Performer, choreographer, and teacher, Catherine Gallant, has been making dances over the last 30 years. She formed her company, Catherine Gallant/DANCE, in 1999. On this evening Gallant presents a new dance theater work, Escape from the House of Mercy. This work includes a layered gestural language of movement, text, and voice. Escape from the House of Mercy is a 21st-century women's view of our social support systems, measuring both the ground gained and the distance yet to be traveled.
The House of Mercy, once located in New York City, was a home for "abandoned and troubled women." In fact, it was closer to a prison or workhouse to which most women and girls were brought against their wills. Here a young woman could be locked up for years for an offense such as dancing in public or walking alone at night. Inhabitants were subjected to inhumane and demoralizing treatment, in the guise of rehabilitation, during an era when the rights of the poor, especially women, were completely denied. Inhabitants were routinely punished with starvation diets, head shaving, and restraints.
Gallant invites the audience to wonder why this place, buried in history, is important now. How do the ghosts of this story haunt the imagination and connect us to the urgent discussion regarding rights and privileges of women and disenfranchised people? Why is this now invisible place from the past important in the present? How is honest self-expression still punished in our own time? Writes Gallant, "We seek to shine a light of remembrance as we mine the persistent feelings of vulnerability and powerlessness in the face of deceptive and impassive authority, reflecting on the injustices of the past as they relate to the present in the drive for social freedoms and equity."
Choreography: Catherine Gallant in collaboration with the dancers
Dancers: Abra Cohen, Erica Lessner, Charlotte Hendrickson, Cecly Placenti, Kel