Corningworks’ the other shoe comments on state of country through interpretive dance | Theater | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Corningworks’ the other shoe comments on state of country through interpretive dance

click to enlarge Corningworks’ the other shoe comments on state of country through interpretive dance
Photo: Frank Walsh
Corningworks’ the other shoe
When Beth Corning saw heated Facebook discussions on topics like gender, race, identity, and religion prior to the 2020 presidential election, she found herself wanting to comment back to people she disagreed with, but her daughter advised her not to. Now, almost two years in the making, the choreographer, dancer, and founder of Corningworks dance company has instead used the social media comments as inspiration for a two-woman theatrical dance performance.

Corningworks’ the other shoe, performed by Corning and actor/director/playwright Kay Cummings, will be held from Wed., Oct. 20-Sun., Oct. 24 at The New Hazlett Theater in the North Side.

“Kay and I decided to write to each other stuff that we would not put on Facebook,” Corning says. “Every two weeks, we would sort of talk to each other, and we would send each other things. One thing would lead to another and it grew out of these, this back and forth.”

Corning says it was originally a work that was going to open four weeks before the November election.

“A colleague of mine and I had been thinking it would be kind of an interesting work to do for two women of a certain age to make a production representing that demographic about how we felt about the country at that moment in time.”

The show will be under Corning’s ongoing project The Glue Factory, where all the performances feature works from artists ages 45 and up. Corning started this when she was 40 and realized that she wanted to work with more people her age.

“Glue used to be made from the hooves of retired race horses, so when the horses would be ‘retired,’ their hooves would be turned into glue,” she says. “And so many years ago, a friend of mine — we weren’t 40 yet — said something about, working with [choreographer Mikhail] Baryshnikov and all these people was like a glue factory, and I went ‘Oh my god, can I have that title?’”

Once the script for the other shoe was written, it was time for the dance portion to be written as well. But the choreographers of the show — Donald Byrd, Martha Clarke, Li Chaio-Ping, and Max Stone — were only told the title of the show, without seeing the script, and went from there.

“Kay and I certainly know a lot of impressive choreographers and artists, and we really sort of decided who we thought would be an interesting representation, with different voices,” Corning says. “Women, men, cis, and otherwise, and different ethinicities and different philosophies. We didn’t want to tell them too much because the idea was we wanted them to sort of figure out what the other shoe was for them.”

The choreographers “responded from their own perspective, their own place in the world, their own physical language — offering a coterie of diverse voices, representing different genders, races, and life experiences,” according to the event’s webpage.

click to enlarge Corningworks’ the other shoe comments on state of country through interpretive dance
Photo: Frank Walsh
Corningworks’ the other shoe

Something interesting about the artists working separately, according to Corning, is how some of the moves they came up with were similar to each other’s.

“The kind of work that these choreographers make and I make really tend to use their own language,” Corning says. “So it’s not like a jazz movement, like step ball change step ball change and you do that. But interesting enough, there are sort of these gestures that are so human, which makes the links really interesting.”

Because of this, she says the solos match up well, even though it was not intentional.

“It’s interesting to now keep working these solos and trying to make certain that I keep it compartmentalized,” Corning says. “I don’t lead one sentiment into the next, even though, without these guys knowing, they did on their own.”

The process of performing others’ work isn’t foreign to the dancer, but she more so wants to make sure that she does the choreographers’ ideas justice.

“As a choreographer, you know there’s so much vulnerability asking other people to do your work,” she says. “Everybody forgets their own vulnerabilities.”

Looking ahead to the performance, Corning is excited to be in front of a live audience again. “To me, it’s about being live, it’s about sharing a visceral moment,” Corning says. “You come in and you’re being provoked. You’re being asked to think, you’re being asked to feel, and you can’t deny. And there’s a vulnerability to performing live for both the artists and the audience. And I think that’s what I’m most looking forward to, moving into a new chapter in my life.”

the other shoe. Wed., Oct. 20-Sun., Oct. 24. The New Hazlett Theater, 6 Allegheny Square East, North Side. $30-35.

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