Dancing the psyche onstage

by Patty Templeton

Virginia Woolf in her experimental novel “The Waves,” said, “I am not one and simple but complex and many.” This is all of us. We slip on projections of ourselves like jackets, depending on who is or isn’t around. You aren’t the same you at your telemarketing job as you are on a first date. These facets are normal, but is one version of yourself more real than others? When do you feel most like you – when you are alone or when you are being watched?

Cover Girl” is a 75-minute solo showcase of dance theater that explores the idea of the authentic self. Choreographed by Durango’s Malinda LaVelle and performed by Emmaly Wiederholt, “Cover Girl” is a collection of four vignettes centered on a single person. Each scene begins with the declaration of, “This is Me,” and each expression of self is progressively outlandish. It turns into a heartbreaking, yet hilarious narrative of how we shape ourselves to fit our ambitions and the world around us.

DGO spoke to LaVelle and Widerholt on the making and meaning of “Cover Girl.”

Tell us more about “Cover Girl.”

Wiederholt: Sometimes, we edit the events in our lives or the feelings that we’d rather not revisit and relive. I feel there is a big theme of self-narrative and playing with different identities. The show is composed of four characters. Each becomes more exaggerated and each new woman is a permutation of the last one.

LaVelle: “Cover Girl” looks at questions about identity, how we are seeing ourselves, how we are perceived by others, and how that influences our actions from the inside out … This idea that there are different facades we put on for others and how we create our own realities about how people perceive us.

This is a female dominant production. What would you say to (not woke) folks who think this is theater only for women?

LaVelle: I think that whenever I’m creating something from a place that feels very personally relevant – there’s always a universal theme that anybody can latch onto. The personal becomes universal. While, yes, it is a female on stage, and it was choreographed by a female, and the name is “Cover Girl,” there is so much in this that is just human. It is human experience not female experience. It is creating your own reality and how we try to make other people love us. Everybody can relate to that because it is an inherent human trait – wanting to be noticed.

What does it feel like to have the weight of a show on your shoulders?

Wiederholt: I have done several solos within several of Malinda’s former pieces, but I have never done a whole solo show. I’ve always sort of enjoyed being the only person on stage. I’m a total ham; I’ll be the first to admit it. But there’s always an entrance and an exit energy. You knew someone was going to come on and carry that energy after you. In this show, it’s me and it’s really exhausting. The energy output is enormous. That being said, it’s not a negative. It felt really exciting to be asked that much of.

What do you think people will get out of this show?

Wiederholt: I think it can be a source of reflection: “Yeah I’ve totally thought that or said that and now I’m thinking about it through a new lens.” If anything, it could lead to more reflection about the identities that each of us take on. When we feel most authentic or least authentic in our lives.

That sounds heavy. Is this show a downer?

LaVelle: You definitely will not be bored. It’s not an abstract show. It latches onto some really concrete ideas … “Excess of sorrow laughs. Excess of joy weeps,” is one of my favorite quotes in the show. It gets to this idea that comic relief can be heart wrenching. I think that feels so human. That kind of contradiction of funny and sad at the same time … And Emmaly’s hilarious. She has comic timing and plays this amazing, heartbreaking, hilarious character.

How is watching “Cover Girl” going to be different than seeing any other art this weekend?

LaVelle: I think that every form of creative expression is unique, but dance, to me, feels incredibly intimate and personal because our instrument is our body. It’s not something that is outside of us like a canvas or a video camera – it’s me. It’s impossible to separate yourself – the person – from the art. That’s how dance can become a very vulnerable thing. It is bare-naked-you out there for everyone to see.

Patty TempletonDGO Staff Writer


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