Dissonant and harmonious in equal measure, a cacophony of choreography in 4 parts. That is the program note for Kate Wallich‘s ♥ (rendered on paper by a black emoji heart on a white ground and pronounced Black Heart),* with a score by Aaron Otheim.

In her words (via email this morning):
“1st movement is quite dense (titled ‘Impulse’ by composer)
2nd movement is serene (titled ‘Shores’ by composer)
3rd movement i call the palate cleanser (Coda #1)
4th movement is the real coda (Coda #2)
Everyone is necessary and no one is particularly featured I would say….”

Kate’s style of choreography—her process of thinking and talking about it, of making it, and the end product itself—is allusive, layered, elusive even.


I am tempted to talk about the texture rather than theme or idea of this work, which is, as Kate put it, “not happy, sad, joyful, touching, but all places and things.” The piece, as I understand it, turns on a contrast, perhaps a tension, between sequences where the performers are swallowed up by the dance and others where they remain more on the surface, aware of context and of each other—something like an unconscious/conscious or subjective/objective opposition. A switch back and forth between the mental states of being unaware and aware. On the one hand is a sense of  immersion in the on-goingness of things, caught up in a kind of under layer (or, aurally, a drone—the musical not the flying kind). On the other hand is the way that certain things well up or are fished up and feature in life. Then it’s back to the many-layered unclarity of the whole experience.


The soundscape against which Black Heart is danced, is the medium in or on which Black Heart is played out. To me it resembles a fluctuating seascape; the dancers swim in it—like schools of fish with different habits of life—then come up to observe the world around them. Lara Seefeldt and Tory Peil, say, crisscross the stage purposefully as if on their way to somewhere definite, while Justin Reiter and Jim Kent waft sideways back and forth. Sometimes it feels like waves.


There are momentary solos. At one point Mia Monteabaro, like a sea snail or eel creeps very slowly along at the back of the stage. Even when dancers seem visually together, a unit, they may never acknowledge each other or physically touch or otherwise interact, as in a side-by-side duet of Justin and Jim or a enigmatic bit featuring Jim and Lara toward the end.


At other times, individuals become intensely intertwined—until suddenly they aren’t.
A trio of Thomas Phelan, Kyle Matthew Johnson and Tory dissolves, she moving away, the two men going off together. There are “lots of little narratives in narratives,” says Kate (Thomas, with a water bottle stands on the side and whispers to Lara, a kind of life-coach telling her what to do) and many small references (such as to Thomas as Friar Lawrence in that trio).


Black Heart, Kate notes, “is not about love or relationships, but about life.” The piece has “humor, humiliation, heart-break and joy—and nothing.” When I asked if the latter referred to the “palate-cleanser section”—danced by all seven as a sort of unison port de bras in place—she agreed that it is not so much nothing as the stratum or ground base over or out of which the rest of the piece (and of life) grows.


*  ♥ (Black Heart) premieres as part of Whim W’Him‘s X-POSED program at Cornish Playhouse May 29-31, 2015. Brown Paper Tickets