Originally made in 2012, I entered the process of making Empty into the Night on faith, with a few ideas, and let the dance reveal itself over time: I did not see the real heart of the dance until I was well into it. I was gathering and culling and assembling, and actually began by following a fascination I had with an exhibition at the Kimbell Art Museum: Caravaggio – His followers in Rome. I was drawn to the paintings in this collection for the range of dark colors that defined them, both in the background and in the clothes the figures were wearing – and for the manner in which the light seemed to emanate from the subjects themselves. I asked Roma Flowers, SCCDance lighting designer and maker of magic, if we might use that challenge as a jumping off place in terms of color, tone and the architecture of the lighting design. I am grateful to Roma for the way the light holds this dance.
Next was music. One of the SCCDance 2002 graduates, Sarie Mairs Slee, had used a work by the composer Eric Whitacre during a senior concert project. Whitacre is well-known for his choral works and 10 years later, I was still remembering a certain fullness. In his work Sleep, Whitacre fills the space and at the same time, often creates space through stilling time. Thus, it was through Whitacre’s music that I started to find the center of this dance, and use as a structure a ride along the continuum of simple to complex. I became interested in trying to get physical intricacies to loop back on themselves and eventually resolve, over and over, in a resonant body of quiet. When I started to recognize that cyclical action in the dance, I found myself transported back in time, once again – to Maine summers on one pond or another, listening to the loons call to each other across the night. Empty. Full. Empty. Full. Hence the pairing of Whitacre’s work with the unusual sounds of these birds.
The beginning, middle and end of this dance remain much the same as they were in the original version. The majority of this dance is built on some of the same movement ideas but in different configurations. I am happy to keep the final solo, made by Megan (Morgan) Taylor and danced by Ally Shives. The fall that we made this dance, Megan had just returned from a workshop at Bearnstow, Maine, and still had the songs of the loons within easy reach. My thanks to John Hopkins for orchestrating these calls into the night and to Susan Austin for re-imagining the costumes. And, I am grateful to this cast of women, now, in 2019, for handing this dance back to all of us with such grace.