All About Abigail, a Preview of Kaitlin McCarthy’s Eight Abigails

Photo by Warren Woo

I was dubious the first time I encountered Kaitlin McCarthy and her work. Naturally, this judgment happened before I even met the artist, let alone seen her at work. I was part of a panel of curators for a 2012 12 Minutes Max at On the Boards and McCarthy had proposed a new dance piece entitled Twelve (Queefs of adolescence). In retrospect, I should’ve recognized a kindred spirit right there and then, but I was struggling through another bout of disillusionment caused by something or other. Suffice it to say that I didn’t expect much from such a title at the time. O me of little faith — rarely has crow tasted so good.

Billed as the artist’s exploration of her tween years, what I didn’t expect was an honest, forthright and decidedly humorous meditation on the shit our bodies put us through during puberty, the male gaze, the uncomfortable melange of sensations and experiences that happen when those two things collide, and making the decision to move beyond what’s expected of young women by society. It was a bracing introduction to an artist who has since become one of the city’s more creative and theatrical choreographers. The performance had the clarifying power of walking into a post when you’re lost in thought.

Those going to McCarthy’s Eight Abigails this weekend at Velocity Dance Center can expect to feel a similar sudden awareness of unexpected surroundings. It may help to have a passing awareness of the things that happen to, around and because of the character Abigail Williams in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, but don’t expect Abigails to hew too closely to Miller’s “moral” take on his character (who is given something of a raw deal in his play). McCarthy is instead fixated on understanding Abigail’s realities without the distraction of Miller’s other characters and presenting her in a different context by deploying eight different versions of the young woman to help in this endeavor.

Her company — which consists of Britt Karhoff, Hannah Rae, Erin Johnson, Danica Bito, Anna Krupp, Jenny Peterson, Tayler Tucker, and Alexandra Spencer — each brings a distinct Abigail to the table; and the evening’s moody atmosphere is greatly enhanced by the music of Michael Hamm, which is at turns reminiscent of Morricone and Goblin if those artists decided to explore minimalism further. The event’s Facebook page lists Friday evening’s performance as sold out; fortunately, there are three more performances of this deft work over the weekend. Fans of dance and those that are curious about the discipline would be wise to head to Capitol Hill by Sunday.

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