A cacophony of sound, fluid human movement, hazy film and household items all combined to form an artistic masterpiece and address the topic of home.
Choreographer and dancer Dahlia Nayar and her collaborator Margaret Paek turned the Boston University 808 Gallery into their home on Thursday and Friday evening with their performance, “2125 Stanley Street.” The two dancers were accompanied by their musician Loren Kiyoshi Dempster.
This trio has been performing “2125 Stanley Street” on and off for five years in a number of venues across the country, Nayar said. They have performed in studios much like 808 Gallery, Buddhist temples and even Grange Hall in Vermont. The range of venues demonstrates the flexibility of this piece.
“Each viewer has their own singular experience,” Paek explained. Viewers were encouraged to sit on the floor as opposed to chairs, “to create a more intimate and personal experience with the performance, and more importantly this home space that we create,” she added.
According to Nayar, the artists are hoping to evoke a number of emotions, but do not attempt to tell the reader how to feel. There are a number of unknowns in the piece that each observer processes differently.
The sculptures of Claire Ashley’s inflatable sculptures that are currently installed at the 808 Gallery acted as a background for the “2125 Stanley Street” performance.
There was no identifiable start to this performance, as the dancers were repeating a series of movements in the gallery before the viewers arrived. Only the shift from silence to an assortment of traffic noises and birds hinted that the performance began.
Dempster, who created the musical score for “2125 Stanley Street,” explained that these sounds are meant to evoke memories of waking up in one’s own home. It was meant to create a comfortable atmosphere, while also confusing the audience at the beginning of the performance, Nayar said.
“We wanted the audience to experience moments of orientation and disorientation. Moments of familiarity and unfamiliarity,” Nayar explained.
This theme pervaded the rest of the performance as a number of familiar experiences were presented in an unfamiliar way. The choreographers used physical tools to evoke familiar feelings and experiences. Some of these tools included socks, a clothesline and laundry basket.
During the piece, the dancers performed the action of hanging up laundry. The performers hung up the socks while balancing on their back and head through using only their toes.
The nature of both the dancing itself and the action of hanging socks represents explores themes of redundant labor, specifically with relation to women, Paek said. She noted that the image of women hanging clothes repeatedly is a traditional one and they display the repetitiveness of this mindless task.
“While watching, I somehow projected myself into being alone in my own home despite sitting in this very artificial environment,” said Ben Richards, a first-year graduate student in BU’s Questrom School of Business, who attended the performance.
Richards was one of a few audience members who followed the choreographer’s advice of sitting on the floor.
In addition to the movements and props, the soundtrack added to the home environment with a number of recorded conversations between family members and live cello performed by Dempster.
“The music comes from memories of my own youth of listening to the walls of his house whether it is human voices or banging of steps or silence,” Dempster said.
He began to “play” on the walls of the gallery, using sticks to drum on it’s large columns and on the table where he was sitting. The musician was trying to replicate the echoing of sounds in the walls of a home.
“It reminded me of being a child and banging on pots and pans in my kitchen,” Richards said.
The performers asked the audience to free write their thoughts at the conclusion of the piece in an attempt to make sense of everything they saw and their exploration of this home.
The location “2125 Stanley Street” does have significance for Nayar, but she preferred to keep it secret because she would rather the audience find their own meaning in it, she said. Nayar recalled that people have interpreted it as a year or maybe a residence address.
“We hope to create a makeshift home through movement, props and sound and then invite our audience members in,” Nayar said. “We wanted to stimulate responses to the unfamiliar.”