Emotions can often be difficult to put into words. How does one describe the love they have for a close relative or the struggle of coping with the loss of a loved one?
There are some situations that illicit such raw, indescribable feelings that one cannot express through conventional conversation. Danielle Sheather uses dance to express these feelings.
Sheather is one of the four master’s dance candidates who will perform her thesis at the “Unthreaded & Raveled” showcase on May 7-8. Sheather’s piece explores the complicated process of losing a loved one and the grief that follows.
She used the death of her fiancé’s father to create a relatable story for her audience. She explained that her piece, titled “Gary” after her fiancé’s father, was motivated by the idea that life is short and should be filled with things one loves and have a positive influence on humanity.
Sheather said she was struck with inspiration while touring Turkey several years ago. She was wandering around a bazaar and came across a lamp that she adored. She wasn’t sure if she should purchase it because it could break on the plane trip back to the U.S. but while she was pondering this, the shopkeeper shared some wisdom with her.
“He said, ‘Coffins don’t have pockets,’” Sheather said.
This simple comment intrigued Sheather and got her thinking about how she wanted to spend her life enjoying the things she loved, which began her fascination with the transition from life to death.
It also persuaded her to buy the lamp, which came back from its plane trip unscathed and still functions today.
“Gary” is also largely inspired by Gary’s memoir, which the family found after he died. Sheather tried to use his writing style and rhythm to translate similar messages into her piece’s movement and dance. She chose to separate the piece into six sections to highlight some of the different parts in the process of loss, grieving and acceptance.
Sheather also turned to her dancers to explore the idea of what death and loss is like for people from all walks of life. She would ask her cast of 26 dancers to write about their experiences with death and what their feelings were on the subject. Similar to her work with the memoir, Sheather would then use her dancers’ answers and try to illustrate the ideas they put forth.
Sheather endeavored to create a piece with which people of all kinds can relate.
“If we’re just creating dance for dancers, I think we’re missing the point,” Sheather said.
While crafting her thesis, Sheather also collaborated with Ruben Ramirez, visual artist and sophomore studying marketing and 3-D extended media. She first asked Ramirez for assistance with the lighting and set up of her performance.
“Before the show, we’re displaying [Ramirez’s] artwork in the lobby,” Sheather said. “It’s just been such an amazing collaboration to be able to work with someone who sees color from a visual artist’s perspective.”
In a couple weeks, Sheather will present her final thesis to audiences who will be able to connect with some element of her portrayal of death and dying. Whether it be through loss, grief or acceptance, audience members will discover a universality that shows how fundamental death is to all of our lives.
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