The sun warm against my back, I stand on the Peace Bridge, and look down upon a small stony island where the shadows of four dancers are cast, long, against the earth.
On the bridge, 2‐by‐2, dancers in white, grey, and black stand framed by the red braided bridge, in stillness. One woman stands with a red umbrella sheltering her from a rainless sky. Large jugs of water and jars of stones catch my eye, as the dancers draw us into undulating motion. So delicate and pure are their movements, as they respectfully pour and cradle water into their palms.
Below, the island has a calm connectedness to the four dancers dressed in black. Three female sit at a black table with four chairs, wildly out of place on the stone covered land. One male dancer stands. A woman rises to walk him to the shore, and returns to the quiet business at the table. Left at waters‐edge, he throws stones into the river, and I see the splash before I hear the stone hit the water. Silence swallows me but for the quiet breeze I hear so close to my ear. Blinking in this magic, I watch him throw stones faster and faster and faster into the water.
Three women sit in some kind of business. Still. Nothingness. Stones occasional tossed out from their work. Now and then, a chair tipping and dropping its human contents to the ground, yet, they adjust and take up the ongoing rituals again.
Still at the shore, he abandons the stones and arrives at the table just as it is freed of its chairs and carried closer to us. Spewn atop the black table’s surface lay heaps of pale folders, stones, and glasses of water. They gather and sit once more, busy it seems, yet, tranquil and still somehow.
Our distant island focus is jarred by the sound of water pouring over the dancers heads on the bridge, nestled right beside us. Standing in pools of water, the pairs rely on each other, dancing with angelic lightness and care. Their jugs now empty of water, and bodies weighed down by the blue sky above; they cling, claw, and climb upon one another with desperation. They crawl along the path beside us, some bare‐kneed on the asphalt; and I feel separate from them as they find sanctuary upon the fresh, green slope ahead.
All four sit at the island table. The one male dancer falls away. Mesmerizing sound from under his knees, as the stones shift; silence is broken by guitar and voice filling the air with garbled lyrics. The male dancer stands and walks into the water without notice, and takes control of the water running loop after loop, after loop...The Busker stops mid‐song. The dancer scoops handfuls of water, repeatedly, to run back to the jug on the table. He stops. He takes one fallen chair to the shore and pours a jug of water over his head; while at the same moment, with quiet trepidation, the Busker begins anew in a whispered, apologetic tone. This chance encounter seems almost planned to sharpen my attention to the sound and silence that embed the statement before us.
With power and focus, the one male dancer leaves the women at the table to powerfully charge the water. –To throw himself into her darkness and be absorbed. Two times. Three. The female dancer with the red umbrella leaves the sandy shore to wade across the water and sit at the table with one remaining woman in black.
One violent strike and the clutter takes flight from the table, and the stony island floor holds it now as trash. The one male dancer, drenched in black cloth gleaming in the sunlight, looks upon it all from the distant shore’s edge.
I am engulfed in applause. I sit on the boulder‐balcony of nature left in my own silence. I clap, unwilling to accept the end just yet. I walk back across the bridge, and past the Busker setting up on the opposite sidewalk to start anew, as though he had not been part of anything before. My silence carries me home with visions of water, delicate and fragile humans, the passion of life cluttered by the rituals of the mundane, and then the water again. Entangled in nature’s cycle, trying to find our footing on the slippery stones we keep casting out around ourselves?Hours separate me now from the whole of this dance experience, and now I seem connected to it all.
By Debbie McDougall