DARLING explores vulnerability and intimacy through the presence and absence of touch. It seeks to redirect assumptions about the correlations between strength, power, gender, and size.

This evening-length work will premiere March 5-6, 2020 at the Hanesbrands Theatre in Winston-Salem, NC.

Pre-Show Talk with Dramaturg Melanie George March 5 at 7pm.

Post-Show Talk March 6 at 8:30pm

Program Credits:
5 dancers
~60 minutes
Performance: Marielis Garcia, Donovan Reed, Gianna Theodore, Carlo Antonio Villanueva, Claire Westby
Original Music: Mary Kouyoumdjian
Dramaturgy: Melanie George
Costume Design: Quinn Czejkowski
Lighting Design: David Ferri
Alternate Cast Member: Kayla Farrish
Understudies: Sean Lammer, Greg Hamilton, Savannah Spratt
Additional Contributions: Dominica Greene, Burr Johnson, Catie Leasca, Ana Maria Lucacio, Bianca Melidor, Troy Ogilvie, Moscelyne ParkeHarrison

Program Note written by Dramaturg Melanie George:

DARLING, the title of this work, is a term of endearment on its face, but like honey, doll-face, sweetheart, and the purposefully double-edged “bless your heart” it can be wielded for other purposes.  Out of the wrong mouth, babe  and similar words can warp from endearment to  terms of bondage. This space between intent and impact is at the heart of DARLING. In spite of the connotation of the title, the work has no sweetness. Any lightness in the piece is purely physical, derived the virtuosity of the dancers’ bodies encounters with space. DARLING is concerned with the intersection of intimacy and agency. Its recurring themes – contact and the exchange of power – winnow through the work like smoke, alternating between engulfing the action or lingering, like a suggestion.  DARLING centers on motion over emotion, but not at the expense of humanity and affect. Like real-world relationships, the dynamics between the performers adapt continuously. Agency is not always as it seems, as resultant power slithers between movers often within the space of a weight shift,  a touch on the shoulder, or a meeting of the eyes. There is a nuanced understanding about human interaction here, investing in resultant relationships over performative melodrama. Simoneau’s choreography imbues the spaces between movements with a tension that revels in the proposition that the end is prologue for the next moment. This is not a work of impulse. There are choices being made by the choreographer and dancers at every turn, tilt, and balance.

When I first began working with Helen Simoneau, I was intrigued by her commitment to form, at a time when formlessness seems to be the default of the day. Simoneau’s work is firmly in a lineage with classical training while still feeling reflective of its time. We glean her perspective on  contemporary dancemaking  in the asymmetrical manner movement phrases are linked together, and the sinuousness of the movement vocabulary. In Simoneau’s landscape, classical is not a euphemism for formal or staid. Her movement is alive, dynamic and sensual, and particular. Accordingly, her cast reflects these same values. Be it Marielis’ harnessed focus, Carlo’s concentrated lightness, Donovan’s soaring vulnerability, Gianna’s fluid openness, or Claire’s powered serenity, there is a sense that only through their commonality and differences can an  optimal performance be achieved. In some ways, DARLING functions as a manifesto of sorts for the Helen Simoneau Danse aesthetic: Valuing impact over impulse, Simoneau has a true commitment to craft, shown so clearly in the attention to architecture and subtlety. This work is purposeful and considered.

DARLING is a patient, but not passive, work. I invite you to consider this as you view tonight’s performance. Allow the manner in which the piece builds tension to affect you. Consider the metaphors inherent in the spatial and dynamic relationships. Interrogate the role of language on empowerment. Above all, I encourage you to engage with DARLING through time, space, and your relationship to both. It is a work meant to affect your senses and sense of self.