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Entombed Afterlife was inspired by study of Ancient Chinese Tomb Art. Beginning in the late Zhou period, rulers constructed elaborate burial tombs which included ceramic and bronze replicas of the objects, animals and people they knew in their lives. Believing the soul continued to exist in the tomb after death, rulers sought to extend the pleasures of this world into their afterlives. As artists faced with the conception of an afterlife filled with the most important things from our worldly existences, choreographer Rebecca Alson-Milkman and designer Piper Mavis posed the question: If you could take it with you, what would you take? Their answers were the same: the person they each loved--which, of course, cannot be replicated.
The set locates the dance in a waiting tomb. A door of ancestors frames the space. This door consists of hanging pieces of muslin cloth styled after Chinese scrolls, in which each hanging has a central image of an old photograph. Additional hangings portray objects that might accompany a couple in the tomb. Centered in the upstage area is a mound of dirt symbolizing both burial grounds and mountains the ancient Chinese thought were closest to the heavens.
The dancing couple of Entombed Afterlife partner each other: constantly lifting, sharing weight, entangling themselves within each other's limbs and personal space in a constant need to hold on. The movement is always changed or changing. Every attempt at reproduction reveals difference. Each desire to hold on is thwarted by the necessity of accommodating a new or more difficult task. These tasks accumulate not only in difficulty and quantity, but in the physical space consumed in all three spatial planes, the speed at which they are accomplished and the space opening and closing between the dancers until they are separated by the momentum of their bodies whirling away from each other. The movement loses its essence in the attempt at replication, just as we could never take the essence of our loved ones with us even if we could replicate their forms in clay or bronze.