Meet the work: “when mind moves memory…” and “Companion Dances”

Shula Strassfeld and Daniel Zook in "When Mind Moves Memory". Photo by Peter Whitehouse.

 

If the post on Stephanie Miracle’s work Recollecting Disappearing did not get you completely jazzed for lost, left, found & borrowed this weekend at Roundhouse Theatre Silver Spring, I present to you two more profiles of pieces in the concert: when mind moves memory… by Shula Strassfeld and Keith Thompson, and Companion Dances by Martha Wittman. Shula and Keith’s work, a beautiful duet between “older” Shula and “younger” Daniel Zook, gets at the objects and people who hold our memories when we can’t. Martha’s Companion Dances looks at the shifting dance between caregiver and caretaker in a duet for Shula and dancer/actor/director Susie Richard.

Shula gave me her thoughts on creating when mind moves memory… with Keith Thompson: 

You and Keith choreographed this piece together—what was that process like?

The process was extremely collaborative including a rehearsal over Skype with Dr. Peter Whitehouse, Professor of Neurology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. I think Keith, Daniel, Peter and I made this piece, sharing ideas, thoughts,  movement and images. We had a CRP session after the first intense rehearsal period which was great. I felt that we really showed a “first draft” and with the feedback we received we were able to dig right in and really make the piece.

Has anything changed since the premiere?

The changes since the premiere are mostly very subtle changes in the nuance of details– those tiny, yet significant findings one makes in performance–and in reflecting on what felt honest and not-so-honest in the moment.

How does this piece relate to the health care field?

The piece speaks directly to issues of memory loss, the degenerative nature of dementia, the shifting roles played by a caregiver, particularly a family member, holding memories for someone who no longer can.

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Martha Wittman on her piece, Companion Dances:

What gave you the idea for this piece?

The duet was inspired, initially, by observing an amazing health aide’s interactions with my sister Louise over many years. My sister was severly disabled with Parkinson’s illness and died last August. Darlene was the only caregiver able to get my sister to her feet and travel by synchronizing their steps together as dancing. Darlene became a consultant for us on the duet. Her voice is recorded as part of a prologue.

What was your process like?

In the process I found it important to include Susie’s and Shula’s experiences in the care-giving area as well. Susie was very involved in her mother’s care and Shula with her father’s.

One important question for me was: Do you remember being read to when you were a child? When you were ill? Another important element was physical partnering: Who is dependent on whom?

A huge challenge has been to meet one of the original requirements for these commissions of making a dance not longer than 10 minutes. (In fact, the original commission called for a dance of 5 – 7 minutes!) It’s been very difficult to achieve, and I feel I’m still in process.

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

About Sarah Levitt

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