Wakeful They Lie (2009)

"Where shall we be, (She whispers) where shall we be, When death strikes home, O where then shall we be?
Who were you and I?"
~ Robert Graves
Choreography & Direction:
Sarah Hixon
Music:  Wakeful They Lie, J. Reed
Costumes:  Jessica DiBattista

“Wakeful They Lie” explores how one psychologically copes with one’s own impending death, particularly by execution or advanced illness. How does one live their last hours knowing they are the last? It is a query that I have often considered, especially with regard to the death of my own sister from leukemia. The answer is impossibly subjective, and I wanted to portray the emotional struggle through relationship. The depiction of two people experiencing the same crisis provides not only two unique outlooks, but also the human capacity to empathize with others.


After crafting movement phrases, I used drama exercises to help the dancers achieve an emotional connection. Sitting across from one another very close they alternately recited, as though in conversation, any text they chose from “Counting the Beats”—a sparse poem by Robert Graves about the relationship of two lovers and their imminent loss. The physical distance between the dancers was gradually increased as they spoke, allowing them to maintain their connection despite being separated. Eventually they moved without speaking, but in the same responsive way. Finally, the dancers were given the freedom to improvise or alter the original material as emotion dictated, making each performance unique.


The dance is intensely intimate, exploring various stages of grief. The dancers alternately find solace in each other and then descend into inertia. The work continually depicts images of sleep, a metaphor for death. I commissioned a score of Jacob Reed, who uses Graves’ text to exquisite effect. The distinctive heartbeats drive the music forward, leading the dancers towards their quiet end.