The long-awaited production of “Shoes On, Shoes Off: Sixteen Dance Scenes About Shoes, People & Other Important Things,” a dance play directed and choreographed by Professor Susan Dibble (THA) kicked off just right on April 15 at the Spingold Theater Center.
The piece was developed into a big project after Dibble thought about the many years she has been dancing in “outdoor and indoor spaces—in water, on dirt, grass, concrete, sand, wood, linoleum and rugs,” said Dibble. As a matter of fact, it was littered with symbolism from beginning to end.
It started with a Rabbit—played by Dibble herself—stomping on stage. Indeed, she was a likable Rabbit that represented “life, procreation, cycle, birth, fun, survival,” as she said. The opening scene, titled “Shoe Grave Yard,” invited the audience itself to go out and explore the world. The Rabbit walked with two players, one of whom was carrying a tree branch, which according to the director, “can be used for starting a campfire or as an imaginary umbrella. A body of nature.” In other words, the branch is a survival tool that can help the explorer in any survival situation and to face the unexpected.
The show moved quickly to other scenes involving most of the players. “Second Hand Shoe Store” pulled in every cast member to select a pair of shoes at one of the few shoe stores in the village. Each of the players tried their best to select the “perfect” pair of shoes. And the shoes do certainly mean more than just a plain footwear item that allows us to protect our bare feet or use as a fashion statement. According to Dibble, the shoes represent “Stability, order, comfort, imagination, fun,” and a foot without a shoe represents “freedom, risk [and] mischief.”
What made the players a delight is that each had a unique story. In fact, there were no words spoken, but “Shoes On, Shoes Off” demonstrated that no words needed to be said in order to transmit and understand the characters’ yearning and emotions. One of the many personal scenes with a particular character was with the stellar Nicole Pierce, who is a professional dancer, choreographer, pianist and teacher invited to be part of this production at Brandeis. She performed a scene known as “Mopping Bride who Loves to Dance.” The mop served as a tool to clean and keep things “looking new, a fresh start.” There was another story about a man who found his red shoes to be sort of possessed. The scene had the title of “‘Red’ Shoes” and it sparked a few laughs; the player conveyed humor through his dance moves, which is an impressive accomplishment.
The greatest aspect about this production is that it is not only about one player or one character. It is about a community that is inclusive, all joined by the love of acting and dancing.
The overall production was planned and performed with much love from the people involved in it. The lightning was perfectly calculated by Megan McClory ’18, bringing a vividness to every characterization.
The costumes were also suitable for time in which the play takes place, perhaps the 40s or 50s. The dresses were designed by Tove Freeman ’16 and Dan Rugomba ’16, and had a very à la “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” (1954) type of style. This was seen more so when four couples were dancing “Fingers to the Bone” by Brown Bird in a scene called “Village Deli Time.”
The production was flawless. The players, which not only included Brandeis students, but professional dancers and/or actors, were a great team together. Under Dibble’s visionary eye, passion and expert guidance, everyone was able to shine, including her.