Read our March interview with Gretchen Eichberger here.
Dress, an original theatrical dance production created and directed by Northern Michigan folk culture maven Gretchen Eichberger, brings together amateur and professional dancers, musicians, poets, and activists to explore a woman’s experience of rebellion, sensuality, ecology, and piety. Cast members reside in Michigan, and the work of Michigan writers Jennifer Sperry Steinorth and Stephanie Mills are featured.
Conceived almost two years ago, the show takes on special relevance in light of recent world and national events that seem to threaten women’s quest for political, social, and economic liberation.
Two parts of the Dress cycle were previewed March 15 at the Oliver Art Center, followed by a thoughtful, provocative, multi-gender discussion between the performers and audience. The movement is by turns unsettlingly dramatic, intimate, and beautifully evocative of the everyday, natural gestures.
The preview’s opening piece, “Unfurl,” was accompanied by a reading from Simone De Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, as Eichberger, wearing a black dress and “freakout” hair, frantically absorbs the literature of women’s liberation, then attempts to distribute it among the audience. In “Their Common Universe,” two young women, played by Amy Jo Jordan and Lena Wilson, movingly revisit the act of playing dress-up.
Eichberger began work on this project in 2011 after an encounter with author and bioregionalist Stephanie Mills. Mills, a resident of Leelanau County, gained nation-wide attention with her 1969 college commencement address in which she vowed never to have children. Her declaration was made in response to the lack of “a rosy future” for generations to come and the problem of overpopulation. Since then Mills has been speaking, editing, writing, and organizing for ecology and social change.
Shortly before encountering Mills’s work, Eichberger became aware of the poetry of Jennifer Sperry Steinorth, whose poignant observations of toil, love, childbirth, and the black dress she says “set her hair on fire.”
Along with the written texts, the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, Franz Schubert, and Arvo Pärt will be performed by the Grand Rapids area mezzo soprano Melinda Smalley, Traverse City pianist Laurence C. Smith, and internationally acclaimed violinist, Yuri Namkung.
Dance ensemble members include Sally Neal, Denise Sica, Laura Cavender, Lena M. Wilson, Cindy Toranzo, Amy Jo Jordan, Kris Brown, Kima Kramer, and Yarrow Wolfe.
Inside Out Gallery is located in the Warehouse District of Downtown Traverse City. Tickets for Dress are $12.00 and are available at Inside Out and Oryana. Doors open at 7:00 pm; performance begins at 8:00 pm.