Emergence, Resistance, and Resilience
Little House Dance's new show runs on April 13, 14, and 15
cw: death, gynecology.
At a brightly lit dance studio on Forrest Ave in Portland, it is both loud and quiet. The air conditioner hums, bit sitting in a wide circle, Little House Dance’s Heather Stewart gives four performers feedback. Someone outside the company saw their upcoming show, “to quiet the marks & pull | tirer” , for the first time yesterday. A few phrases come up in the feedback, “Is there a way you can be a part of the creation of the shape?” “sense of suspension.” “The Snake.” After giving one performer a long list of feedback, Heather wraps it all up by saying, “I just wanted to add that I love all the choices you’re making.” The artist’s face broke out into a huge smile.
“to the quiet marks & pull | tirer,” which will be performed at Cove Street arts on April 13, 14, and 15th, are performances Heather is revisiting for the first time since the death of her composer collaborator, Marc. She shares that these are the first and last projects that the they ever worked on together. Heather’s work has always considered the way a body moves through time - regardless of absence or gain - and the way the body carries experiences. This may heighten the absence of her collaborator and friend, but her interest in these ideas extends to the way she works with her performers. This is not a leave-your-baggage-at-the-door dance company. Time and time again, Heather centers that the new iteration of these two dances are collaborations with Izzy, Ty, Emily, and Alyx - the dancers bringing their bodies to the performance.
“to the quiet marks & pull | tirer” are dark, heavy pieces. Heather describes them as “physically demanding,” several times. But the artists approach them with openheartedness and a palpable vulnerability. “I want people to have nightmares after they see this,” Heather shares, with a smile in her eyes, “I want it to really effect people.” When talking with the dancers after they showed me a sample of the performance, Alyx shared that what she is most interested in is the relationship between her and the other dancer. Ty adds that dance isn’t about character, it’s about embracing what the dance is requiring of you. Heather builds on top of that, saying that when you dance, there is nothing between you and the art that you’re making. What you have to work with is just your body, your self. At one point, Emily makes a comment that makes Ty sigh with relief at being understood. The love that these artists have for each other is very deeply felt, both through spending time with them and in seeing the way they brought this work to life. The darkness is not gratuitous, and not without care. These dancers are just facing something, and want the audience to look that something in the face as well.
It’s hard for me to say what these performances are “about.” Dance is an art form with and without narrative, with and without character. Here’s what I got out of what I saw: the first performance, to the quiet marks, embodied what it can feel like to be in a relationship with mutual care, but also mutually destructive tendencies. There are moments in the dance where what Izzy and Alyx are doing is really not comfortable for one of them, and yet they continue to return to each other. Izzy’s performance contains these emotions of obsession and dedication, where Alyx holds a depth of vulnerability that leaves her open to the beauty and the hardship of the dance. Heather shared that initially, this piece was a solo. It was the place where she explored feelings of being violated while being screened for cervical cancer. “We started putting this together right when Roe v. Wade was overturned,” Heather noted, “which was totally an accident.”
The second dance, pull | tirer meets artist Ty embarking on a process of nervous self discovery - working with his body to find bold shapes, discovering capacity. Emily arrives on the scene with a cold confidence, and Ty begins to shadow her dance. At first it seems like there’s a mentor-mentee thing happening, but as the dance unfolds, you see that Emily is watching Ty as closely as Ty is watching Emily - looking for new shapes in each other. It’s really captivating.
When I asked what the performers want the audience to experience, Alyx shared, “I want people to come with their friends, and read the whole program, and then watch the performance, and go somewhere to talk about it after.” I think audience members will find a lot to talk about in the performance. The Portland creative scene is so much richer because of the presence of Little House Dance, and creative types should prioritize this experience this performance this week. I can’t recommend it highly enough!
“to the quiet marks & pull | tirer” will be performed at Cove Street Arts on April 13, 14, and 15th. Following the performance on the 13th, there will be a reception. Following the performance on the 15th, there will be an artist talkback. Tickets are sliding scale, starting at $12.09 (including service fees).