Meet the work: “Recollecting Disappearing” by Stephanie Miracle

This week, we’re featuring q & a’s with a few of the choreographers with work in lost, left, found & borrowed, happening this weekend at Roundhouse Theatre Silver Spring. First up is Stephanie Miracle, one of my dance role models for the generosity and joy she brings to dancing, making work, and teaching. We’re lucky to have her in DC! Her work, Recollecting Disappearing, is a mesmerizing meditation on family and dementia.

Can you talk a little bit about what you’re showing at Roundhouse?

This piece is an investigation into memory loss and its effect on the family. The work hints at a narrative but I did not create it with a clear, linear story in mind, rather I created situations for the performers and audience to experience things that, to me, speak of loss and love in the family. My work is also very visual. I like for the audience to feel that their eyes can wander through the dance space freely, allowing for memories emerge and associations to form. I am interested in people’s feelings and believe that our bodies often offer us more truthful responses than our words. This is one of the reasons why I dance and make work.

Can you talk about the process of creating this work?

The work began after learning that my aunt had been diagnosed with Fronto Temporal Dementia, a memory disease similar to Alzheimer’s. I began an ongoing interview process with her, asking for candid comments on how her life has changed and how she feels about this change. I also began an informal artist residency at Iona Senior Services in DC, an amazing organization that offers many programs to elders, often times emphasizing the arts. At Iona I taught many dance workshops to the Day Center participants, many of whom have some form of dementia.

I began creating movement for this piece with a short solo study that explored trauma and memory loss. This solo was specifically crafted to exist within Dance Exchange’s Rosen Performance Lab. The piece attempted to connect the dance to the visual elements within the space.

After this, I began working with three terrific collaborators: Graham Brown, Esther Geiger and Annetta Dexter Sawyer. We wrote about our personal memories and family history, played with improvisational scores, experimented with memory games. Each dancer was instrumental in helping me understand what this dance was about and how to form it.

Has the work changed since its premiere? How?

This piece had changed quite a lot since its premiere. The work was originally designed to be performed at Dance Exchange. Each of the four walls in the room were utilized in very specific ways and the audience was asked to move across the room to shift their vantage point on three occasions. The Round House theatre has a more traditional proscenium/black box presentation. This has forced me to re-conceptualize the spatial composition in new ways. This shift in locations has provided new content to surface.

My cast was originally composed of three women and one man. Because of another professional engagement, Graham Brown was unable to do this show and I have replaced him with Lori Yuill. Not only has she brought sensitivity and freshness to the work, her presence has also allowed for me to re-vision the relationships in the piece. Maybe four women are representations of several generations within one family? Or perhaps they are all the same woman but at different stages in her life? I am not trying to present the audience with one meaning but invite people to create their own story.

How does your work speak to issues in the health care field?

The content of Recollecting Disappearing speaks not only to issues of memory loss but issues of care-taking and family support networks. How do we deal with our loved ones who are suffering? How do we deal with our own suffering? What does it mean to remain close during these times of hardship? The emotional landscape of the piece includes moments of doubt, loss, anxiety, fragility, loneliness and grace.

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Check out Stephanie’s work, along with work by Graham Brown, Michelle Pearson, Shula Strassfeld & Keith Thompson, and Martha Wittman this weekend at lost, left, found & borrowed at Roundhouse Theatre Silver Spring. Please visit www.roundhousetheatre.org for tickets.

Photos by Jimmy Miracle

About Sarah Levitt

Sarah Levitt (Resident Artist/Communications Coordinator) is a dancer, choreographer and teacher based in Maryland.