Persephone and Demeter

"Alexander Short and Shute roll effortlessly together as the roiling, muddy currents of the underworld’s River Styx. Becoming Hades, Shute rests alongside Eliza Talbott (Persephone) on Short’s back.  Shute presses and prods Talbott as she struggles away from his grasp, until his hand reaches her mouth to feed her the pomegranate seed that will lock Persephone into his world. Ultimately, Talbott’s Persephone sits with her mother, Demeter (Nicole McClam), at the stage edge, Demeter’s stunned gaze revealing Persephone’s fate."--from the thINKing Dance review of Plunging into the Stream, Mascher Space Cooperative in Philadelphia, by Beau Hancock, Dec 12, 2014.

Our vision of Persephone (2014) emphasizes her relationship with her mother, fertility goddess Demeter. Nicole McClam tries to comfort and console her depressed teenaged daughter, played by Eliza Talbott, who shakes off the tender hands.

The two sit upon the bodies of Malcolm Shute and Alex Short, playing Hades and Charon, respectively. They shift slowly at first, ultimately creating a landslide that engulfs Persephone. Shute grabs Talbott's waist, yanking her from her mother's grasp.

Eliza Talbott as Persephone and Malcolm Shute as Hades in Persephone and Demeter

Violence is the dark heart of the Persephone myth. In the underworld, Hades and Persephone grapple while seated upon the back of Charon. Hades maintains his seated posture, a pretension of dignity undercut by his groping fingers, which find their way to Persephone's back, shoulders, and knee. Persephone is allowed to escape because she has eaten the pomegranate seed, and so must return.

Suffering binds Persephone and her mother: it is not a tale with a happy ending. Persephone returns to the light of day, but only briefly. The myth symbolizes the changing of seasons, but also the imminence of illness, which withers all growth. It also raises the ubiquity of violence in our culture, for which, so far, we have no cure.

Our "Persephone and Demeter" dance video was recorded on location at the Ra Paulette carved caverns, Los Nidos, NM. Videographer Denaise Seals codirected the production.