Bird Lady
Bird Lady Credit: Anna Johson Ryndová

When dancer-choreographers Liz Burritt, Kristina Fluty, and Rebecca Salzer waded into the vast pool of Vivian Maier’s photographs, the pictures that held their attention were of women caught off guard, surprised yet staring defiantly into the lens. Inspired by these photos and the pejorative nickname neighborhood teens gave Maier thanks to her gawky gait, the dancers began to reinterpret Maier’s own image as an eccentric spinster as an allegory for the awkwardness of being seen publicly as a woman.

The dance is composed of three main solos based on three particular Maier portraits. Each solo is paired with video and sound that evokes an urban place—a soda shop or a street corner or a park on a windy day, branches rustling—and with a monologue where dancers prattle on in character about the manifold ways they felt Maier’s camera used and dispensed with them.

Defining this dance is the spirit of a woman who lives in a city and has many daily interactions but is stricken by a deep awareness of her solitude. The solos are lonely, and the group dances are even lonelier: as the dancers crowd together, touching or lifting, their bodies connecting, they give the impression of remaining utterly separate.

Moving in place or briskly around the stage, the dancers seem turned in on themselves and pained, sad and damaged. They slump or bolt, trapped in a depressive tizzy. Salzer says the structure of the dance reflects the experience of sizing up the photo she selected and returning to it, again and again—”You just get this snapshot, this little snippet, that’s all you get.”