Deviation, Twice Removed is a duet inspired by research into genetic memory – the biological transmission of memory and experiences through DNA. What if your tendencies, instincts, fears and anxieties were not your own, but those of the men and women who came before? Are these connections an unfortunate tangle, or a comfort? How do you recognize and interact with the source of yourself, if it exists in another time?
Originally created at Trinity Laban Conservatoire in London under the mentorship of faculty Tony Thatcher and Kate Johnson, Deviation, Twice Removed was one of eight student pieces selected to be produced in the Bonnie Bird Theatre in June 2016. The duet was performed by Sayaka Akitsu and Mengqian Shi.
The process was rooted in improvisation. We spent time exploring how to dance as if in physical contact with each other, but from a distance. Feeling and reacting to the nuances in each other’s movement, and building a contentious yet unbreakable relationship between the two dancers, was integral to the performance.
We also shared stories of our lineage and conducted writing exercises with prompts such as “What would you say to or ask of an ancestor (either a specific person or a more vague figure) that you feel a connection to?” Drawing on images and text from these exercises greatly informed the resulting choreography. Movement-wise, we drew on contact improvisation, mirroring, Rudolf Laban’s theories on choreutics, as well as butoh.
Development & The Future
In the future, I’d like to dig into the process more by conducting interviews with a range of community members about this idea of genetic memory and ancestry. By incorporating more stories from the community into the piece, Deviation will more richly capture this reality of the human experience and the tendrils of the past that live in all of us.
I restaged the work as Deviation, Twice Removed (II) for NACHMO Boston in January 2017, performed by myself and Carolyn Harper. This project has also been adapted into a dance film (premiered Sept. 2018), with grant support from the New England Dance Fund. Read more about the film version here!