She’s Gone Away by Susanna Hood
Susanna Hood’s web site modestly states that for many years “she has been synthesizing voice and movement into a dynamic practice through which she creates intimate, raw and sensual performance work.” I believe Susanna’s body of work, one that combines movement with extraordinary soundscapes and vocal technique, puts her in the upper rank of Canadian choreographers.
The words ‘raw’ and ‘sensual’ barely skim the surface of what Susanna did with she’s gone away. The goal of the work was to channel animal behaviours and sounds in as realistic a way as possible. She researched the piece extensively – including a day hiking with a wolf pack in the Rockies – and by the end settled on seven animals: rat, snake, horse, dog, bird, deer, ape. From that research themes emerged: wildness and domestication, sexuality, multiplicity, evolution, and transformation. What becomes clear – and kinda terrifying – upon watching she’s gone away is that Susanna has managed to channel the wild animal within the human. Her ability to transform herself from an appealing homo erectus to a snake-rat-spawn-of-satan was so startling we would have to provide trigger warnings to the audience if it was performed today.
In addition to Susanna’s abilities as an experimental vocalist and mover, it was her ability to attract some of the best collaborators in the country that took the final iteration of she’s gone away over the top. Firstly was her long standing working partnership with sound artist Nilan Perera, who outfitted Susanna with body mics and was able to manipulate – live during the performance from one side of the stage – her voice and the sounds her body made, to create a sound environment that brought a new dimension to the action. Then, late in the creative process, Susanna brought in the brilliant scenographer Lorenzo Savoini to create a spooky set with walls that seemed to be falling to pieces, giving Susanna the opportunity to disappear here and reappear over there in seconds, transforming herself from, say, an accordion-playing deer to an angry ape. Other all-star collaborators were Jennifer Tarver (direction|), Rebecca Picherack (lighting), Heather MacCrinmmon (costumes) and Marie-Josée Chartier (outside eye).
The result of Susanna’s years of research and collaboration was exhilarating – if at times disturbing – to watch. If Stephen King was a choreographer he would have been proud to call this his work. Appropriately, it appeared in Peterborough at nearly the coldest, darkest time of year: two nights in early February, 2007; I doubt that anyone who was there has forgotten the experience.
- Bill Kimball