Embracing Screendance Club's radically casual spirit with an homage to tedium: 'Venus at Home'

Meghan Frederick documents her life as a dancer and mother in Venus at Home as a part of SeeChicagoDance’s radically casual Screendance Club
September 28, 2021 | By Laura Paige Kyber

A trash bag sits by the back door. Dishes are stacked in the drying rack. A dog bowl sits half full on the floor. There is stillness and quiet. In a sharp cut, a nude woman appears standing with her back to the camera. Her hands hold her face, shoulders rounded, she stares out the window. This is the opening scene to Meghan Frederick’s dance film “Venus at Home,” a deeply personal meditation on life at home during the pandemic with her two-year-old daughter.

Throughout the 25--minute film, the camera cuts between the kitchen, living room and bedroom of Frederick’s home. She gets something from the refrigerator. She fills the kettle. A dog lies down behind a chair. Frederick chews an apple, then a banana. She lets them slowly fall out of her mouth. Interspersing these quotidian domestic views, Frederick performs long, yawning poses, stretching her exposed limbs to show the sensuous lines of her athletic postpartum body.

Mostly in silence, except for the sounds of her breath and movements around the house, the flow is disrupted by the fuzzy garage band song “I think I’m losing my mind” by The Soaks, in which the titular chorus is repeated over and over. During this section, we are introduced to Frederick’s daughter, who joyously and adorably dances across the couch and around the living room. She’s a curly blonde-haired cherub with chubby baby legs that clings to Frederick’s body, nursing from her bosom and climbing all over the room.

The song ends, and it’s back to silence and the lonely image we began with of Frederick in her kitchen. Footage of various outdoor vistas—water trickling over river rocks or wind blowing through tree limbs—start to come into the frame and are abstractly layered over Frederick’s domestic interior. Close-ups of Fredericks’s body create a different kind of landscape, and the images seem to blur into each other, bringing forth a visual metaphor about what it is to be, create and share a home for ourselves and those around us.

Throughout the film, Frederick shows us how simultaneously alien and gorgeous it feels to experience the physical transformation of motherhood. At once a lean, muscular dancer and soft, nursing mother, Frederick embraces her new, more private identity while simultaneously questioning whether a social, unburdened role as an artist is still possible.

I think it was important to share Frederick’s work as a part of See Chicago Dance’s Screendance Club, as a counterpoint to works that focus on issues with seemingly more apparent urgency. There are glaringly urgent issues in our world that certainly deserve our attention; this film was about boredom, the mundane and the eons-long, largely invisible work of women and mothers that becomes increasingly so under late capitalism. The urgency of this work is in making it visible and shareable, and in being present with the boredom. I’m thankful for Frederick’s vulnerable performance and invitation into her private world at home.