By Luke Dodge
A large square of the stage cordoned off with white PVC pipes. Black sheets cover a folding chair, disassembled wooden silhouette, and a small box of props. A single knitted blanket folded sits in the corner. This is all Tessa Priem requires to tell us the story of her life. Clothed in a flesh colored one piece, she uses small props and clothing changes to paint the blank canvas she has created.
The show begins as you would expect in the womb and moves forward through a set of stylized stages of life. I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to know what was going on in her life with only a dance but somehow she’s getting across her entire life story without speaking. From discovering her love of dance as a young child to piecing herself back together after a painful divorce to finding God and giving birth to her three children, it seems no detail has been left out.
Despite having an injured knee she is constantly moving, using every part of her body. Tessa's graceful movements are charged with energy and emotion. I don’t know how she keeps moving with no breaks for that long.
A mostly silent performance, there are a few moments when speech is used, powerful amongst the silence. Features a funny self-recorded stream of consciousness song which still has me chuckling. Melodic sounds of flutes, chimes, piano, violin and harp accompany the her journey through the past.
As the dance progresses the connection with the audience grows as we share in her joy and her pain. I couldn’t help but empathize with her during the sad moments and smile during the happy ones.
I suppose I was expecting something more strange or abstract from an autobiographical dance, but I ended up with a truly engaging story. It's always clear what's going on and I couldn't help but empathize with her as we shared in the experience of her important life events. By the end of the show I felt like I had gotten to know Tessa and was glad that I did.