SiteTime is a series of site-specific, interdisciplinary projects conceptualized and performed during a residency at the Vermont Arts Council. SiteTime consists of an installation and four performances, Slumping, Falling, Breathing, and Sharing, created in collaboration with Michael Zebrowski and Nancy Winship Milliken and held at VAC’s outdoor sculpture garden. At the core of the installation(s) at VAC is a stack of cordwood sourced from Hardwick, Vermont, the quantity of which represents what a family might use for heat during a single winter. The stack, which will shift and evolve over time due to human and environmental forces, aims to draw connections to the working landscape of Vermont and the interplay between utility and natural growth. Each performance reflects a step in the cycle of gathering cordwood; from a tree standing, to splitting the wood, to stacking it so it can breathe and dry. The final scene which will close the residency at Vermont Arts Council will take place in August 2019. Learn more here.

Scene One: Slumping – October 6, 2017 The first scene, Slumping, is named in reference to the pile of firewood slumping or settling over time. Miller and the six members of the Performance Lab lay still on their backs on gravel. Their breath and unwavering attention acted as opposing forces each balancing a large branch of driftwood like an Alexander Calder mobile. Their training and rehearsal consisted of Alexander technique (of which Miller is a certified teacher) and other exercises inspired by Japanese Butoh dance practice. A few feet away, Milliken and her husband divided the attention of the audience and generated a rhythm to the piece by restacking the cordwood pile. The connection between the quiescent wood and the slight movements of the performers connected the entirety of the work through a conflictingly rousing minimalism—a call to the torpid yet steady communication that occurs between trees.
Scene Two: Falling – February 2, 2018 Sited in the snow-covered sculpture garden at Vermont Arts Council, the second scene, Falling, revolves around the acts of both falling and felling, the latter of which refers to the cutting down of trees. The work aims to express the idea that all worthwhile experience lies beyond what is comfortable and familiar. Designed and produced by Miller, sculptural costumes of Tyvek and yellow safety ribbons adorn dancers as they move intuitively in sub-zero temperatures. They are guided by Michael Zebrowski’s fall line, a boundary of projected laser light that shapes their actions exploring the space between standing and falling. Projected around and upon the dancers are the sounds of an ax as it is sharpened and video by Micah Dudash of scene one, Slumping, which beams down from a nearby balcony. Dancers become one in a culminating crescendo of sound and light, leaning into and supporting each other’s movements, echoing the improvisational precarity of a classic tango.
Scene Three: Breathing – May 11, 2018 Breathing was a practice in strength and endurance. For two months, dancers worked weekly with trainer Joey Besl at Premiere Strength and Performance. Through the process of rigorous training, dancers learned to push, pull, and hold their own weight for extended periods of time. With a deeper understanding of their physical bodies and the shared space they occupy, dancers were able to activate and engage with the site in new ways, interacting with and lifting slings draped over tree branches and around trunks, sustaining poses, and connecting and supporting themselves and each other in a deep exploration of the body, mind, and the breath that connects the two.

Duration 90 minutes

Location Vermont Arts Council Montpelier, Vermont

Made in collaboration with Nancy Winship Milliken and Michael Zebrowski

Dancers Holly Chagnon, Mireya Guerra, Sage Horsey, Mia Pinheiro (only in scene one), Lydia Kern, Navah Stein, and Elizabeth Marie Seyler instructing Tango during the rehearsal for scene two and performing in scene two.

Photographer Renee Greenlee

Video Micah Dudash

Costume Design and Production Erika Senft Miller