Doors Not Walls: Leaving, Arriving, Rediscovering (US)

Judy Dworin Performance Project’s latest dance theater production is the twenty-nine-year-old Ensemble’s first site-specific piece, but more than that, it is the first work conceived in response to the human impact of contemporary politics of division.

Image: Joseph Abad

(US) brings the artist’s eye to examine the current and past realities of the American immigrant experience. Incorporating dance, multimedia visuals, and a layered sound score, the performance boldly confronts the hot button issues of 2018: nationalism vs. patriotism; barriers vs. welcome; racism vs. inclusion; privilege vs. justice; and fear vs. sanctuary. It shies from none of them, yet is never consumed by them, moving steadily forward in the direction of hope.

Image: Andy Hart

Apart from the challenging core material, what makes (US) special is its setting in the Hartford Public Library’s Downtown branch, long a center for new arrivals to gather and fulfill their need for information, community, and assimilation. The piece uses the Library’s architecture to amplify its message: the uncertainty of Arrival in the main lobby: the separation of Walls in the Atrium; and the reverence of Sanctuary in the CCC Room, with the words, “A Place Like No Other” part of the existing architecture on the wall above the stage. Audiences can look forward to literally walking alongside the dancers, who use their bodies and sole props – a collection of vintage suitcases – to become the setting and narrative for the story they are telling. Music and spoken word, including the voices of Hartford-area immigrants fill out the scene, along with digital projections that “capture” the Library’s many computer screens like the news stories and opinion blogs that dominate our digital life.

Image: Joseph Abad

While the premiere date for (US) was set more than a year ago, the timing now coincides with highly charged public debate and a climate of partisanship unlike any we have seen in living memory. (US) could become a part of that – but it doesn’t. It acknowledges the wall, #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter, and #AbolishICE without being defined by any of them. It hearkens to a better place – a connection to a better universal condition that we have glimpsed but not yet achieved. There is solemnity in its sorrow, rather than retribution, and temper in its joy that leaves plain that we have a long way to go to achieve a more perfect union.

(US) premieres at Hartford Public Library on October 12-13, 2018. Tickets are $25, and are on sale now at Judy Dworin Performance Project, Inc. is a Hartford-based arts non-profit  organization that uses dance, movement, and the performing and visual arts to work for social justice in schools, on stage, and in prisons.

Jennifer Eifrig is Grants & Communications Manager for Judy Dworin Performance Project, Inc. Contact her at

[featured image: Joseph Abad]

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