by NILINA MASON-CAMPBELL
[dropcap]On[/dropcap] May 12th, choreographers Carmela Hermann Dietrich and Ally Voye will debut their collaborative production In Plain Sight at the Bootleg Theater, staging three performances during its three-night run. Through a blend of movement, dramatic theater, and various multi-media elements, In Plain Sight explores the actual real-life compulsions of the four cast members: Dietrich and Voye, as well as Bill Ratner and newcomer Leah Rothman. Throughout the piece, these compulsions stand alone, relate to one another, and collide.
The genesis of the project was a dance film centered around food obsessions, and — over the past four years — Dietrich and Voye have continued to add to the piece by bringing in other collaborators and adding new neuroses.
“At first we thought maybe the work was all going to be about food obsession,” explains Voye, “but then we decided at a certain point that we were more interested in what kinds of things other people use to cope. So it just grew from there.”
While the film is centered around a sugar obsession, the expanded movement piece tackles other struggles and coping mechanisms. And while the compulsions are weighty, the way they’re presented is not without humor. Voye describes Dietrich’s role as “a character who has a duet with with five dozen donuts,” while her own solo is about trying to balance eating healthy food with food that’s not so healthy, (“[when] you really love grilled cheese sandwiches and kale”) and the weird, quirky things she does to balance them out. As for their companions, Voye notes that Lea’s piece is about the compulsion to match everything in her world — from her iPhone case to her shampoo to whatever she orders at Starbucks. Rounding out the cast is Ratner, whose piece revolves around counting everything down from 10 to zero, including the menial tasks that he performs everyday.
While In Plain Sight is a movement-based piece, it’s also a multi-media experience that incorporates the original film, voiceover narration, dialog, and music.
“All of the pieces started with interviews,” says Voye. The interviews were filmed and movements were incorporated into the piece based on gestures caught by the camera. The collaborators examined the text and say that it was “pulling out what lines felt interesting or intriguing” which led to further growth of the work.
Both graduates of UCLA, Dietrich and Voye originally connected through a website called Dances Made to Order. The brainchild of Leslie Irons, Voye describes the portal as a website where artists were invited to make films about a certain topic that was voted on by audience members. Ratner came aboard after being tapped to add narration to Voye’s piece, leading him to reveal that he too shared similar neuroses.
Rothman is not a performer and Ratner is not a dancer, so their involvement added a whole new layer of adaptation. “It’s been a long, gradual process. I don’t think we knew at the beginning.”
Voye agrees. “It’s been nice to create work over a long period and shift and change and rework it — as opposed to creating it, performing it, and not coming back to it.”
The performance not only showcases compulsive behavior with engaging choreography, but delves into the backstories of all the characters — providing the context for their coping mechanisms. Voye cites this as a reason for the piece being so relatable for audiences.
“I think what I’ve enjoyed about creating this piece is talking to people about what they do in their lives that’s quirky and obsessive. I’ve yet to meet a single person who is like ‘Oh, I don’t do anything. I’m totally normal. I don’t have any obsessive quirks’.”
As for what they want audience to take away, Dietrich admits it’s a question she’s been asking herself.
“We know that we’re not trying to wrap anything up,” she says, referencing the open-ended fashion in which these characters and their obsessions are presented — without a happy-ending or “cure.”
“It sort of normalizes the little things that we do that feel embarrassing, and you don’t want to tell anybody about,” Voye adds.
Dietrich settles on a thought. “It’s not just about these compulsive behaviors. It’s about life. These are the things we’ve done to cope.”
UPCOMING: IN PLAIN SIGHT on May 12-14 at the Bootleg Theater.
In Plain Sight is a series of serio-comedic choreographic portraits, featuring four people, who each grapple with a compulsive behavior. The four – Carmela Hermann Dietrich, Ally Voye, Bill Ratner and Leah Rothman – have volunteered to bare themselves for this project and divulge quirky compulsions and their psychological roots – compulsive actions developed to cope with overwhelming life events. The creators look at the underlying causes and question why someone can, can’t, or won’t stop a behavior. The ‘dances’ expose what isn’t visible even when they are ‘in plain sight.’