‘100 Feet’ one-woman dance/theater performance celebrates famous female footsteps at La Jolla’s UCSD
By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt
“100 Feet” is a one-woman dance/theater performance with a supporting cast of 50 pairs of shoes. The multimedia piece, designed, choreographed and performed by Yolande Snaith, head of UC San Diego’s Graduate Dance Theater, is a tribute to 50 famous women who have influenced her thinking and left their distinctive footprints in the sands of time.
The women, ranging from Joan of Arc to Gertrude Stein, Billie Holiday, Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana, are certainly diverse, and their words and images mix with Snaith’s own reminiscences and movements as she slips in and out of moods and costumes. Stepping into their shoes, she recreates herself.
Born in Britain, Snaith has a broad background in dance, theater, visual arts and theatrical design. In addition to having her own dance company, which toured internationally, she has received commissions from opera, television and film companies, and did the choreography for Stanley Kubrick’s last film, “Eyes Wide Shut.”
Since joining UCSD’s Theater and Dance faculty in 2002, she has often collaborated with her colleagues here. For “100 Feet,” she worked with video artist Natalia Velerdi, sound designer Nicholas Drashner and lighting designer Wen-Liang Liao to create the perfect ambience for a piece that combines memoir, women’s history and flights of fancy, and features poetry, humor and “princess shoes.”
The idea for “100 Feet” first came to Snaith as she faced turning 50.
“There was something about that transition that made it seem very significant,” she said. “Especially for a dancer, whose career is usually considered over by then. So I thought of looking for inspiration from women who had come before me, women I admired. I was turning 50, so I wanted 50 women, a quote from each of them that really meant something to me. And I decided they all had to be dead, so I could bring them back to life.”
She chose 50 women who knew how to stand on their own two feet: 50 women, with two feet each, gave the piece its title.
She started with dancers, like Martha Graham, but what became the core of the piece was a quote from Gertrude Stein: “The minute you or anybody else knows what you are, you are not it.” This suggested that life was not about being stuck with one identity, but constantly changing, and gave Snaith the idea for the shifting personas in “100 Feet.”
The first performance of the work-in-progress was in March 2011, at the university art gallery, as part of UCSD’s 50th anniversary celebration. After a year of fine- tuning, Snaith brought the piece to Space 4 Art in East Village last October. Now it’s back on campus again, in a larger space.
Snaith called working on “100 Feet” a “transformative journey.”
“I’m becoming more an entertainer than a dancer,” she said. “I’m speaking a lot more, learning to use my voice in different ways. I’ve begun to find my own voice through the voices of these women, and I’ve discovered there’s a side of me that really enjoys entertaining. And on a personal level, I’m allowing myself to be very vulnerable, because the piece reveals so much about me.”
Which brings her to a Mae West quote that’s one of her favorites: “It’s better to be looked over than overlooked.”
If you go
■ What: ‘100 Feet’ dance/theater performance
■ When: 8 p.m. Friday, May 3 and Saturday, May 4
■ Where: UC San Diego, Wagner Dance Building, Studio 3. Parking in Lots 102, 103, 104, near La Jolla Playhouse. Parking passes not required on Saturday.
■ Tickets: $10-$20 at the door (cash or check only). Reserve by e-mail for $3 discount: firstname.lastname@example.org
■ Website: imagomoves.com
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