On Stage

Threads

The fabric of our lives

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

She died 30 years ago, but I still have a couple of my mother’s cardigans hanging in the far corner of my closet—along with a blue silk bathrobe of my grandmother’s, a faded T-shirt I wore while traveling in Central America in 1997, and assorted other items of adornment I can’t bear to get rid of.

The memories I associate with each article of well-worn clothing are dear to me. And apparently, I’m not not alone in holding on to the past in this fashion. In “Threads,” Kuntz and Company’s latest endeavor to tell stories of social significance through dance and theater, the “fabric of memories” was the impetus for its creation.

Choreographer and dancer Pam Kuntz says the idea for the nonprofit’s latest community collaboration came about after she was asked to create a piece in response to Western Washington University’s “Coded Threads: Textiles and Technologies” exhibit currently on display at Western Gallery. She wasn’t able to see the work in advance, so she began thinking of her response in different ways.

“I landed on clothing and what it is and represents,” Kuntz says. “This opened up a truth that I hadn’t really been aware of in myself—that clothing is one of my strongest memory holders.

“With more thought I recognized that the items I have saved from those who I love are fabric or clothing items—my mother’s wedding dress, a blanket my grandmother made, my other grandma’s apron, my dad’s navy peacoat. They hold my history. They are of the person, they were close to this person—they represent their body, their life, their breath, their time.”

Earlier this month, advanced dance students at WWU participated in “Decoded Threads,” a performance featuring nine dancers who were each inspired to make a piece focusing an item of clothing from a family member. Simultaneously, Kuntz was focused on making a larger work for Kuntz and Company dancers.

When “Threads” shows Oct. 26-28 at the Firehouse Performing Arts Center, accomplished dancers Kate Stevenson, Vanessa Daines, and Yuki Matsukura will share some of their own history—along with those of other community members—with audiences. 

Among other stories, the trio of performers will investigate a father’s navy whites, a mother’s pre- and post-cancer blouses and a great-aunt’s swimsuit from her days in the Aqua Follies. Both laughter and tears will likely be induced, and those in attendance might find themselves searching for memories by going through their own closets or storage spaces after the show.

“Through some of the stories we learn of beautiful, wonderful times and of very difficult, challenging times,” Kuntz says. “It is pretty great to be reminded that beauty and grace exists. It is also great to learn that people survive difficult times and even come out the other end in a better place. This kind of ‘survival’ is inspiring to me and I suspect to others. I can use a reminder every once in a while that things will get better.”

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