zoe | juniper | Dance preview
Seattle-based choreographer Zoe Scofield talks fantasy and her “little black book.”
When I tell Zoe Scofield that Chicago’s been suffering subzero wind chills, she cries, “Shut up! Are you serious?! What do people do when it’s that cold?”
The Georgia-born choreographer, one half of zoe|juniper, isn’t accustomed to arctic temperatures, save for a brief stint in Toronto. At that time, weather proved the least of her concerns. It was after 9/11 and nearly impossible to live without a proper visa. “Really ridiculous,” she says. That, coupled with health-related issues, sidelined her dance career.
Scofield eventually moved to Seattle, struggling to land a job. A classical dancer, the 34-year-old graduate of Massachusetts’s Walnut Hill School for the Arts says, “The aesthetic happening [in Seattle] wasn’t what I was trained in or interested in.”
Enter her husband, Juniper Shuey, the other half of zoe|juniper. “Juniper was like, ‘What are you doing? Just start making your own work,’ ” she says. In 2005, Scofield applied for the Northwest New Works Festival with a specific idea in mind. Shuey, 38, a visual designer and media artist, suggested using video for added dimension. A working relationship ensued, Scofield crafting the movement, Shuey the design.
“It’s funny because it’s never something we’ve both consciously sat down and thought, Okay, how are we going to work together because you’re from the visual art world and I’m from the dance world?” she says. “This is just what we do.”
As zoe|juniper, the couple, who met on the night of the 2003 Northeast blackout, have developed a dark, rich world of physical movement and nebulous visuals. Their most recent collaboration debuted in 2011 at the renowned Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, followed by a stint at the New York Live Arts center last April.
In A Crack in Everything, the evening-length piece they bring to the Dance Center Thursday 14 through Saturday 16, the dancers don elaborate makeup and chic costumes—works of art in themselves. Using themes from the Greek tragedy The Oresteia, A Crack in Everything looks at the “emotional spectrum between the justice we crave and the blood lust of revenge,” according to a program note.
Does her fraught work have anything to do with Scofield’s reported health issues, specifically her past struggles with alcohol and anorexia? She hesitates before answering. “I think I had a naïveté of mentioning shit like that to the press and forgetting that stuff doesn’t disappear,” she says. “Nothing I do is in such a one-to-one ratio. However, yeah, of course it is. We’re all a collection of our experience. Everybody knows what it’s like to be fucked up or in a bad place or unable to stop something that’s not working.”
Scofield is more inclined to see her choreography in terms of her childhood. She mentions a story her parents like to tell: As a little girl, before she learned to write, Scofield would sit and scribble in a black diary for hours. “Pages and pages,” she says. “To me, it was like a book. I’d go and read it to my parents and tell them this very long, elaborate tale. I lived in that fantasy realm.”
In her work, she still does.
“By [art] not being didactic and by it not being quantifiable, then people are able to have more of their own experience inside of it,” she says. “Maybe my desire to live in that fantasy world is that understanding of that, or that I feel more real and alive.”
zoe|juniper’s A Crack in Everything plays the Dance Center Thursday 14–Saturday 16.