After his daughters would leave for school, Zoe Scofield's father would make himself a cup of coffee. He'd sit at his kitchen table with the cup in front of him, eager for their return, and when it seemed like hours had passed and that they should be on their way home, he'd reach out and graze the mug. If it was still hot, he'd know that he was wrong.
When Scofield, the co-founder of Seattle's zoe | juniper company, was six years old, her father was in a car accident. As a result, he suffered from brain damage and lost his grasp of time. One moment he would know who his daughters were. The next, he'd have a conversation with his eighth grade math teacher, then one with his grandparents. "He had no physical sensation of time," Scofield explains, though after years of therapy and rehab, he's much better, and he's very open about what he went through. "He knew that time existed, because he knew that he used to know what time was, and he knew that everybody else was in time, but he wasn't." When the choreographer and dancer was working on A Crack in Everything, the performance-cum-multimedia presentation (and sometimes gallery installation) Scofield created with husband, creative partner, and visual and video artist Juniper Shuey, she saw that her father's accident — and his inability to stay in current time or to even understand what it was — as a driving force for the piece.
That specific example won't play out in the show, but its essence and its examination are there. A Crack in Everything is about all the times you're stuck between "when the gun is fired and the bullet hits the target," Scofield says. The Greek saga Oresteia — the plot of which is too complicated to try to explain here without eating up precious words, but fate and murder are involved — served as a diving platform. From there, Scofield and Shuey started to look at the cyclical nature of justice and revenge, of action and reaction, and how it all becomes a loop. It is an attempt to create a web of events that are related to each other and that affect each other while looking at time and the idea of liminality.
"I think that everybody has moments in their life, either large or small, that really cleave their life into a before and after in a sense, and we kind of examine our life in the light of or in relationship to this action or this thing, this event that happened," Scofield explains. "Most of us can get stuck in that place and keep going back to that event and looking at it again and again and again."
But the show has a narrative riff more than an explicit one, and Crack doesn't reflect the actual plot of the Oresteia in any sort of true way. While there's a bit of a Greek chorus in the zoe | juniper performance, it's the cause-and-effect nature of that story that inspires it more than anything. "This is more of a constellation of beginning, middle, end," Scofield says. "It's almost as if they're there and they become fragmented and deconstructed and rearranged."
The themes are played out by the dancers, shimmering in gold, as they interact with each other, with video art (created by Shuey) behind them, and with a tangle of red strings. Not only does the show develop each time it's performed, but the dancers' relationship to the piece develops as well. "To me, what I like, and what I hope to create, is the ability to allow it to be itself and to allow it to have its own living, breathing body and life and span and then to be sort of participants inside of it," Scofield says. She admits that that sounds lofty — they still do the choreography and any planned improvisation as it's set to be done, but there's still the ability for each show to have a different nuance to it, and the cast will respond to unforeseen circumstances instead of ignoring or glossing over them. "To me, I enjoy that because I think it allows there to be a depth to it where it's not everybody coming from the same place and all on the same page and trying to manifest and manufacture the same idea and the same feeling."
The personal and professional relationship between her and her husband is a frequent talking point with the press. The couple met as ordinary people, not as artists, and collaboration was never the goal of their association; Scofield had even stopped dancing for about four years before she met Juniper. One day he asked her why she wasn't doing it anymore. "One of the things I really treasure and love about him and our relationship is that he really saw that part of me and was like, this is who you are. You need to do that and let me help you."
They were married in the process of collaborating on a commissioned piece in 2005. Scofield explains that while marriage was a natural progression of that connection, forming the company was a natural progression of their artistic trajectory and their desire to work together. There is a spillover into their home life, but often in a positive way. "With other people who we collaborate with, you have set meeting times and then when you're not meeting, it's done. You're not talking about anything anymore," she says. "But since we live together, we can always be talking about it and it's always present in our lives. And at the same time, there's just sort of automatic understanding of each other that goes past so much time that you would have to spend with another person who you didn't know that well ... it's almost like you start 10 years in as opposed to not."
Both the dance and the visual and spatial aspects of the show, and of zoe | juniper's other projects, are born out of the same curiosity, and they're germinating and feeding each other concurrently. The couple teases out their ideas and how to fit them into what the piece is spatiality and visually. "This is silly, but I almost have an image of a baby," Scofield says. "The lungs are being formed at the same time as the neck and the head, but you wouldn't see the lungs until later on, but they're still growing, even though they're not being used yet. It's all developing at the same time.
"That's sort of a ridiculous analogy," she laughs.
In previous manifestations, A Crack in Everything has accompanied a full gallery installation, where Scofield and Shuey could play with the ideas of non-linear time, as well as spacial proximity. The situation allowed the audience to be more inside the videos and visuals. So naturally, a stage show changes Crack's relationship with its viewer; the experience is different when you watch it from a seat at a certain distance and a set perspective in a theater.
"In the performance, you can't contain everything at once, but the attempt is what we were going for," Scofield says.