Dances & Performances > Sophie Shellbags

Sophie Shellbags is a character developed as Envy the Dead, a meditation on the roots of nihilism in both intimate, interpersonal relationships, and in the greater global human culture as exemplified, for example, by the casual acceptance of mass shootings in America, the innumerable victims of the Syrian refugee crisis, or the increasing body-and-mind tolls of all kinds of violence against fellow humans.

As a movement study, the dance was formed using notational drawings that were performed by Jessica Cornish.

The choreographic movement for Sophie Shellbags was constructed out of a series of drawings by Workman of dancer Christine Shallenberg as research into the development of a dance notational system inspired by the "Air Mail" dances of Remy Charlip, co-founder of Merce Cunningham Studio (examples of which are in the dance notation album and for which there's a nice rundown over at the Remy Charlip Estate site.

The "Sophie" figure, initially inspired by dancer Christine Shallenberg, originates in the graphic novel originally working titled Envy the Dead (now Pink On the Inside), and is in that respect separate but related, and should be understood as a new character, collaboratively developed by both myself and the dancers who model for it. The Allen character is also my invention, and also first appears in Envy the Dead as well as into a separate work known as The Journeys.

The eventual goal is to produce a notation "vocabulary" a la Charlip, but uniquely my own; my goal is to invent a Workman Method that can be used like an alphabet to articulate whole, performable dances; the "moves" in the dance arrangeable like letters in an alphabet. The notational Sophie-Allen "figures" I also then expect to expand into a separate graphic novel, taking as its jumping-off point the connections between dance, the graphic novel, writing, dramaturgy, and collaborative art-making, with the shared goal of recovering the otherwise largely forgotten art form of dance notation.

These "anchor position" drawings were replicated in movement by dancer Jessica Cornish, and movement between the positions improvised. Taken together, the old anchor positions and new improvised movement constitute this new dance art work.

Presented at Outerspace as part of the "Research Project" series in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood January 31, 2016. Curated by Nora Sharp.