Dance Theatre Project “Subway Affair” Draws a Crowd

Bridget Sheppard

The images that typically come to mind when thinking of the sub­way include the grime, anonym­ity and monotony often associated with a ride on a subway line; yet senior Walfrey Lim, for his Senior Theater Capstone Project, took a longer look at the motions and in­teractions that occur within the un­derground stations and cars. In the production, “Subway Affair,” which Lim choreographed, directed and produced, the dancers explored the movement found in the pedestrian and illustrated several storylines as travelers in the subway.

The inspiration for the central concept came to Lim when he watched an Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performance of “The Groove” to Ray Charles’s “No­body’s Business,” with Camille A. Brown as choreographer. In Alvin Ailey’s piece, Brown also portrays an assortment of everyday people waiting for a subway and demon­strating how common actions have a lyrical quality to them.

Reacting to that performance in his Director’s Note, Lim said, “I real­ly wanted to use typical interactions and movements seen in the subway and to turn them into a dance piece after seeing Brown’s work.”

Once he selected the subway as the scene of the production, Lim turned events that he heard about happening on the subway into choreog­raphy, such as two pedestrians encountering a pickpocket, danced to Wiz Khalifa’s “Starstruck.”

For the main storyline of the piece, Lim drew from David Sedaris’s short story “He­jira,” (with its title meaning a flight, especially from danger) which follows a young man thrown out by his parents for his homosexual­ity – although he initially believes it to be for his unemployment – as he struggles to come to terms with himself, his parents’ treatment of him, and his place in the world. In Lim’s “Subway Affair,” all of the plots revolve around a recently homeless boy, Evan, performed by Lim, who experienced the same rejection by his parents, except his family cast him out be­cause of his bisexuality. As Evan attempts to come to terms with his sexuality and cope with his loneliness, he tries to escape by hooking up with fellow subway passengers.

As Lim describes, “Evan’s turmoil with his sexuality and homelessness are the major conflicts in the play that drive Evan to his demise.”

Separated into three parts – Subway Station, Subway Car and Memories – Lim and his cast depicted Evan’s journey underground as he wit­nessed and participated in several events. While the audience filed into Brehmer Theater April 18 and 19, the dancers crossed the stage as strangers in a subway station to the murmuring sounds of the underground.

The pieces, which were set ones to music by Roisin Murphy, Apparat and Evanescence, were broken up by voice-overs of subway an­nouncers declaring the next stop or offer­ing the reminder to stay clear of the doors; these voice-overs created the sense of being in the subway and conveyed how Evan was continuing on his journey. Evan’s struggle with his sexuality appears in his encounters with several young women and a young man whom he never approaches. Lim’s choreogra­phy transformed scenes that seem so ordinary when we watch them unfold in reality into expressive dances. By the end, Evan enters his own memory, seeing people from his past and their criticisms, which torment him. Lim’s solo to Vitamin String Quartet’s version of “Iris” seemed to best portray his character’s crisis with his own identity and the world’s acceptance of that person.

Lim thanked his cast, crew and the theater department for providing him with the op­portunity to create a dance production for his senior project. The crowded audience seemed grateful to the theater department for allow­ing such a performance to occur, as well, and they left the theater with an understanding of the fluidity and grace that can be inspired by the ordinary, and of the battles that coming of age and defining one’s identity entail.