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  • Nicole (Johnson) Williams

31. of the larger picture

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

The solo that I’m re-envisioning for this project is one piece of a larger work. This particular solo was actually a piece of a different larger work entitled Seiche. It had been the title of a piece I was once in a few years ago when I was dancing for White Werks in an 18-month exploration of the question: Who has access to water? I had never heard of the word before then.

Seiche – typically caused when strong winds and rapid changes in atmospheric pressure push water from one end of a body of water to the other. When the wind stops, the water rebounds to the other side of the enclosed area. The water then continues to oscillate back and forth for hours or even days. Rapid changes in the atmospheric pressure of life can have the same effect, causing us to step outside of our “norm” and begin to journey in a new direction that is more aligned and authentic. We are constantly growing; changing.  And at the point that we may feel we have arrived, we are reminded that evolution is a constant conversation, shifting and changing with each oscillation.

-my program notes from the show

This was my first reflective piece of choreography; one that mirrored the narrative of my own life in this particular time. I wanted to explore the idea of being disrupted in such a way that reality seems to rebound from one end of the spectrum to the other. This work was my first critical investigation of disruption, introspection, mindfulness, and an initial acknowledgement of a more evolved and aligned truth. After reflecting on this process, I was led to explore this idea of disruption more closely…

So what’s happening in this solo? The full work begins in silence with one dancer standing center stage. The others revolve around her like planets as the voice of Audre Lorde begins speaking the second stanza of the poem. She begins, as if in mid thought.

“In a new room, I enter old places bearing your shape”

There is one dancer standing center stage in a daze as the other dancers revolve around her at different speeds, using different movements. Each dancer represents a different aspect of her identity. None are looking at her. There is one dancer who enters and makes a large circle around the entire group, maintaining a deep focus on the dancer in the center the entire time.

Lorde says, “Trapped.”

At that same time, the dancer on the outside of the scenario claps her hands, and all revolving dancers freeze mid-motion and attention goes to the dancer in the center, who has been awakened from her daze. It’s as if she’s been going through the motions of her life, supported by forces of the Universe that have gone unnoticed, until an external source requires her attention. Suddenly she notices that there is something she is looking for. This sudden disruption invigorates her quest/curiosity/knowing/uncovering…

The next section has no text but is danced to Vivaldi’s Winter. The classical music is reminiscent of formality, politeness, and the appearance of control. The tempo is quick, which makes everything quite rushed; almost as if the dancers are racing to keep up. The relationship between the dancers on stage is one of dependence (three dancers dependent on one). The movement of the trio seems to chase the overwhelmed soloist through the piece until finally she is able to shake them, engaging in a desperate fight for survival, and finally collapsing in the end, exhausted from the battle.

“Hey… It’s me… I’m calling… To schedule… a nervous breakdown.”

The voice of Jill Scott (soul singer) begins narrating the prayer of the woman. Here the soloist is alone with her thoughts (three dancers). The movement is informed by the lyrics of the song and tone of the singer’s voice. It is weighted, tired, and necessarily resilient.

“I’m calling to schedule a very necessary breakdown. Leave me alone now.”

This is where the solo I’m exploring for my Artistic Experience comes in. For the first time in the piece, the soloist is alone on stage; deep inside her own mind. It is here where she is really able to explore the origins of her angst, aided by the words of Audre Lorde. She begins by using one hand to pull from her own mouth the words/ideas/figurings others have had of her that have become her own words/ideas/figurings. Then she uses both hands to gather all of herself into alignment, continuing until her hands are reaching up, as she surrenders herself simultaneously to what is above as well as below. The piece continues as we see the soloist in conversation with many different parts of herself, grappling with the realities of socialization and learned realities that bind her.

As she comes out of this place, we enter into the final portion of the work, which is accompanied by another spoken word piece (an interlude entitled and so i come to isolation from a Moses Sumney album). In this piece, a woman explains how she’s come to understand herself to have been isolated or islanded. The dancers layer back onto the stage and eventually end the piece as one, with the very last movement stretched out by the soloist. She ends standing.

Writing out the libretto for the full work has been helpful in creating pointed meaning for the solo, and for movements within it. There is still more of the story that needs to be defined, for instance, giving identity to the dancers on stage and how their relationships with the soloist impact the movement, or how their absence in the solo effects the story. Unfortunately, I’ve spent much less time in the studio (and much less time on this blog) because of conflicting Winter Break schedules for my kids and a massive snow storm that’s just hit out area (another snow day…..) Being forced to deal primarily with story instead of movement this week, however, has allowed me the time to think through more meaning. I had hoped to go into the studio to improvise new movement to the text…. see what stuck. Perhaps that will be the goal for next week.

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