, careening in all directions. Darkness falls quickly and abruptly on this scene of energy.

Coil was primarily inspired by abstract problem solving and attention to geometry. The structure of the piece came from my own appreciation of Moorish tile work and tessellations. Because I believe that physical proximity to or distance from other human beings fundamentally changes our emotional relationship to them, I designed the piece to give each audience member two extended moments where the performers are right in front of them. I am also interested in the power of letting each audience member have their own experience of the piece without feeling like there was something to “get” or “understand” - each viewer can interpret Coil in any way they want and be absolutely correct. The deliberately slow pacing and the static domestic scene were vindicated for me by my reverence for the Tao Te Ching (which places great value on non-action and stillness) and my own deep desire during the period in which I was making Coil to sit in one place and do nothing.


Created Spring 2011

Performed by: Claire Weber, Anna Bikales, Emily Mayer, John Boggs, A.J. Krumholz, Conor Brown, Jesse White, Matt O'Koren. Lighting Design: Andy Hill. Costume Design: Moe Schell. Music: Fifth Veil – Lanterns (composed by Conor Brown and John Boggs)

Wilderness tells a story. It begins with a father and son in a tent (illuminated by a camping light from within.) The father tells a joke, the son describes his ideal location for a fortress, the father unwittingly introduces the son to the idea of the Will-o'-the-Wisp. The son dreams. He encounters four friendly entities. They warmly include him in their group, taking him with them on a processional on a diagonal from the downstage left corner of the stage to the upstage right corner and back. The performers carry lanterns and sing an ethereal progression of tight-knit chords. The Will-o'-the-Wisp emerges from the gloom and signals the group with a red lantern. The friendly entities realize the grave danger of the situation and make sure the son stays by the safety of the tent. The son watches as his friends are drawn, hypnotized, back to the upstage left corner, where the Will-o'-the-Wisp kills three of the four and keeps the fourth as a disciple. The son has by now fled back into the tent for safety, but was witness to the massacre. The Will-o'-the-Wisp turns its attention to the tent, intent on its final prey. It makes an eerie journey along the same diagonal the group has been traveling. It enters the tent, the red lantern illuminating the cocoon-like structure ominously. However, the father enters the dream and sends the Will-o'-the-Wisp scampering, defeated, back into the darkness from which it came.

The creation of Wilderness began with the decision that the performers would sing the Fifth Veil song Lanterns while they were dancing – I was setting myself the challenge of combining my compositions with my choreography, mediums which had only existed separately before. For me, Lanterns conveys a very specific world – the dance and the production elements are a physicalization of that world. This world is crepuscular, nocturnal, shadowy. The Will-o-the-Wisp's costume (the centerpiece of which is the plague mask) is intended to dehumanize the character. In contrast, the other costume are very human – they are a conscious hodgepodge of my interest in sci-fi/fantasy and the art of the Middle East. I dealt with the creation of characters by defining movement that would support each of their individual personalities. I also determined that I had a specific story that I wanted to convey clearly to the audience (making this piece very different from Coil.) To make the world as genuine and honest as possible, I drew continually on my own past experiences. For example, with the character of the son, I did not rely on any common stereotypes or tropes as to what childhood is or what it means – instead, I only used specific memories, emotions, and props from my own experiences as a child. Towards the beginning of the creative process, I was also curious about how humor and comedy can interact with dance and how they can contrast successfully with seriousness and darkness. The dad's joke at the beginning of the piece serves two purposes: 1. to show the bond between father and son, and 2. to invite the audience, through laughter, to become more vulnerable.

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