Photo credit Emilie Krause
by Gregory King for The Dance Journal
When I entered the building that housed the Iron Factory, it was quiet.
Maybe silent….no, quiet.
Attempting to be unobtrusive, I moved towards the wooden stairs that would take me to the performance space, but the creaking sound of loose wood announced my presence.
Director Sam Tower invited me towards the performance space with a gentle gesture, before showing me to an empty seat.
Onstage there were armchairs, paisley curtains, antlers, newspaper, and performers in suspenders: this was the world of I’d Rather Choke Than Be a Quitter.
Prior to the show, I was curious about the title and wondered about the narrative.
As the performance unfolded, the bubble that housed my curiosity, planted itself next to me. I searched for clues that would help me resolve my inquiry, then I found myself stranded in a distant place instead of being in the moment.
So I threw away my preconceived notions and went along for the ride, hoping the puzzle of this performance would solve itself.
While holding a microphone, performer Emma Arrick gathered a pile of newspaper diligently. She placed the microphone close to the crumbling newspaper, amplifying the sound before nesting her body in the mound she prepared with the papers.
I was being pulled into a galaxy of inexplicable gestures, abstract movements, and bizarre sounds. I soon realized that the complexities of Quitter were nothing but that poem we sometimes find so hard to complete and even harder to understand.
Another performer Tess Kunik, walked from stage right to stage left, with one arm extended.. The tallest of the three, Kunik had a commanding presence that made her a target. There was something oddly intriguing about watching Kunik as she used her physicality to yank reaction from the audience. Her emotionally empty stares were dusted with humor and I found myself reacting….even without fully understanding.
I was invested and that pleased me.
Of the three thespian/mime/dance/singers, Caitlin Dagle appeared to have had the most experience as a dancer. The way she controlled her body in the execution of quiet port de bras, quenched my thirst for some kinesthetic familiarity that I welcome when a show is advertised as a dance theater performance. Her trained body worked to reveal the conceptual composition of the director, but my lingering state of questioning made my analysis of her movements incomplete.
I rarely read program notes before seeing a show. This forces me to submerge myself in what is being shown, instead of allowing the director’s note to coax me into looking for a narrative that may no be clearly revealed. Yet somehow I wish I had scanned the reading, which may have aided in my understanding of the world I have tried to describe.
It’s been said that art can provoke conversation. I would like to think that those conversations stem from one’s experience with the artwork. Quitter invited me to continue to look at the obvious but to search for the not so obvious. And while I am resolved that I’d Rather Choke Than Be A Quitter wasn’t the most accessible work, it left me pondering; trying to figure out hidden meanings and missed references.
As I reflected on the night’s work, words recited by Arrick loitered in my mind;
“The road is not long, or dusty, or bent…….it just is”
Then I thought,
“Maybe I should just walk away having had the experience, knowing, it just was.”