A woman stands onstage, holding a man’s hand. She grabs what looks like yellow paint and smears it on his shoulders and arm before continuing up her own arm and shoulders. They begin to dance. Then she grabs a fistful of gray and black feathers, and proceeds to follow the yellow smear until the mess is spread along both of them.
This is a glimpse into New York-based choreographer Faye Driscoll’s “You’re Me,” onstage at CounterPulse in The City starting Thursday.
The evening-length dance-theater piece, a duet between Driscoll and Jesse Zaritt, examines how people constantly are made, and undone, by one another.
Driscoll and Zaritt started making “You’re Me” by exploring beauty.
“What is beauty to me? How do we expose what is grotesque and awkward?” Driscoll says. “The work developed out of Jesse and I being in a room investigating this train of thought. Out of that came desire, sex, gender, image, etc. What is the idea vs. the reality? What is the image vs. the experience?”
“I identify as a woman. Jesse identifies as a man. When you look at the two of us onstage, what will people see? In many ways we’re not able to escape what people see. There’s an interdependency between self and others, who you are and who you become around other people.”
Driscoll, who has choreographed four previous evening-length pieces, says “You’re Me” is different because she cast herself in it.
“For me, it was really an experiment. When I first started choreographing, I made a conscious decision not to be in my own work,” she says. “When I finally decided to enter the work it was tortuous. I had to constantly ask myself:
What do I feel is the right choice to make on the inside vs. what does it look like from the outside? It was really challenging, but ultimately has been one of the best performance experiences of my life. I’m not controlling this anymore; I had to let go.”
Using costumes, feathers, paint, marbles, jewels, fruit and other zany props, Driscoll and Zaritt — with humor and poignancy — tackle multiple dualisms: male vs. female, others vs. self, performer vs. choreographer, performer vs. audience, idea vs. reality, image vs. experience.
Promotional material for the show promises a “moving portrait of the impossible struggle to unhinge the palindromic loop of self and other.”