Tinkering with Odysseus

My mythology dances emphasize the personal, human sides of heroes. "Penelope and Odysseus," for instance, is about the wife, not the husband, and about a relationship that is strung over many estranged years.

Amanda Abrams and Alexander Short in Odysseus Comes Home

The dance opens with a duet, "Leaving." Set before Odysseus leaves for the Trojan War, he and Penelope bustle over the baggage, last-minute phone calls, scrambling to make online hotel reservations in a foreign language. The two, played by Amanda Abrams and Alexander Short, dance over, under, and around each other. Abrams leaps against Short’s shoulder, twisting him under her arm, is herself lifted and spun halfway around, knocks him off of her hips, then flies backward and upward against him. When they pause, they have too much to say: hopes, memories, anxieties--too much for a simple goodbye. They stare at each other until, safer to be busy, their wandering eyes spy more tasks to perform.

The new section of Odysseus, "Waiting," is a strange fit for me. It will be a solo for Abrams. This is already a departure: I almost always choreograph on two, three, or four bodies. She will embody Penelope, home while Odysseus is presumed lost, angry, lonely, and overwhelmed by raising a child on her own. She will stitch herself a kind of shelter in air, then unstitch it in frustration. There will be no physical prop, no yarn or rope--she will partner empty space.

I typically create a soundscape that provides a kind of ambient backdrop to the dancers. The audio reflects their experience, reinforces it, but is background.

The music, in this case, needs to fill some of this void. She will partner more with the music than is usual in my work. It needs to not only reflect her, but drive her. It will be the partner that she does not have physically: Odysseus as a kind of siren echo.

I am talking with local musician/composer Andre Cutair about composing the score for this section.

Come see for yourself. Human Landscape Dance will premiere "Penelope and Odysseus" on Friday May 18 and Saturday May 19 at 8pm in A Rugged Shore at Joe's Movement Emporium, 3309 Bunker Hill Rd, Mount Rainier MD. This is a shared performance with Susan Cook of Nova Scotia, featuring an essay read by Karen Bradley.