We are shuffled back and forth around the house, occupying the outside perimeter, then the living room, the kitchen and so on. After each brief portion of the work, performers redirect us to where we must inhabit next. The audience is not offered the option to settle. If we kneel down or lean against a wall it is understood that we may be asked to move at any moment, and that we must exercise our own judgement to adhere to the spatial needs of the dancers. There is little comfort in wherever we are positioned at any time.
Petra Zanki’s Freight is a fictional work based on personal stories. It imagines a vacant house where a group of immigrants hide “in their best clothes with hearts full of hopes and dreams, hoping for a “Yes” to come from immigration services.”
We witness solo and group choreography, combining text and music that is spoken and recorded. The text tells personal stories of familial relationships and ancestry. It spans across fruit stands, arranged marriages, symbolic pocket knives, and the lessons that can be learned from ingesting five bananas in one sitting. We are led through story after story, only beginning to resonate in one narrative before we are led to the next. Similar to the stories, the choreography appears to be highly personal to each performer.
Valerie Grabill’s solo blends a striking sharp focus with soft, supple limbs that extend beyond the architectural holds of the living room. She moves with an elegant precision that invites viewers to have faith along with her.
A cinematic bathroom duet commences between dancers Madeline Morser and Hendri Walujo. In adjacent restrooms, the dancers engage in varying contemporary movements that eventually sync in their efforts. Though neither is visible to the other, they dance with such united integrity that we begin to wonder whether the wall between them is actually real or some sort of architectural illusion.
Racine Lemons holds stark power in her presence. She changes levels with buoyant efficiency, and her controlled focus is almost more captivating than her billowing movement vocabulary. Her choices are unpredictable and embody a diligent purpose.
It is difficult to not smile while watching Charmaine Butcher dance. Her infectious joy in face and body perseveres while she hones sequentiality in each movement, reveling in the adagio qualities.
Through the window of the house, we observe a partial view of Sruti Desai. She carries a strong musicality with the live violinist, unfazed by the glass that separates them. Desai’s hands explore a delicate tenacity, often arranged in gestures that embody the act of giving.
“A morning milking is like coffee,” states Vladimir Kremenovic as he boldly glances into the crowd. Kremenovic dances through stories of musty barns, feet in the oven, and cows that are as much family as human relatives. His voice does not waver through large leaps and driven spirals, maintaining excellent concentration of the performative aspects of storytelling while honoring the physicality of the spacious movement.
Above all else, the theme of persistent waiting through a period of transition is deeply exemplified in the work. The constant changes to where the audience is located forces viewers to experience instability and anticipation. Though the solos and group sections vary in style and seem to honor more individualized choices than an overall aesthetic, the movement of walking forward with open arms and wishful gaze is frequently returned to. In its repetition, it becomes clear that this choreographic emblem is reflective of a brave continuation through an unknown future. There is hope without guarantee, courage without certainty. The site of the work is similarly in flux. This is the last series of performances held at The Garden House before it is closed as an event space and permanently transformed into a bakery. The dancers, the movement, and the space as a whole breathes together with generous patience. We leave with the sense that there is more to come.