DOORKNOB COMPANY in We Are Here After, photo by Corrine Furman
DOORKNOB COMPANY transformed Joyce SoHo into a frigid winter land on Thursday evening in the world premiere of We Are Here After, choreographed by company co-founders Shannon Gillen and Elisabeth Motley. It was not a pristine, sparkling winter scene, but rather a harrowing, immersive environment in which Gillen and Motley, along with Janna Diamond and Xan Burley explored the mysterious afterlife and the fragility of fragmented memories. Shifting from past to future in a series of dream-like narratives and events, the four dancers and three on-stage musicians that make up Colonna Sonora created an intensely unpredictable journey into the unknown.
Before the eerie, sometimes jarring sounds of Colonna Sonora flooded the snow-covered space, a dancer laid perfectly still, and later it became clear that another was buried under a large pile of snow. The former seemed to be sleeping, while the second dancer – who was discovered by the first – looked dead. Their colliding worlds raised questions about the connections between life and afterlife, while fluid time-travel throughout the work blurred the lines between the two. Indeed, the compelling dancers – all dressed in white street clothes – individually and collectively navigated through a constantly shifting world, always struggling to find their way. Just when it seemed like they were on the verge of settling into their environment, harsh noise or an abrupt change in the delicate lighting (designed by Amanda K. Ringger) signaled a shift as they encountered new terrain. All four dancers were deeply committed, but Shannon Gillen, in particular, was startlingly absorbed in her performance, pulling the audience right into her world and her experience.
Combative duets flowed into desperate digging amidst the snow; a white tree draped in white lights blinked slowly as Motley plugged and unplugged the cord; and the dancers and musicians swayed to White Christmas, which dissolved into choppy memories and awkward embraces as Motley gasped and made kissing sounds into a microphone. These and other vignettes – enriched by the musicians’ astute playing – revealed the fragile spaces between memory and the unknown, and the sense of loss and yearning and dizzying uncertainty while wandering through a cold, strange world.