The work is informed by the stark visual creations of artist and architect Nancy Chikaraishi, whose parents were camp residents. Many of her images have become the jumping-off points for the spare set pieces by set designer Scott Spivey, which (so far) include an iron bed frame and mattress, some large open wooden boxes, and a vintage leather suitcase. There is a line on the floor that seems to symbolize the demarcation between the old life and the new life, as well as the interminable lines in which the camp inmates had to stand. Traveling along this line successfully requires finesse, balance, and teamwork, and the dancers are up to the task. At one point, Rose Shields balances on one of the boxes for what seems like eternity before tumbling off it into the new reality the imprisoned people faced in the camps. The iron bed becomes the image that symbolizes waiting…waiting…life frozen in time with no future and no way to build on the past. The movement segments are tied together with an ephemeral score by composer Christian Meyer, containing sound elements from the past, such as the clink of fine porcelain teacups many families, headed to the camps, were forced to sell on the street for pocket change. You can’t bring treasures when you need to bring essentials.
Sue Schroeder is making art with a group of dancers who are not only experienced performance artists, but choreographers in their own rights. They bring to the work individual interpretations of the camp stories. Ms. Schroeder modestly points to their contributions rather than touting her own, but it is clear the work could not exist in this form without all of these specific collaborators, just as the people could not have survived the camps without working together.