In the Performing Arts Center Concert Hall, the lights above the stage dimmed to illuminate a single white chair and the “Ford Hill” nine-foot Steinway concert grand piano sitting silently in the center.
Behind the piano sits Victoria Ebel-Sabo, composer and pianist for the night’s show, the music and dance collaboration “The Stream of Life.” With the stage now suddenly bright, she is joined by her 20-year-old niece, Claire Davison, who is a performer from the American Ballet Theatre in New York City.
The audience sits in silence as Claire crawls along the corner of the stage, slowly lifting herself up to experience her first steps. Claire’s 24-year-old brother, Alex Davison, also acts as the choreographer and director for the piece. He explained prior to the performance that the story is broken into two parts: childhood and adulthood.
Her performance is set to follow the ebb and flow of life. Ebel-Sabo took her inspiration for the play from a poem written by Rabindranath Tagore.
The taps and stomps of Claire’s feet fuse with the piano’s music and reflect her anguish as she sits on her only prop: a white chair. The audience appears still as Claire experiences the mystery, adventure and boredom of childhood.
“I’m very impressed with the dancer, but I’m also impressed with the musician using all of her effects on the piano,” audience member Stella Hall said. “I think it’s an amazing family affair.”
Audience members use the play program to follow Claire’s depiction of evil, loss of innocence and courage to grow. Brief silences fill only with a quiet creak as she leaps on the stage’s wooden floors. The lights turn off as Claire lies on the ground, confronted with evil and the awareness of darkness.
The darkness is eventually broken by a beam of light above Claire. Shortly after, the audience looks on as her aunt rises from the piano, offering Claire a hand and leading her back to the white chair.
Ebel-Sabo said she had wanted to write a piece for Claire since she saw her dance as a child.
The siblings grew up at Boulder Ballet School, which was run and directed by their parents and acted as a sort of second home, Alex said.
Claire jokes that their parent’s role in the ballet doomed them to enter performing arts. Laughing at her response, her brother sees it in a slightly different perspective.
“I don’t think we were necessarily destined to be in that world. I know I did a lot of other things beforehand,” Alex said. “I think it’s partly that they influenced our decision because they loved doing what they were doing, and we spent so much time with them and around them.”
Unlike her niece and nephew, Ebel-Sabo was limited to the arts growing up and had to travel 85 miles from her cattle ranch in Colorado just to attend piano practice.
She currently acts as the artistic director of Bellingham House Concerts and was named “Composer of the Year, 2009” by the Washington State Music Teachers Association. Ebel-Sabo said she hopes to keep composing and looks forward to more collaborations.
Prior to the performance, the three expressed curiosity toward how the audience would ultimately react. The best outcome is simply that the audience feel something, Claire said.
“Anything — a feeling, a memory, laughter, a tear,” she said. “Whether they love it or hate it, just that they experience something or anything.”
“Anything — a feeling, a memory, laughter, a tear. Whether they love it or hate it, just that they experience something or anything.”
– Claire Davison
Audience member Marty Cunningham said she couldn’t believe all the personalities Claire was able to portray. At the end of the performance, Cunningham turned to her friend, expressing how impressed she was that the performers had managed to portray a lifetime in an hour and a half.
All three find that the performing arts have played an important role in their life and how they are able to express themselves.
“It has given my life layers of richness that I didn’t even believe were possible because now, I’ll tell you, I’m 58, and I’ve found the depths of meaning that are possible,” Ebel-Sabo said. “To me it is limitless, and it has given me a place to go in life.”
Alex said the arts all come down to one thing that the audience and performers are able to share.
“The arts are all about joy. It can give people joy either because they relate in some way or connect with it in some way,” Alex said. “That feeling of connection is very powerful, enjoyable, and can be very hard to come by.”
Both of the siblings look to their future in a similar way.
“I hope to keep finding myself as an artist. To keep experiencing and creating — that’s my goal,” Claire said.
“Yeah, I second that,” Alex added, laughing.
Before the conclusion of her performance, Claire blew out nine candles that sat on the small tables at the front of the stage. Walking to the piano from which Ebel-Sabo sits, she takes the candle resting on it and extinguishes the last flame. Ebel-Sabo placed her hands on Claire’s shoulders.
As the final hums from the piano reached the audience and the lights on the stage once again dimmed, Claire picked up the white chair and exited the stage. The crowd paused for a moment as the stage sat in darkness for the last time. The three reappeared on the stage shortly, joined hands and bowed to a standing ovation.