A BRIGHT HAND IN DARKNESS
ELIZA SWANN / THE BRIDE OF FIRE DANCE TROUPE
“A Bright Hand in Darkness” is an improvisational dance piece with an open ended duration. The narrative structure of the work is derived from Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness—a 1969 science fiction novel that is considered to be one of the first major feminist works in the genre. The text is fraught with problems, none of which are resolved. What is gender? What defines our sexuality? What is love? What is war? Le Guin herself described her inquiries as “messy, dubious, and uncertain” in her most recent introduction to the book. This uncertainty is the pivotal point of focus for both the performance choreography and cinematography, which is based entirely on chapter sixteen of “The Left Hand of Darkness.” This chapter sees the two main characters (Estraven and Gently) grow closer as they are trapped in a blizzard together. Here, Estraven quotes a Winterish poem that reveals the nature of the title: “Light is the left hand of darkness and darkness the left hand of light. Two are one, life and death, lying together like lovers, like hands joined together, like the end and the way.” Using this as a jumping off point, “A Bright Hand in Darkness” explores Le Guin’s unique portrayal of gender and sexuality. The piece was first performed in the Black Rock Forest for an audience of five.