When I first heard the title of Joy Madden's new dance-theater piece, The Giant in the Washing Machine, I thought, I know that guy! He's responsible for the terrifying thump-and-rattle that thunders from my laundry room when the washer starts to walk itself across the room.
Madden's giant, of course, is a metaphor for those rare moments when the mundane world of adulthood (e.g., doing laundry) collides with the enchanted world of childhood (laundry monsters!).
The 40-year-old choreographer has two kids, ages 4 and 7. "I’ve been really fascinated by the idea of being a mother and witnessing the experience of being a child," she says.
And, as any dancer might do, she's funneled that fascination into her creative work. Motherhood, childhood and the ways in which they overlap are the focus of the evening-length piece Madden will perform this weekend at Burlington Dances.
“One person may be consumed with the estimate on a car repair while another wonders what a fairy will leave under her pillow in exchange for her tooth," Madden writes about the very different ways in which members of the same family see the world. "We forget. But if we focus our attention, if we let ourselves, we can go back to the perspective of childhood. It has its own language, its own movement, its own vibe.”
Madden has been developing TGITWM since she moved to Vermont in 2007. Before that, she managed the Moving Laboratory, an award-winning choreographers’ collective she cofounded in Boston. (Seven Days profiled her last year in a cover story on Vermont's growing dance scene.)
For the past three months, Madden has been artist-in-residence at Burlington Dances, teaching workshops and using the space for rehearsals. Local dancers Kelsey Wilson and Sarah Austin will also appear in the show this weekend, performing movement material they developed from their own childhood memories.
"I didn’t want this to be precious, and I didn’t want it just to be about my children’s lives," says Madden. "We were all children once, that's the thing we all have in common."
Madden's chidren, however, do make an appearence — not in the flesh, but in the form of a voiceover narration. Curious about what her children talked about when she wasn't in the room, Madden occasionally set up a video camera to record them. Their surprisingly funny — and even sarcastic — comments augment the spoken text Madden wrote herself.
Childhood is full of enchantment, for sure, she says. But there's more to parenthood, too, than doing the laundry.
"If you’re really paying attention to every detail of having children," says Madden, "there’s a lot of magic in it."
The Giant in the Washing Machine, performed by Joy Madden, Kelsey Wilson and Sarah Austin at Burlington Dances at the Chace Mill. Saturday, January 28, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, January 29, at 4 p.m. Choose your ticket price, $10-110. Info, 863-3369. burlingtondances.com
Photos courtesy of Karen Pike