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Friday, April 12, 2024

and the snow fell softly on all the living and the dead…

Tonight through Sunday the two-part production of and the snow fell softly on all the living and the dead… will take place at Wright Hall’s Main Theatre. The production is a series of choreography and performances arranged by Granada Artist-in-Residence Ellen Bromberg and also serves as a tribute to longtime UC Davis Department of Theatre and Dance professor Della Davidson, who succumbed to breast cancer this past March.

The production was originally envisioned as a staged installation by Davidson and Bromberg, with the intention of partnering with Kegan Marling and various dancers. However, due to Davidson’s unfortunate passing, the second half of the evening will celebrate Davidson’s vast collection of works and will even include a film by members of the Sideshow Physical Theatre and members of the Bay Area dance community.

The Aggie interviewed Bromberg and Marling for more information about the deeply emotional and the snow fell softly on all the living and the dead… and how the memory of Professor Davidson was incorporated into the work.

MUSE: Can you give a quick introduction of yourselves?
BROMBERG: Many years ago, I walked into a dance studio at the University of Utah for a summer workshop and noticed a tall, strong, yet gentle dancer named Della. Instantly, we connected, and that connection lasted a lifetime.
KEGAN: I am a choreographer, writer, designer and arts consultant working in San Francisco. My work is a reflection of ever-shifting interests: contact improvisation, creative writing, sound design, photography, pottery, bookbinding, ballroom, ballet, Afro-Caribbean dance, painting, tap, gymnastics, acting, woodworking and installation art.
What is the show about?
B: Due to Della’s untimely passing, the show has become a tribute to her and to her work. The first half is the new work we were going to make together and the second half consists of a variety of pieces created by her former dancers, who have made work inspired by or choreographed by Della Davidson.
K: At its heart, this production is a celebration of the work of renowned artist and teacher Della Davidson. The first half of the evening is comprised of a single piece — and the snow fell softly on all of the living and the dead… — which I see as a sort of guided meditation. Similar to how you might approach a museum installation, there is space for the viewer to sit with the work as it slowly unfolds. The second half of the evening is a reflection of Della’s impact on the dance community. Core members of Sideshow Physical Theatre have created works that touch on themes that Della often explored in her own work.
How did you (Bromberg) and Prof. Davidson conceive the idea for and the snow fell softly…?
B: In our last conversation, Della asked me what I thought of this for the title:  and the snow fell softly on all the living and the dead… I loved it. It evokes such silence, subtle motion and yet stillness. Kegan, a former dancer with Della Davidson’s Sideshow Physical Theatre, has been a tremendous support for the creation of this piece and for the entire evening. While I have held the larger vision of the work, Kegan has brought the specificity of Della’s processes into the creative space and has been a tremendous partner in all of it. And of course the performers have been diligent, fully engaged and generous with their ideas and energy.
What are some of the pieces that will be performed?
K: Icarus by me, in collaboration with Nol Simonse, Sarah Kliban and Richard Marriott (all former collaborators with Della Davidson). The piece is inspired by Della’s celebrated work, The 10pm Dream. Through the mythological story of Icarus we explore the relationship between a mentor and mentee, a child and their parent. There is also Who Here Thinks They’re a Fish? by Kerry Mehling, Sad, Happy by Jane Schnorrenberg and me, and finally, Song for Della, a dance film by Eric Kupers in collaboration with Sideshow Physical Theatre Alumni and Kuper’s band, Bandelion. The evening will close with Undimmed, a piece that was originally choreographed by Della and Jane in celebration of their friend and collaborator Tracy Rhodes. The piece celebrates the brightness of the human spirit and its continuation beyond death. It was originally performed as a solo by Jane, but for this performance, she will be joined by dancers from the San Francisco Bay Area and Davis/Sacramento who have worked with Della.
How long did it take for you to put together the entire performance?
B: This piece has come together in a very short amount of time. The audition to the first tech rehearsal was 16 days. The piece has changed since we began with tech; due to the technical specificity in the work, it couldn’t really be seen until we were onstage and thus, the creative process has continued. As a matter of fact, we’ve added a new section only this weekend and I will see it tonight on stage for the first time.
Any last words about the performance?
B: Della’s passing is a huge loss for UC Davis, the California and national dance communities and for me personally. I’m honored to help facilitate this tribute to her life and work. She was a dear friend and collaborator and I miss her greatly.

MICHELLE RUAN can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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