Soir Bleu, 1914
The images, colors and line are stark. Jessica Murphy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art describes Hopper’s style: “Clearly outlined forms in strongly defined lighting, a cropped composition with an almost ‘cinematic’ viewpoint, and a mood of eerie stillness.” At first blush, these immobile, nearly static moments seem an odd choice for a dance work. But, as Penny said recently in one of our conversations, “Something, was happening in his characters’ heads. What led up to it or came after?” Such questions inspire Soir Bleu. Still, she says, “It’s a challenge, as choreographer, to keep it dynamic, not to be drab—to change the scene as often as possible,” but without becoming too episodic.
To capture these elusive qualities and tensions, Penny uses changes in movement, in groupings, in tempo. The dancers mingle or cross paths, with or without noticing each other. Figures sometimes even intertwine, but they do not bond. As in the painting Nighthawks, gazes fail to meet; each individual is lost in a private world.