I first envisioned this dance as a solo—a return to the type of projects that began my initial explorations of movement. However, that notion ultimately evolved into a duet that became, to some extent, a display of two people together, yet separate. A kind of dialogue formed—an exchange. Are they a couple? Together? Apart? They are all of those things. . .
Claire Westby and Brandon Collwes do not represent me, but they do represent how two people exist together, and everything that implies. (T)here to (T)here was made very specifically for these two dancers, with whom I have worked for a long time. I began the choreography for this dance in 2013, during a transitional period, when they were the only two dancers in the company. For me, working on a solo or a duet requires a very different relationship with the dancer (or dancers) than a group piece requires. That level of intimacy—for lack of a better word—between choreographer and dancer often takes several years to develop. But not always. When there is a mutual feeling of confidence that each can get what is needed of one another, the relationship thrives. Both choreographer and dancer share the thought: I can't imagine who else I could have made this piece with. I think it all goes back to the fact that a choreographer is an artist working with bodies—but the dancers are it, in the end. These relationships are unique to modern dance, as opposed to other art forms.
Although my collaboration with composer Michael J. Schumacher on (T)here to (T)here extends a longstanding partnership that is in and of itself a kind of duet, the introduction of visual artist Kay Rosen to the piece occurred by chance. While gallery-hopping in Chelsea with Iréne Hultman one afternoon, we passed Sikkema Jenkins. On exhibit were works by Kay Rosen, whose word paintings are part of a genre I enjoy. When I subsequently read that Kay was influenced by Trisha Brown, whose work I greatly admire, I contacted her. The original idea was a dialogue between visual text and dancer, both moving on stage. However, as the piece began to develop as a duet, the text began to emerge simultaneously with the action on stage. The words add a suggestion of context to the movement, not a description of what is happening. They are a colorization of the environment in which the dance is taking place.
Throughout the creation of (T)here to (T)here, I intended for it to be performed at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, which has been such a critical part of my development as a choreographer. It was at BAC that I learned how to transition my work from studio to stage. Here, I began to have some understanding of how to turn idea into action. BAC feels like a homecoming of sorts, and a place to peel back some layers towards intimacy and self-expression. It's also a particularly appropriate work for Lincoln Center's White Light Festival, where a variety of mediums share a very personal approach to presentation. The intimacy of (T)here to (T)here at White Light will put stage and audience into close proximity. That is another kind of duet. Movement up close gives another perspective.
—Copyright © 2016 by Liz Gerring