There is a sweep to life that only becomes apparent as the years collect. Then the growing perspective divulges the meaning and importance of it all. So it would take someone like Beth Corning, who has often gone to the well of life in her 30-plus years of choreography, to field a one-women show.
She called it "Remains," a taut Glue Factory Project production that embraced the accumulating echoes of a life well-lived and observed, which she created in collaboration with Tony Award-winning director Dominique Serrand of Minneapolis.
Together they pieced together a series of vignettes for the premiere Wednesday night. Projected titles or quotes ran across the exposed brick wall of the New Hazlett Theater on the North Side to identify the moments that were chosen, beginning with "My Father."
Ms. Corning emerged from the shadows of her memory with a pair of men's shoes. The sound of footsteps led her in different directions, like a grown-up Alice searching for a Wonderland adventure in her own memory.
She reached for an imaginary door knob, then pulled back and looked over her shoulder. It was ghostly, as if peering through a mist.
When Ms. Corning peeled off her coat to reveal a dark jumper (yes, there were layers here, too), she set up a dinner table and covered it with a crisp white cloth. It was the family table, something she has alluded to before. But she charmingly became each parent and aunt and herself as a youngster.
Details abounded throughout the evening. There was footage of a birthday party, with hats. Then she morphed into a stooped old woman, hands clasped behind her back. She grabbed a coat (whose it was we didn't know), draped a sleeve over her shoulder and molded it into a hug.
Cardboard boxes were scattered about -- "packing, unpacking, repacking, arranging, rearranging" -- both to store and reveal. By the end, though she was setting the table for her audience as if inviting them into the next phase of her life.
There was no doubt that Ms. Corning cherished the process here with Mr. Serrand. Normally a highly intense performer, she was in love with this material, put together like a cherished, three-dimensional family album. It was as if she was carefully (occasionally too much so) turning the pages of memories she protected and prized, a luminous gift that she had given herself.
For example, there was a meditative wine section, where we can relax with a good glass of wine, sharing it with a lover, family, friends. Ms. Corning poured wine into two glasses, then slowly and deliberately moved them around with her feet, in a rather lengthy way depicting the relationships that come and go.
But overall "Remains" will stay with the audience in its own way, creating its own patina over time by virtue of the vivid images created by Ms. Corning and Mr. Serrand. It will also serve as a platform to reflect on our own lives and, yes, to relish our own remains.