A suicide can not only induce deep sadness and shock, but it can provoke wrenching anger or guilt for loved ones who are left behind, and a persistent need to question and relive the past.
This period of reckoning is what choreographers Enoch Chan and Kimmie Dobbs Chan explore in their evening-length dance “siGHt,” presented Saturday by their company, Deviated Theatre, at Dance Place on Eighth Street NE. A second performance is scheduled for Sunday at 7 p.m.
The work focuses on a family — a judgmental but well-intentioned mother, an impossibly cute daughter played by 8-year-old Olivia Green and a father whose character is never quite made clear.
So when he takes his own life, it isn’t obvious what has driven him to that. The mother gave him a few disapproving glances in the prologue that suggested some dissonance between them, but the couple also shared a genuinely loving embrace. And his relationship with his child seemed happy and fulfilling.
It’s hard to fully invest in such a story-driven dance when a critical piece of the narrative is missing.
Throughout the work, the stage is haunted by specters: a group of dancers in gauzy white dresses that first warn the daughter of impending tragedy and later help the mother make peace with it. For these ensemble sections, the Chans develop a rich movement palette composed of thrashing jerks of the head, breezily swinging arms and forward bends that collapse into hard stops.
During these segments, the music is peppered with the sound of whispering voices, and the dancers break into low-voiced murmurs. It’s meant to be haunting, but the effect is a bit cartoonish.
The most successful parts of the dance are its most unexpected ones. To symbolize attending the father’s burial, the mother and daughter don winter coats and simply stand in stillness, eyes cast on the ground. It’s strangely spare and incredibly effective.
And when the previously elegant, stoic mother takes a seat in a folding chair only to feebly slink to the floor, the audience is instantly drawn into her heartbreak.