If necessity is the mother of invention, perhaps change is the mother of reinvention. Such was the case for Beth Corning. After a string of life-changing events, including the death of her mother, the dancer and choreographer set about reinventing herself as an artist.
Corning is a veteran dance creator and performer with an international résumé, including several years leading Pittsburgh's Dance Alloy Theater. More recently, her original works for CorningWorks: The Glue Factory Project have celebrated the artistry of dancers over age 40. Last year, Corning turned to Tony Award-winning physical-theater director Dominique Serrand, co-artistic director of Saint Paul, Minn.'s The Moving Company, for help thinking about new ways of working.
"I was brought up with the philosophy if you want to ski better, you ski behind someone who is better than you," says Corning. "I chose a pro and sometimes I got lost in the spray, but it was great."
Through a grant from the Heinz Endowments and the Pittsburgh Foundation, Corning embarked on a year-long residency with Serrand. From that experience, she developed the fourth annual Glue Factory production, the one-woman show Remains. Corning will perform it June 5-9 at the New Hazlett Theater.
Serrand says that as Corning presented him with ideas for a new work, he initially played the role of observer.
"We started to work on the shape of a show thematically at first," says Serrand by phone from St. Paul.
He worked with Corning as he would with an actor, and Serrand says their interactions quickly grew into a collaboration. He co-created Remains as its dramaturge and director, with Corning as choreographer and performer.
The hour-long multimedia work, set to an eclectic mix of music, is about loss and what remains after loss, in terms of memories and objects. Says Corning: "We all get inducted into this club [of loss] whether we want to or not. The question becomes, ‘What do we do with the remains?'"
Corning says that working with Serrand showed her how to streamline material to better convey thoughts and emotions to an audience.
"We worked toward a clarity and transparence of sentiments," says Serrand.
Of the finished product, Corning says, "I think it is a really poignant work. There is humor and pathos in it."