by Lauren Ohmer
There is a section in the show that talks about when you have a stone in your shoe. You have two options- either stop what you’re doing and remove it, or keep on going while suffering the stone. By choosing the latter, eventually you will develop a callus and no longer be bothered by the stone- consequently becoming stronger than before.
In In Pursuit of Happiness, the figurative stone in my shoe is the paper. I hate the paper. I despise it. It’s unpredictable and uncontrollable. The paper begins as my costume, in the form of a long white dress. From there, about five minutes into the piece, all bets are off. As the movement progresses and I start to sweat, strips of the paper skirt stick to my legs and rip. When the choreography calls for me to tear the dress, the paper doesn’t always rip in the size/shape/direction I want it to. Sometimes it doesn’t rip at all. Because it’s difficult to see against the white floor, the paper gets stepped on…A LOT. This then results in the toilet-paper-stuck-to-your-shoe effect, or the more gripping slip-and-bust-your-ass effect. Needless to say, the paper adds a whole world of challenges to an already complex work.
For all of the reasons I hate the paper, I embrace it even more. When managing with this tactile, physical element, my only option is to stay in the present moment. There’s an ongoing negotiation taking place between the paper and myself- constantly reacting and responding to the current situation. While the paper is a source of stress and tension throughout the piece, at the same time it has an unexpected way of keeping me grounded. It takes some of the pressure off- I don’t have to pretend anything with the paper. Nothing is faked or contrived. The point is not to portray a dancer perfectly executing every movement at every moment. Of course, maintaining the integrity and intention of the choreography is a priority, but at the same time we are not trying to hide the struggles that may otherwise be considered imperfections. We are communicating and expressing ourselves as human beings, and as they say, “shit happens.” Sometimes the best way of dealing with it is to learn to love it.
LAUREN OHMER: A native of Savannah, GA, Lauren graduated from Butler University with a BFA in Dance Performance. Since then she has gone on to receive critical acclaim for her performances of contemporary work in Chicago, L.A., and NYC. Lauren also spends her time as a licensed massage therapist specializing in Thai Massage. Visit her website. Lauren has been collaborating with DanceDrama since 2007 as a dancer, teacher and assistant to the choreographer.
Make sure you come see In Pursuit of Happiness Friday October 23-Sunday October 25 (8pm shows)
@ the Alchemical Theater in NYC.
Limited seating! You can purchase your tickets online. https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/951784
Choreography: Anabella Lenzu
Direction: Daniel Pettrow
Dancers: Lauren Ohmer & Anabella Lenzu
Music Landscape: Todd Carroll