Thursday, May 14, 2009

In process: Betty's Bench (post 1 - Sarah Lochhead)

Welcome to the first post under the title "In process." This series of posts provides a window into the creative process with notes from the choreographers and dancers.

In June 2007, I traveled to Victoria BC to visit my Grandad and his partner. While I was out on a walk around the neighbourhood, I stumbled upon this bench (see photo). The blue high-backed bench had been labeled in red label tape BETTYS BENCH. A tabby cat was the only occupant of the bench at the time and I wondered ...

  • Is this Betty?
  • Who is Betty?
  • Why does she sit on this bench?
  • Is this a school or public bus route?
  • Is it her resting place while she goes out on a long walk?
  • Does she watch over the neighbourhood and keep tabs on everyone like the woman my brother and I used to call The Porch Lady?
I began to workshop some movement ideas this spring with a group of adult students set to Dinah Washington's recording of What A Diff'rence A Day Made. These questions about Betty have come up for them too ...

  • Has she been waiting for a lost love that is fifty years too late?
  • Does she feel like she has rushed around her whole life and never took time to appreciate the little things in life?
The biggest question is how the piece will conclude. Here are some options we came up with as a group:

1. She stays on the bench unchanged. The dance is a window into a moment in her daily life.
2. She takes the bench with her. It is an external representation of an event in her past that stays with her wherever she goes.
3. She leaves the bench. Why? What change in Betty is the choreography exploring to lead her to make that choice?

As of now the piece starts with Betty in place. She is already on the bench when the audience first sees her.

It has been a pleasure watching the dancers find their own “Betty” and make emotional and dynamic choices to make the work their own. I am blessed to have such giving students who dive in a sleuth through the material to find what resonates for them.

If you live in Victoria and happen to know why the bench is labeled and who the real Betty is … please do NOT tell me … at least not until after the piece in complete.


How do you think the piece should end? Share your thoughts or questions by posting a comment or vote in survey at the bottom of this page.

[photo by Sarah Lochhead]

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