Author: Corinne Baud

Untangling origins and identity in ‘Provenance’

Provenance: a place of origin or source. When dance candidates Keith Haynes and Laura Malpass were trying to name their joint MFA performance, “Provenance” seemed to be the perfect fit.

“For me, it’s focused on what makes us who we are and what shifts and changes from that place of origin,” says Haynes. “In terms of an origin journey, it’s about where you’re coming from and where you’re going on the path you’ve taken.”

In “Provenance,” Haynes’ counterpart Malpass tackles the challenging topic of memory loss at the end of life and attempts to find the root or source of who one is during that period of time.

“I became interested in how the end of life mimics the beginning of our lives, and in both circumstances, we need help because we don’t have fully formed personhoods,” says Malpass.

The origin of identities

Haynes’ piece is titled “Right to Remain …” and is centered around the notions of identity and how identities are formed in various circumstances. He also examines how identities switch with one another and come into play in varying situations. The performance is semi-autobiographical for Haynes, stemming, he says, from his homosexual and Christian identities and how they fit into place within himself.

“When I first came to Boulder, I had a bit of an identity crisis. I was always surrounded by diversity and never felt unsafe or that I stood out within my dance family,” says Haynes. “I never felt unwelcome, but I felt ‘othered’ when I would go days without seeing another person who looked like me outside of the dance department, whether it was on the CU campus or in Boulder itself.”

Haynes uses his personal experiences in combination with his dancers’ stories and experiences in the world. “I’ve been really open to saying, ‘I don’t know’ during this process. My dancers and I have been comfortable in the uncertainty, and we’ve been figuring it out as we go through the creative process together.”

In addition to the choreography, Haynes’ piece features a short dance film he created that will be displayed during the performance along with original music composed by CU College of Music student Colin Hill.

The origin of memories

Similar to Haynes, Malpass’ piece “Slippage” stems from personal experience, struggle and growth.

The work examines the ephemerality of dance, memory and mortality and how different aspects of our personality are affected as we arc near death.

“During my time as an undergrad I was a caregiver in a dementia care unit,” says Malpass. “I became intrigued in the idea of having holes in your memory, as well as who we are when we don’t have our stories anymore. And it’s not just the people experiencing loss who are hurting, it’s those that are around them trying to help ease that hurt as well.”

Malpass has been searching for the feeling of what loss is, whether it be the loss of memory, life or other things we tie to our identity.

“The most challenging part of this process has been being present in the moment and to allow things to come and go, especially when working with these beautiful and intelligent movers,” says Malpass. “I can be quite the formalist, but it’s been a good process of letting go of things as they change over time.”

Malpass’ piece features other visual elements besides movement: She collaborated with recent CU MFA studio art graduate Melissa Sclafani to create a stage installation based on poems and short stories written by Malpass and her dancers.

Transcending boundaries

Together, “Right to Remain …” and “Slippage” deal with issues of loss, identity and the question of what replaces a part of you after it disintegrates.

“I’m interested in seeing the level of relatability from the audience, and how they see themselves within a piece,” says Haynes. “Instead of just watching the performance, I hope they actively engage with the dance and overall experience.”

Similarly, Malpass hopes to offer the audience an opportunity to take the performance and connect it to some aspect of their life.

“Provenance” proves to be a performance that shouldn’t be missed, as the creative movements of Haynes and Malpass aim to transcend their boundaries and together provide a vehicle of understanding for audience members.

“Provenance” is playing in the Charlotte York Irey Theatre Friday, Nov. 8, through Sunday, Nov. 11, with tickets starting at $16.