SPEAK: A Community Perspective

By Deborah Slater


One of the more interesting facets of having a company is that the members change and new performers must figure their way through repertory developed on other bodies, with other sensibilities while the choreographer must work to serve the integrity of the piece that was created.

My company is working on a performance about human interaction called THE DESIRE LINE, begun last year. Based on the beautiful paintings of Alan Feltus, each dancer picked an image they were drawn to, created a back story and relationships to the props in each picture, then in rehearsal the characters began to interact and a world of relationships was born.

Each performer brought their own experiences, learned from other characters responding to them and created multi-faceted, multi-leveled dances reflecting relationships to lovers, friends, family and strangers. Assumptions were made – sometimes incorrectly, alliances were sought, offered and rejected and hope kept rearing its head. In many ways, it shows a moment in time, a vertical slice revealing questions, suggesting answers, disregarding expectations and creating a visual snapshot of possibilities.

In the end, we had a clear train of thought about the characters but not always agreement on what their interactions meant. Which seemed to bring us even closer to the truth.

Now we are replacing dancers with new people who don’t have all that history and have to find their way in through the existing maze. In many ways, it is as difficult as getting through the maze in the first place and the process has become the metaphor for the piece.

Deborah Slater, director/choreographer/performer, has worked in dance and theater for over 30 years. She is the Artistic Director of Deborah Slater Dance Theater, a multi-media dance company, creating visually gorgeous, acrobatic, talking dance and dedicated to the creation of full-length works exploring social issues, science and art through original dance, text and music. Slater co-founded Studio 210, a performance/rehearsal space celebrating its 40th Anniversary in 2020. Selected commissions and residencies include SF MOMA, USF Dance & Social Justice, Iowa State University and the Exploratorium.