Courtesy of James Han

The multidisciplinary performance “Water on the Electric Stove” combines movement, prosthesis, sound and light. 

“Water on the Electric Stove” — directed by Chiara Hardy ’24 and performed by 2-time Olympic rhythmic gymnast Laura Zeng ’25 — will be performed in the Schwarzman Dome on Dec. 8 and 9. Zeng and Hardy developed the idea for this performance, combining Zeng’s background in rhythmic gymnastics and Hardy’s practice in sculpture and theater, in the span of two and a half months.

“I spent 16 years as a competitive rhythmic gymnast and retired earlier this year. The show was thus going to be a metaphor for the highs and lows of my career, and the process of rediscovering who I am when I’ve only known myself as one thing for so long,” Zeng told the News. “But as we developed our ideas, we became more interested in the concept of metamorphosis writ large — in the stories of a shadow, in the form of a sculpture, etc. The performance is still an abstraction of rhythmic gymnastics, pairing movement with equipment, but it tells a less specific narrative. Now, it’s more open to interpretation.”

Zeng is a former staff reporter for the News. 

Hardy and Zeng first met through a mutual friend and soon realized that they shared an artistic vision for a performance involving dance, movement and fabric. Zeng had previously been awarded a Creative and Performing Arts Awards to do a different performance in the Dome that was postponed until the spring, so the two decided to collaborate on creating this new performance that would debut in the fall semester.

The show will be Hardy’s directorial debut. Hardy’s background is primarily in sculpture, specifically creating works that manipulate space to create an understanding of the body. She has also participated in set design in five shows, including the Yale Dramatic Association’s 2022 fall mainstage “The Government Inspector,” and has experience with dance as a child, which allowed her to bond with Zeng over artistic movement.

“It’s been such an engaging experience of imagining all the different elements that bring together a world,” Hardy wrote. “Putting together this show has been like carving a sculpture where you have a vague idea of what it should look like, and slowly as the different elements are teased out, the shape reveals itself. Collaboration has been central to this work and opened up such an exciting space of creation for me, arriving at a result that I never could have reached by myself.”

Hardy not only created the narrative arc for the performance, but also made the costumes, collaborated on the score and the choreography and will be directing the lighting.

Inspiration for the show was drawn from Loie Fuller, an American Dancer who created the “Serpentine Dance.” Fuller’s performances were enhanced through colored lighting interventions, which inspired some of the lighting aesthetics for the show. In addition, one of the dances performed by Zeng in the show was inspired by Martha Graham’s “Lamentation,” in which the use of fabric in costume changed the way through which the body is expressed.

“The body gives the fabric its own life, and in turn the fabric describes forms of movement in extension of the body,” Hardy writes. “The ribbon Laura uses describes motion over time, reacting as it moves from the origin of her wrist. She paints shapes with the ribbon, creating an ephemeral form that exists only in constant motion.”

The performance also includes an original score by Luca Scopetta-Stern ’23. Chords played on a keyboard, the sound of water boiling on an electric stove and the sound of garlic on a frying pan are some of the sounds woven together to create the emotion in the score and drive the narrative arc of the performance forward.

Hardy and Zeng worked together to create a general choreographic structure for the performance, but most of the movement of the show will be improvised during the performance. Zeng said she was excited to use her skills first learned as an elite athlete for artistic performances such as this one.

“When I competed, the stakes felt outside myself,” Zeng wrote. “But this performance is an experiment in self-expression, and trying to view each audience member as a witness and not a judge. I would love to do more collaborations in the future — whether that’s a music video or a short film or a performance or something else unique.”

Zeng continued to explain how the arts culture and community is one of the main reasons she was drawn to attending Yale in the first place; she is excited to begin life as an artist after being a professional athlete for so long.

Jess Graham GRD ’27 is excited to attend this Thursday’s performance and applauds the exploration of student artistic endeavors outside of strictly schoolwork.

“I think it’s great that Yale provides support and resources for students to explore their passions, especially in creative outlets outside of academics,” Graham said. “I’m excited to check out this show and any future student performances!”

The show has a runtime of 22 minutes and will have four performances- Dec. 8 at 8:00 and 9:30 p.m. and Dec. 9 at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are free and can be reserved on Yale Connect.

JESSICA KASAMOTO