Taking Home on the Road

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A set of toes gingerly place clean socks on a clothesline. A cello thrums sporadically. Voices murmur in different languages. There’s something awkward but also a little bit comforting about it. It’s a fitting feeling for a piece that aims to create “a home that is both familiar and yet cannot exactly be located.” This is 2125 Stanley Street, created by New York based dancers Dahlia Nayar and Margaret Sunghe Paek, along with cellist and composer Loren Kiyoshi Dempster. Currently in the midst of a West Coast tour, the piece has recently been performed in spaces as eclectic as a Buddhist church in San Francisco and the Hammer Museum in LA. The tour’s last stop is Seattle’s Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center, this Wednesday, August 20. SeattleDances had the opportunity to chat with Nayar about the performance and the group’s tour thus far.

2125 Stanley St Reh
2125 Stanley Street in rehearsal
Photo by Loren Kiyoshi Dempster

SD: How did the two of you begin working together?

DN: Margaret and I began collaborating as graduate students at the Hollins MFA Dance program five years ago. We are an unlikely pair on the surface, actually. Margaret has a rich background in improvisational choreography and collective work (Lower Left/Nina Martin), whereas I come from an experience of “set” choreography and training in more stylized forms. But we both acted on an impulse to experiment in the studio together, valuing each others’ experiences. Over the last five years, I’ve danced in Margaret’s projects at Danspace and the Whitney Biennial in NYC. Through those projects I met her husband, Loren Kiyoshi Dempster.

 

SD: Where did the inspiration for this particular show come from?

DN: I actually started Stanley Street experimenting alone in the studio, contemplating unusual sources of virtuosity, meditating on my mom’s ability to blaze through a room and pick up socks with her toes. This started to inspire a non-linear choreographic investigation of family history. When I approached Margaret and Loren, they brought in their own experiences, and we began to explore the experiences of growing up in multilingual households. With his background in improvising live, experimental music and working with dance companies including touring with Merce Cunningham, Loren began to experiment with creating sound from household objects.

 

SD: You’ve performed this work in several different kinds of spaces. How does each performance adapt to a new environment and how do you convey the idea of home in these different settings?

DN: In each place we try to incorporate the environment into the work’s spacing and soundscape.  Our residency in rural Vermont incorporated recordings of the local birds at dawn, and in San Francisco Loren recorded the busy traffic outside the church. The idea of home resonates differently with different audiences.  Some audiences are immediately familiar with the experience of growing up in a multilingual household, so identify with sound clips without necessarily needing to decipher the languages they hear. Other audience members respond with familiarity to the repurposing of objects or to the lesser recognized virtuosity of  performing of domestic chores, or the possibility of poetry existing in the mundane.

 

2125 Stanley Street rounds out an evening that begins with Trio Tritticali, Dempster’s string trio. A New York based group, they weave together influences from tango, jazz, and Middle Eastern music to create a wholly unique sound. A one-night-only performance, this split bill is sure to be memorable both acoustically and performatively.

Tickets are a $5-15 donation at the door. More information can be found here.