In Three Stages, we ask Massachusetts artists to shed light on their art-making process by focusing on three stages in one work of art.
Here, Dawn Lane (Choreography Fellow ’10) traces her new dance piece “one potato, two potato” from its inspiration, to its juxtapositions, to the collaborations that have led to its premiere at Jacob’s Pillow in Becket, MA, September 2 and 3, 2011.
I first traveled to Ireland in the spring of 1984 and knew immediately it was a place I would return to. On my fifth trip in 2006, I found myself driving a “green” road in the Burren in County Clare. I stopped at what looked like a farming road and started walking… I soon noticed a megalithic stone, which I later learned was a pre-Christian well and children’s burial ground. On the stone was a simple and stylized carving of a child’s face. I took some photos and drew a sketch. That night as I wrote in a travel journal I felt a fascination forming… the road was the Famine Road, also know as The Burren Way.
In June 2009, I returned and shot some video, the true beginning of this project. I was moved to learn this road was built by those whose homes and crops were devastated by the potato blight in the mid 19th century in exchange for food and if they were lucky a bed in a workhouse. Between the years 1845 and 1852, over one million people died and another million left Ireland. Some died on what came to be called coffin ships… boats that went back and forth from Ireland to North America, never letting anyone off.
The juxtaposition of this calamity and the beauty of the Irish landscape coupled with the spirit and humor of the Irish people triggered me to create this work. My intentions are to draw upon this history as a metaphor, rather than to create a historical depiction. All of us are vulnerable, all of us exquisite, all of us wasteful. We all subscribe to hope and possibility. We bear responsibility for our choices yet, we sometimes have no choice in our predicaments. The piece one potato, two potato looks at the delicate balance between devastation and beauty, hardship and triumph. The choreographic challenge is to find ways to depict the balance… paying attention to take care and honor my intentions while remembering that an audience has to be engaged and not turned off by tragic subject matter. It’s about trust, really. I want to trust my choreographic instincts, so the audience will trust me and get on the ride!
Go maire sibh chomh fada is mian libh, Is ná raibh gátar oraibh chomh fada is a mhaireann sibh. (May you live as long as you want, and never want as long as you live.)
I want to extend my gratitude to Ella Baff, the Pillow staff, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and my colleagues at Community Access to the Arts for their support in the creation and fruition of this work. In October 2010, my dancers and I had the honor of working in the Doris Duke Theatre for one week as part of the Pillow’s Creative Development Residency Program. It was during this week that we established the basis for one potato, two potato. We are delighted and honored that the premiere is in the Doris Duke Theatre, the very space the work was nurtured.
Since October 2010, the work has grown to include much collaboration, integrating dancers with mixed abilities from CATA’s Moving Company, working to include the children of the several of the lead dancers, and collaborating with a filmmaker and photographer to create video/photographic projections which will play intermittently during the work. The assembly of all these people exemplifies true collaboration, each facet needing the other in order to create a completed work. It has been a lesson in letting each step inform the next and letting all involved bring their passions, talents, and expertise to the process.
Dawn Lane’s “one potato, two potato” will premiere at the Doris Duke Theatre at Jacob’s Pillow on September 2, 2011 (8 PM) and September 3, 2 PM and 8 PM.
Dawn Lane’s work has been performed at The Kennedy Performing Arts Center, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Boston Conservatory, and elsewhere, and has been funded by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the LEF Foundation and the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. She is one of three nationally chosen dance educators to teach Jacob’s Pillow Curriculum in Motion™ residencies, and recently took part in a new work residency at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. Her work was selected for the VSA International Arts Festival in Washington, DC in June 2010. In 1998 she founded The Moving Company, a mixed ability dance company for Community Access to the Arts (CATA), for which she has worked since 1995 and is currently Artistic Director.
Images: all photos courtesy of Dawn Lane.