Blythe Davis ’20: “I’ve Found New Choreographies”

Part of our “Art and Artists are Essential” collection and invitation.

Blythe Davis ’20 graduated with a minor in dance this spring and, as part of finishing her studies, was asked to submit a photo of how she was navigating remote learning, classes, projects, and making the most of a chaotic situation. This photo was paired with a reflection on her experiences since the transition to social distancing:

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve been bemoaning my lack of time for art, so I’m trying to jump on the chance to make and consume as much as I can in isolation. I spent the first month or so of isolation alone in my Durham apartment, a pretty compressed place without many artistic tools, so I had to get creative with dance. I spent a lot of time watching dancers on Instagram navigating the same situation (some accounts I would recommend in particular are @galenhooks, @chrisnshep, @chantelle_good, and @david.norsworthy). Many of them provided live streams, which added a sense of connection through dance despite the distance.

Most of my actual extracurricular dancing took place in my kitchen area while cooking—moving in new ways between the stove and the sink, dramatically opening and closing the fridge door—and in the doorway between the bedroom and living areas, a space that inspired a nightly score of keeping at least one hand or foot on the frame at all times, only moving to the beat of a song. Another challenge of the space was the sharing of walls—I had neighbors on both sides, as well as above and below, so my movement as well as soundtrack had to be quiet. Sometimes I would dance without any soundtrack at all, and other times I would dance to a podcast or audiobook.”

For the past month, though, I’ve been home in eastern North Carolina with my mother and brother, a living situation I haven’t inhabited in six years, and one that brings to mind a lot of old movement habits that I had forgotten about. Nightly, we walk the dog up and down a field path behind our house, performing an unchanging choreographic score when we cross the rickety bridge over the ditch, single-file, ready to catch each other when we trip on the unexpected final step. I’ve found new choreographies too, mostly rooted in my home’s natural surroundings. Since I began at Duke, what began separating my house from the road as a vine-choked, impenetrable woods has evolved (forcibly, under my mom’s merciless pruners, shovel, and electric saw) into an area of forest navigable by paths, hidden from view of the house and the road, the perfect private place to move, with only snakes, skinks, and grackles to witness.