Whispers to me; Shouts to me

This spring/summer I created a new piece called “Whispers to me; Shouts to me.” It is the first piece in over a year that I have created to perform myself, rather than for Manifold Motion. I hope it is the start to a renewed period of personal creative work along-side the company work.

I created “Whispers;Shouts” specifically for the Stillaguamish River where it runs through Smoke Farm near Arlington, WA. This past weekend I performed it there, as a part of the Smoke Farm Lo-Fi Arts Festival: *Not to Scale.

The piece was a solo dance performed in a bright red/orange/yellow dress with an extraordinarily long train.

Yellow China Silk

30+ feet of yellow china silk formed the train

Three musicians stood on the end of the train as they played a spacious percussive piece. I began with the train wrapped around the musicians, crouched between them. After a slow rise and unwrapping of them, I moved away from the musicians and into the river. A bright trail connected us, a brush stroke of color through the greys and blues of the rocky river’s edge.

I found that the china silk, and the amazing design and construction of the dress by Christy Hirschman, was strong enough for me to put a fair amount of my weight into pulling away from the shore. The train became a literal support for my movement at times, a restriction at others.

The silk floated just below the surface of the water, picking up color from the river, but remaining a saffron trail. Occasionally an air bubble would get caught underneath it and travel the length of the train. If I moved sideways in the right way the fabric would billow in the water, capturing it and becoming a huge resistance to my movement. The train and the water became even bigger shaping factors to the piece than I had thought they would.

One by one the musicians stepped off the train and moved into the forest, as their song became louder and denser. Set free in the river, I gently glided down with the current and out of sight, with a bright trail of silk behind me. The music echoed through the trees, the last bits of my dress disappeared and the piece came to a close.

During both performances cows in a distant field began lowing when the bass drum echoed through the river valley. As the musicians faded out, we were left with the lows of the cows! Incredible.


I’d like to share a bit about my thoughts behind this piece. Performance (all art) extends well beyond the intent or thoughts of the artist and is necessarily shaped by the viewer experience. So, this is not necessarily what I wanted to communicate to the viewers, but what informed it for me during my process and performance. Quoted below is an excerpt from my proposal to Smoke Farm:

Conceptually, this project is about place. How does our past, through the places that have shaped us, support who we become? What happens when home is lost or taken away from

Practically, it is no-tech performance created specifically for a remote location. My goal is to create unexpected, striking, beauty within nature.

Personally, it is a meditation on my recent experiences of loss of family and place; an expression of my search for understanding of where I come from and how to move forward when I desperately want to hold on to what once was.

The piece is specifically designed for Smoke Farm, which holds great importance for me in the Pacific Northwest. It reminds me in many ways of where I grew up in rural New Hampshire, yet has particular beauty and meaning distinct from my past.

In examining my ties to my present and past through place, Smoke Farm and my childhood home stand out. As I process the unavoidable reality of distance and eventual loss of that past home, I find a need to mourn and create a testament to the places that were a part of becoming who I am. I would like to memorialize that connection in a place that is a part of who I will become.


In the process of creating “Whispers;Shouts” I thought a lot about place. I began to wonder what this piece, created for a distinct place, would be like in other places. How would the meaning change? The movement (certainly if it is not in water)? Would performance experience be different?

So I decided to make it a three-part piece. Smoke Farm last weekend was Part 1. Part 2 will take place in the open desert at Burning Man. Part 3 will be a part of the NEPO House 5k Don’t Run on September 10th.

Starting in Occidental Park, NEPO 5K DON’T RUN transforms an ordinary 3-mile, walk-able route through your city into an unforgettable journey (really), integrating site-specific performances, interventions and installations along the way.

“Whispers;Shouts” will transform into a traveling performance for the 5k event, a journey through a city.

Photos to come, I’m sure.

8 thoughts on “Whispers to me; Shouts to me

  1. Wow… your writing is so poetic and descriptive that I felt like I watching an actual film of it, even though I was reading it. It took me to a fantastic imaginative world. Sounds like a beautiful, breathtaking site! Can’t wait to hear/read more 🙂

  2. Thanks Polly, that’s so nice to hear! Describing performance in writing is so difficult; I often wonder if it comes across well, or if the details I fill in with my mind’s eye get lost in the words. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Amazing. Your description of this piece, the process, and what informed it is beautiful in and of itself. It brought me to tears. I so wish I could have been there to witness in person. Congratulations on a beautiful creation!

  4. keely, the smoke farm performance sounds amazing – i wish i’d been there! i’m so glad you’ll be bringing a different part of this piece to seattle.

  5. Pingback: NEPO 5k Don’t Run | keelyeye

  6. Pingback: Whispers; Shouts at the NEPO 5k | keelyeye

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