Profound personal and political change served as catalysts for Renay Aumiller’s new evening-length work “boneglow,” performed by RAD, Renay Aumiller Dances, through Sunday, June 4 at Living Arts Collective as part of Durham Independent Dance Artists’ third season.
“This year, I gave birth to twins when the entire nation seemed to be ripping itself in two,” Aumiller has said, referring to twins Oliver and Milo who were born in December.
When she started working on “boneglow” last September, the seeds of political change were already taking root as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s unorthodox style and promises to “Make American Great Again” attracted a loyal following. “When I was pregnant, I thought about the crazy presidential race and the changes everyone was going through,” Aumiller said in a phone interview.
Aumiller, an associate professor of dance at Elon University, had noticed a big change in her students in her 8 a.m. class the day after Trump won the election. “People were isolated and were crying. There was real fear and lots of anxiety,” Aumiller said. The feelings expressed by her students were symptomatic of the feelings of many people in this country.
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This prompted her to explore fear of change and consider what she could do to change the way she usually creates dance works. Instead of having control over everything, she greatly increased her collaboration with the dancers: Nicole Lawson, Rachel Mehaffey, Lucas Melfi and Allie Pfeffer. For example, instead of giving dancers performance notes, she had them write performance goals for themselves.
“Ideally, as they experience dancing onstage, they are having a complete, real experience in the moment,” Aumiller said.
Dancers perform to original music by two composers: Raleigh’s Dave Yarwood and New York’s Son Lux.
“The dance imagines a sliver of light shining into a stagnant dark room as a metaphor for personal and political metamorphosis,” Aumiller has said. The fact that the performance space is enclosed in black paper also contributes to this atmosphere.
And Aumiller, a Raleigh native, reached out to an artist she has known since sixth grade: metal artist Mary Catherine Floyd, who created four metal pendulums for this work.
“These pendulums represent the movement of time and time being a measure of change,” Aumiller said.
These pendulums will be suspended above the performance space, and dancers will interact and end up partnering with these objects, all the while being mindful of avoiding the pendulums’ sharp points.
“Sometimes, the pendulums swing out of control,” the choreographer noted.