At first glance, Jaime Murphy and Renee Smith couldn’t be much more different. Jaime has dark, curly hair framing her big eyes, and an edgy look, while Rene is a strawberry blonde, all arms and legs and angles.
As you might suspect, Jaime likes to play with dance, while Renee feeds on technique and line.
But there’s more than meets the eye (and ear) as the rising choreographic duo prepares for their first formal performance at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, See What I Hear.
The Point Park University graduates noticed each other in the dance program there, but didn’t really communicate until well into their college careers. Jaime, younger by a year, admitted to being intimidated by upperclassman Shannon at first.
But one day in a modern dance class, Renee, then a senior, walked over and admired a new tattoo that Jaime, a junior, had acquired.
That broke the ice.
The friendship didn’t heat up until after graduation when Jaime was choreographing Gravity + Grace and hired Shannon. They bonded over the project and now consider themselves to be best friends.
That bond led to collaborative projects and Murphy/Smith Dance Collective. At first they stuck to their individuality, creating independent phrases to be performed at the same time.
Now they’re getting to be two sides of the same artistic coin.
They always shared a home state, Ohio, and a similar sense of humor. Now they have discovered a state of constant compromise.
“It involves a lot of trust,” explains Renee. “But it’s starting to feel very comfortable. Now I’m not as much of a control freak.” Jaime adds, “We kept the integrity of how we work, but we’re able to adapt things together.”
See What I Hear began as a 25-minute work-in-progress called Sound Project at The Alloy Studios this summer. Using some of the kernels of creativity formed there, the piece will arrive at about an hour’s length in its transfer to the KST stage this weekend for two performances.
With original music, mostly textured percussion by Gordon Nunn and his revamped sound sculpture, eight dancers will deal not only with sound, but communication.
Organized loosely around six parts, it will begin with a segment based on memories, specific to each of the dancers. Jaime calls it “really special.” But they both particularly love the ending, where any miscommunication encountered in subsequent movement is resolved.
Says Renee, “It feels really right every time we go through that section.”