Judith Scherer's "Something White" and "Point-Virgule"
Review by Shauna McCabe
On June 23, Judith Scherer presented the premiere of her dance-sound installation "Something White" and a second piece "Point-Virgule" at the Carrefour Theatre, in advance of her contemporary solo dance performance of the works at Dresden Dance week in the Festspielhaus Hellerau in Germany this July. In Prince Edward Island, where dance experiences in the summer run to the pizzazz of musical theatre and music is often traditional, modern dance and electroacoustic composition provide an important alternative in the spectrum of art and entertainment.
In its abstract form, modern dance performance can be challenging to understand. The key is knowing the artist's obsession-the mystery they are trying to define and solve. In this case, Scherer's big question is the nature of the relationship of the human figure to its surroundings, to space. "The human being is always disturbing space," says Scherer. "Something White" uses the metaphor of the sea as it moves from fluid to ice and stillness, exploring the movement between the extremes of violence and harmony. Different sounds, like a knife on stone and moving water, are brought together to reinforce this continuum in the form of "musique concrete"-the composition created digitally from transformed recorded material.
This question is also grappled with in her second dance piece, "Point-Virgule" (Semicolon), inspired by a musical piece by Jean-François Denis, a Canadian electroacoustic composer. The music was developed through five approaches, concluding with an exclamation point, which Scherer matches in the choreography with danced moments which follow in succession.
Although this contemporary dance performance takes an abstract form, it draws from her concrete personal experience and concerns. Born in Zurich, Switzerland, Scherer studied dance and communication in Germany and New York, and has consistently developed performance projects that bring together movement, visuals, light and sound. She settled in Prince Edward Island in 1989, creating such recent performances as "Gate" and "Island" which show different approaches to the relationship of human beings to their natural surroundings-the theme she has been following for some time.
In "Something White" as well as "Point-Virgule", Scherer's artistic strategy is integration, creating multimedia performances that address these fundamental questions in different ways. The printed words that begin "Something White"-a poem, "August: Nietzsche in Turin" by Gennadi Ajgi, projected on a screen at the back of the darkened stage-speak to her source of inspiration, as well as this cross-disciplinary approach. To her dance performance and the video projection of the poem passing in time, another cinematic layer is added -a video projection of the changing seasons of the beach and sea near her home at Dalvay, Prince Edward Island, as well as the electroacoustic music sound track.
Scherer's performances draw upon others working across boundaries of technique and media. In the development of these pieces, she has worked with composer Shawn Ferris, as well as Hans Samuelson, who provided digital image manipulation and sound creation. The effect of the collaboration is a clean, incisive performance and an artful and layered dance presentation that clarifies Scherer's search for a certain harmony. And as her work crosses boundaries-between sources, media, genres, and techniques of expression-a certain artificiality and awkwardness of categories themselves becomes clear.