Grief encounter – How to dance your way out of matrimonial distress
The Observer, 19 February 2006
Two years ago, the choreographer Charlotte Vincent was riding high. Her Sheffield-based company, Vincent Dance Theatre, was well positioned at the bruisingly experimental end of the spectrum (her best-known production, Drop Dead Gorgeous, was performed on a ton and a half of broken slates and was described by the Guardian as ‘painful to watch and agonising to perform’), and everything promised well for her upcoming show, Punch Drunk. What’s more, in a ceremony which she describes as ‘a good performance all round’, she had just married the man who designed the company’s sets. VDT had been together for eight years, driven largely by Vincent’s own grit and determination, and finally it looked as if everything was coming right. Deep down, though, Vincent sensed trouble. She didn’t know what was amiss, exactly, but she began to put together a new dance-piece. Its working title was Broken Chords.
Quite suddenly, everything fell apart. ‘My husband was having an affair with the woman who made our wedding cake,’ says 37-year-old Vincent. ‘They’d fallen in love.’ Divorce followed swiftly. Vincent got through the Punch Drunk tour, but doesn’t remember how. ‘Being left, by someone I loved very much… He’d been my colleague, my friend and my husband. Every aspect of my life was broken.’
Her years on the road, however, had lent Vincent a certain resilience. ‘I mourned my marriage like a death, and then I decided to take my power back.’ She returned to Broken Chords and unburdened herself to her dancers, telling them how bereft she felt. ‘All of their stories followed, there was a lot of crying, and I knew that what I had to do was to strip away the layers and distil the ideas into movement. To draw out the physical expression of what people were trying to say.’ The end result includes spoken text, a list of apologies, eight dancers, two musicians, and 150 chairs. The action takes place beneath a huge chandelier. Like all of Vincent’s work, Broken Chords is bristling with challenge, but hindsight and the choreographic process have allowed entry to a broad streak of humour, too. ‘I’m back in my body now,’ says Vincent, who performs in the piece at The Place from 7-11 March. ‘And yes, there is someone else in my life; I’m having a little dalliance. But I’m taking it slowly.’