In the last few years, Americans have become obsessed with division. Journalists, pundits, and writers now spend inordinately large amounts of time and energy trying to "bridge the divide" between MAGA hats and sane people, boomers and millennials, millennials and other millennials, et al. They devote entire programs and 10,000-word features to solving this most essential and urgent mystery.
But what if the solution isn't all that complicated? What if sensationalizing division actually spreads divisiveness more widely throughout the culture? What would happen if we spent more time celebrating the "little ordinary magic of just getting along with people," as choreographer Zoe Scofield, winner of a Stranger Genius Award, put it in a recent phone interview with me the other day?
The three new works slated for dance company Whim W'Him, collectively called 3 x 3, which runs January 18 to 26 at Cornish Playhouse, don't purport to offer answers to those questions. But each of them—in their own glancing way—is thinking about the hard work of working together through dance.
In her contribution to the evening, Scofield will present a spare, understated bit of group work that's more or less about mundane social interactions, marking a significant shift from the apocalyptic tone that dominated her last big show, Clear & Sweet. It won't be a total abandonment of her past, however. For music, she's pairing Glenn Gould's recording of J.S. Bach's "Goldberg Variations" with some shape note singing, a haunting form of gospel that featured heavily in Clear & Sweet.
Lots of pedestrian movement will contrast with those godly sounds, suggesting that divinity lies not with supernatural beings in the sky but within everyday people. "Maybe the sacred is in people, in relationships, in the ability to stay in difficult places with one another," Scofield said over the phone.
But she also stressed that "living life kindly and with patience and tolerance isn't some epic feat" deserving of special praise and attention. "We need to learn to care for one another without it being this big to-do," she said. You might catch these concepts embodied in the duets and rhythmic, counting sections running throughout her piece.
Yin Yue, founder of New York City's YY Dance Company, also plans to present a stripped-down dance about—again, very loosely—the importance of holding on to human connections. Like her other work, The Most Illusive Hold will push the boundaries of physicality in dance, testing the technical prowess of Whim W'Him's company. While Scofield's dance will feel more meditative and introverted, Yue's will stand out for its sheer kineticism.
Whim W'Him artistic director Olivier Wevers is debuting a "surrealist narrative" based on the concept of belonging, set to Henryk Górecki's aptly named "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs." Trump's inhumane response to the migrant crisis and the larger global refugee crisis served as the seed of the piece, which Wevers is calling Trail of Soles. Dancers will arrange shoes on the floor to create physical spaces, Wevers said, suggesting, perhaps, the randomness and permeability of borders.
My favorite thing about Wevers's work is when the dancers lean on each other to lift each other up, and when one dancer uses another dancer's momentum to spark a movement in a new phrase, so that the whole show progresses like some kind of modern-dance Rube Goldberg machine.