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Notes on collaboration for "See Through", May, 2018
When I was asked by choreographer Julia K. Gleich to collaborate with her for Counterpoint 6, and my painting “Agatha” was chosen as part of the design for the poster, I noticed that Jason Andrew (of Norte Maar) had created a surrealistic conception: he pasted in dancers' feet and hands emerging from the painterly doorway. It made sense, then, to use doorways and windows as a basis for my set design. I came up with a quick sketch and we were on our way towards something that could be interactive. Dancers’ bodies would come in and out of the cut-out shapes of the large series of panels made of insulating foam that I devised. Structurally, they would be held up by folding them together, a simple solution to how to move things on and off the stage easily. Julia mentioned that it would be great to keep the whole set in parts. And brilliantly, she realized that each dancer could pick up and move a set of two panels, as if each section were a house. This aspect became part of the choreography, and one of the most animating parts of the whole. The set became a participant!
We met, texted and spoke on the phone, with a couple of visits to my studio, both with and without dancers in tow. Discussion focused on sharing our ideas about the "Dr. Caligari" look of the set, and our mutual delight in the work of Elie Nadelman, an under-appreciated American artist of the early twentieth century. Some of the gestures from Nadelman's figures appear in the finished dance. Julia’s choice of music, which she also shared as she figured out what did and didn’t work, was an important part of the whole feel of the work, as was the color and lighting. Julia and Jason dyed all the costumes of the dancers using color swatches that matched each panel, so that each dancer seemed to have their own “house” of a particular color.
“See Through” began as an abstract formal kind of play for both Julia and I. From the audience on that Sunday afternoon, it seemed to convey to me all the funny and dark aspects of both of our sensibilities, with a resonance that went beyond the formal: our process together had melded and sparked some magic!
Set Design for Counterpoint 6All images copyright Karen Schifano An icompendium Site