Double Exposure: Program Notes

Wendy Rein and Ryan Smith in rehearsal for “Double Exposure”. Photo by Hillary Goidell

What is often not visible to the audience is that a dance might undergo drastic changes just minutes prior to the performance. This can manifest in alterations during a dress rehearsal or even backstage on opening night. Some dances can take months or even years in development, only to be performed for one weekend. They are then shelved and set aside while another creative process begins, thus eclipsing the last project.

Double Exposure is not one of those dances. RAWdance’s artistic directors Wendy Rein and Ryan Smith have had the chance to revisit the work several times since it was first performed in its evening-length version in July 2016. The piece actually roots itself in a compilation of four duets, presented at ODC in November 2012. At the time, when one of RAWdance’s dancers could not perform because of an injury, Rein and Smith decided to put on hold their other creative projects in order to develop a new work. Pressed for time, they commissioned 2-minute duets by four different choreographers — Ann Carlson, Joe Goode, KT Nelson, and Shinichi and Dana Iova-Koga. Four years later, the piece grew to include eight other dance makers from the West Coast. After its premiere, the piece toured to the Joyce Theater in New York City and at Jacob’s Pillow at the beginning of 2017.

Since that date, Rein and Smith have created three new works and a dance film, so performing Double Exposure this season feels like a homecoming for them: “It’s a very rare opportunity to revisit a work in its full context and in its original home, where it was developed and first staged. This idea of a work being really lived in, like a comfy pair of pajamas, is a rare luxury for artists,” Smith commented. “Double Exposure is home in a way.”

With all its comfort and familiarity, home is nevertheless a changing entity. Since the premiere of the full-evening work, there have been some home improvements: changes have been made to the text and transitions in which Rein and Smith reveal more of themselves. Needless to say, the larger context in which the piece unfolds is strikingly different. The initial presentation of the full evening work happened roughly two months before the first 2016 presidential debate with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, at a time when the election result predictions were still hypothetical. A year later, Double Exposure resonates differently, not only for the viewers but also for the performers. As Rein shared, “there is a moment in Ann Carlson’s duet when we embody politicians and have one single head nod to acknowledge our audience and our public. During rehearsals, Carlson took Hillary Clinton as an example, asking us to consider having all this experience in the political arena and only this one moment to acknowledge what is happening. And this head nod feels so different today. It is fascinating that one gesture can feel so different a year later.”

In the aftermath of a year of political divide, and the attempt by the current administration to normalize a vividly racist and sexist discourse — whether it reveals itself in the violence in Charlottesville last August or through the current online #MeToo campaign against sexual harassment and assault — David Roussève’s voice resonates even more sharply throughout Double Exposure. Confronted to police brutality and violence, “what can dance do?” he asks. “And is it enough?” For Rein and Smith, “the potency of those questions helps to guide the whole work and has become more essential to us for Double Exposure in its entirety.”

With both photography and cinematography, a double exposure corresponds to the process where two images are superimposed to create a single one. Rein and Smith stretch this definition by overlaying multiple images. On one level, there are two performers revealing twelve different choreographic voices, through a series of duets; On another, there are two dance makers exposing parts of their identity, history and making process. And there is also the imprint of the world events reflected through the prism of these choreographic acts. These layers of exposure may invite viewers to reflect on how their perspectives collide, obstruct, or participate in these actions of disclosure.

ODC presents Double Exposure October 26, 27 and 28 at ODC Theater. For more information, click here.