It’s especially moving to revisit this particular geography—a place once so painful, and so overwhelming, and to so tangibly get to recognize the distance one travels in life, especially in what is relatively a short period of time.
This is immensely personal, a performative elegy illustrating the dance of loss and memory. Dance as not merely the singular expression of joy or anger or spiritual freedom or sadness exorcised, but a madness which comprehensively envelops all these experiences into tight little moments allowing the fret and control of micro-expression to dominate moments within her movement. Beth Corning’s ability to assume singular positions, to assume pointed looks with jerks of scared confrontational eye contact to the audience; and her ability to create emotional nuance by herself, and silently, shows a tremendous focus on the potential of bodily expression.
Think of the immense power of a candid photograph. There’s an illustration of the true person when a subject is not posing. Her dance is illustrated by a projection that supplements her dance performance. The phrase: My Father; words projected on the only set piece (a wall of cardboard boxes). She then walks what is presumably her father’s shoes across the stage with her hands. I found small messages left everywhere, says the projection, as she lifts the coat, another relic of a no-longer person.
What’s revealed in the program notes is that Corning is working through the impact of the recent deaths of loved ones. The focus of her performance concentrates on a seeming room, austere and flexible. She finds so much place within capturing parts of the memories that were left in what is suggested to be a house filled with the dead. Her embrace as a dancer is remembering, and then, even in mirth there’s a sadness to understanding that the good times are gone. The times are gone. But the place is still present. Memory haunts the place, then.
Corning’s talent as an expressionist is captivating. She makes a puppet of the coat, that is to say she turns a coat into a man, a flag, a dance partner, and a bundle of misbegotten anecdote. She becomes the coat, because the object is as much of an identity as the person. She also brilliantly becomes a new character with the coat. She is an adult engineering the child who was cognizant to recall details about how someone laughed, walked, danced, argued. Then she becomes the person, but only for a moment.
Her style of dance is classically rooted, as she twirls and bounds towards very specific placement on the stage in order to realize the place of where a loved one might have stood, might have scratched themselves or yawned. Seemingly insignificant moments that become the “hmmph” of recall when that’s all that’s left. It’s funny to have seen this show at the New Hazlett where only a few months ago, Krapp’s Last Tape was performed. That story, another one-man show, that delves into the recall of a forgotten era and the pointed triviality of memory. The space does lend itself towards lonely exploration. It’s appropriate that part of Corning’s release is for the projection to quote Beckett in her goodbye:
Oh, I know I too shall cease and be as when I was not yet, only all over instead of in store.
Because how does one choose to say goodbye when there is no choice? It’s summed up in the ho-hum of the topical name of Beckett’s poem, “Oh, I know…”
Or perhaps, more succinctly: We refine. We redefine. We remain. –Beth Corning
Special thanks to CORNINGWORKS for complimentary press tickets. Remains runs at the New Hazlett Theatre through Sunday September 11th. For tickets and more information, click here.