Dancing on the edge

Vanessa Voskuil blends various styles of performance to push the boundaries of dance.

by Greg Corradini

Some performers just can’t live a life of cud-chewing complacency. These errant few bring their creativity to the edge.

And some, such as Vanessa Voskuil, dance on that precipice.

“Reference and Being,” the first full showcase of Voskuil’s work, is made up of four choreographed pieces mixing dance, image, music and text.

“Reference and Being” is also the final segment of Red Eye Theater’s Isolated Acts 2004, a festival that supports and celebrates the uncompromising diversity of visionaries and artists.

Voskuil, a 2000 University dance and theater graduate, feels at home among the various disciplines. She found her own artistic voice in college when she asked herself the tough questions.

“What is it I do? Do I make ballets or modern dance?” Voskuil said.

Caught in the nebulous distinctions of theatrics and physicality, she discovered her tendencies. In theater pieces, she did more movement. In dance pieces, there was a dramatic character wrestling within the dancer.

“There was a time where I wasn’t quite sure what kind of work (it was) that I made. I discovered that my strength in performance tends to be more theatrical dance. And I am also interested in ideas,” Voskuil said.

The four dance pieces in “Reference and Being” all use a collage approach.

Voskuil stressed that she generally begins the creative process with an image. There’s a creative impulse in a book or a piece of music that inspires her.

For “She is the Other,” a duet, Voskuil used a character to build the images.

The character at the heart of “She is the Other” is a woman redefining femininity for herself. Trapped in a very isolated world, she challenges herself to become her own person and break the bondage of her routine.

For this particular piece, Voskuil drew on feminist thinkers such as Simone de Beauvoir and then pieced a script together before taking it into her workshop phase.

Because Voskuil’s work abandons direct narratives, it has the ability to challenge the normal way viewers experience dance and theater.

“Even though we are telling a story on the stage, it is more like poetry in how it uses images and words, but we’re doing it onstage, in time. So you have movement, and text, and visual images that get enhanced by sound. When we get all things together, you come up with this interesting experience,” Voskuil said.