The hand motions of the four women in choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa‘s as yet untitled new piece, for Whim W’Him’s May show, grow out of her own distinctive gestures.* And the curious vocabulary being developed for these ladies is extended out to the very tips of their fingers, which are lengthened by 8 inch nails, fashioned from drinking straws. In today’s post the dancers describe their experience of creating this riveting new work.

At a pause in rehearsal, Tory Peil needs someone to bind up her hair, which falls in silky strands over her face. She can’t brush it away because of the nails, though she says she doesn’t even notice while dancing. Tory is fascinated by the new project the women of Whim W’Him have embarked upon. “This piece is much more dreamy and otherworldly than most of the works Whim has done in the recent past,” she says. “We get to be more creature-like in our quest to move like goddesses. It seems like a piece where the four of us ladies will start to develop our own story amongst ourselves. It won’t necessarily be an important story for the audience to know, but it will be how we create our own through lines, how we relate to each other from moment to moment.”

She is “excited to watch this piece get weirder and weirder as we make the movement more of our own way of speaking. Dancing with these ladies is one of my favorite things to do. It’s so new so it’s hard to describe.”

Apprentice/understudy Madeline DeVries finds that “Anabelle’s movement in this piece creates a feeling of confidence in me. And beyond that, I begin to feel powerful and even somewhat alluring in this feminine, Amazonian creature/goddess character. It was cool to watch

[Annabelle] incorporate the eyes in certain parts to create this feeling.”

For Geneva Jenkins, “my experience of the piece so far has been an exploration of female communication (gestures, facial expression—the mouth the eyes, hips, butt, breasts as well as stance and walking). How do women use their body to communicate status to each other and to the outside world? Exploring what defines the female code; what women share with each other and how the outside world experiences this code.

The strength that is projected on the surface and the sometimes fragile inner person being protected within,” she continues. “I have felt a sense of camaraderie with the other women as well as a feeling a sense of exploring female competition: how this is communicated through the body, through the eyes, and through specific timings in physicality that are unique to women?”

Lara Seefeldt notes, “It has been a great process, and the material that has been generated so far is really interesting and unlike anything Whim W’him has done before. The one challenging (and funny) thing has been figuring out how to partner each other with straws on the ends of our fingers. I think each lady has gotten poked really good in the face at least once and Mia had a couple of straw-end-sized bruises on her arm.

“As for my own persona in the piece,” Lara adds, “I feel I have yet to find it. Though we worked intensely on it, for me it takes the entire rehearsal process before I find a way of being in a piece, and it doesn’t end there. The best part about performing is the constant investigation into how to execute a step or perhaps hearing something new in the music or the intention of the choreography. With Annabelle’s new  work we haven’t really scratched the surface yet.”

Mia Monteabaro, too, is enthusiastic about the work, eager to see how it will develop when Annabelle returns in late April—and amused by the challenges of extra-long nails…

…not just as inadvertent weapons to beware, but for cell phone use. The nails are attached to the underside of each finger, so the pad that usually touches the keys is out of commission for the task. One thing is certain, in whatever strange realm these ladies inhabit, mobile phones, if they exist, must be accessed somehow differently. There, in that place, one can’t just remove the extension of one’s finger…


*For a taste of Annabelle’s new piece, watch Day Kol’s rehearsal video:  Annabelle Lopez Ochoa on Vimeo
For tickets to the May shows: Whim W’Him at the Erickson- #unprotected

Photo Credit: Molly Magee Bamberg Fine Art