Friday, October 24, 2008


why do we watch what we watch? obligation?
i'm on the jury for the dora awards, dance division this year, so yes, for me it is partially obligation, but a responsibility i take very seriously and do with joy. the shows i get to see this year! good, bad, ugly. astounding, shocking, moving. i say bring it on. bring it all on.

but i see work, i go to the theatre to follow my curiosity similar to the curiosity i feel in the studio. i don't know how everyone else feels, but i know my curiosity is run by my gut and is generally pretty smart. (Don't know about the rest of me, but my curiosity has got it going on.)

so what do you do when you go to theatre and your own curiosity extends beyond what you're witnessing and you feel cheated. why do people stop with a concept and not delve in deeper? do concepts stop when fear and/or arrogance rule?

concepts in art-making -- i could go on about this forever. for me concept is not the same as idea, theme, inspiration. in this context it is a superficial treatment of an idea, theme or inspiration. once you plunge the concept into the waters of your imagination and curiosity you reach something artful.

back to Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's show with Toneelhuis -- MYTH -- a concept that could have lay on the skin. but it did not, it sank down, sank in, like a tattoo, a rash, a perfume. fascinating. is it purely that european companies have better societal, cultural and financial support? or is there something different about the approach conceptualizing a work (different from the noun concept -- verbs are always so much better!)?

so many questions, will someone come my way with answers?
some days i am tired of living here in toronto, feeling the pulse of the dominant aesthetic in dance here, feeling my own blood moving at a different rate.

i do not want to be a complainer. i just want to be confident about my pulse of my own blood....

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Abecedarian -- the dance by Lucy and the poem by Sarah Slean

After performing my work "The Abecedarian" this weekend, some audience members asked about reading Sarah Slean's poem which was written for me to use as inspiration for choreography. Sarah is a most generous and amazing artist, on many levels and I hope you can take the time to read this beautiful poem below. It is also published in her most recent book of poetry. See for details....

ABECEDARIAN - by Sarah Slean
A - amelia earheart yearning to fly. awe flowers open in her dreaming eye. like the long and constant exhale of the sky while the monk at his table, is writing.

B - what you reach for is already there, in your hand, you may think we are birds condemned to the land, but somewhere eternal, beyond feeble sight. the gravity creature is always in flight.

C - consecutive clock has an itch it must scratch, it will tick and will tock and will cower and crack, but "circle", the word, contains all that C knows, the hard kick of time and the soft way it flows.

D - parting the years like a volatile sea... "Now" opens time like a dictionary from young to old and from A to Z you are always right there in the middle

E - ecstatic, the embers fly up to the trees, exhaling their lives with elegant ease the campfire instructs us to rise from our knees but who, of the gathered, is listening.

F - follow me follow me follow me follow me today is the fountain from which you must feed forget that you fell from that Genesis tree the fruits and the flowers are not fantasy

G - "God" is the guess that they want you to make but grace, when it's granted, won't let you partake go further instead, to the uncharted lake, where you know golden swans are a-swimming.

H - the earth softly utters a holier word in the hollow where bickering gods can be heard "heaven is coming", "it's already occurred!" they shout in the faces of unnoticed angels

I - this, the illusion we ironically see, that I am not you, and you are not me like ivy its climbing and choking the tree that, despite a great crown, grew from one common seed

J - jewels of sweat on the Jesuit brow, mecca vibrates under thundering bows and the monk, at his table, cannot fathom how there is only a mouse in the temple of Now

K - yet who can contest its most curious might? this killer of kings, this glorious knight who quiets the enemy, not with a fight, but almost as if letting go of a kite?

L - in longing to know, we must love the unknown with Kierkegaard, trembling, and aching for home we leap and discover the light in a stone is the very same light in the heart of a master

M - "master?, what master?", the suicides ask "How am I a slave if I know not my task? How can I love God when I know it's a mask that my own starving mind has created."

N - Napoleon squirms in his watery grave and Nietzsche's convinced that there's nothing to save. he spat on the flowers the poetess gave as she murmured the sonnets of Rilke.

O - Overmen shatter, but archers will go, even though hard the seasons of suffering blow watch how he opens, caresses his bow in the midst of uproarious battle.

P - piercing all shadows with blistering light the arrows flies high through the perilous night love, sent in earnest, will always make right the erroneous aim of its sender.

Q - then what must we make of the stumbling queen who gropes in the firelight for answers unseen? she poisons herself to dismantle the scene that plays and replays in her memory.

R - ravens assemble all over her chair and peck at the riches of rags in her hair tangled in puppetry, courting despair, her play will crescendo to ruin

S - that's when Seymour appears, his lost sister to claim, like the monk at his table, he tells her, "don't aim, how can you see, when you're drowning in shame, the You that is ancient and without a name?"

T - "Tomorrow torments you and time is the terror, a watch is the gift that will torture the bearer. to live is no art - art is for the pretender to live, my dear queen, is an act of surrender."

U - "Undo the divisions a hungry heart makes remember the swans in the uncharted lakes theirs is a silence that slowly unties the veil that for so long has covered your eyes"

V - a veil, she imagined, a veil of lace with patterns the mind wants to frantically chase a veil that, though lovely, obscures the true face of a queen who is yearning to see.

W - who will record the inquiry herein? all of these questions have answers built in Wonder is all, and forever has been the jewel in our cognitive crown

X - sometimes there is simply no need to explain the sexier side of existence is plain delicious it is to know pleasure and pain to court them, but never to marry.

Y - you are the puzzle, you, the perfection you, the miraculous, living reflection of everything vast and beyond feeble sight you are the gravity creature, alight!

Z - like sandbags from magical hot air balloons, we cut at the rope of our fictions and soon, there's a You that is ancient and without a name and zenith and zero are one and the same.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Continuing advocacy for arts and culture after the election

I was at the Mayor's Arts Awards Luncheon yesterday and Mayor David Miller, without being partisan, managed to say what a crappy thing cutting arts and culture funding is, and spoke about how proud he was to stand among other mayors across the country to oppose the culture cuts. There's something to be learned from him.

And then there's Jim Fleck who gives millions to the arts but is a staunch supporter of the conservative party, who has recently cut arts and culture funding at an alarming proportion and probably will try to cut more now that Stephen Harper has been reelected.

We shouldn't be afraid to stand up for what we believe in, regardless of our place in the political spectrum, or in the cultural landscape. As Jean Chretien said to the US when they were looking for support to invade Iraq, sometimes being a good friend means telling your friends when you think they are wrong. And the beauty of democracy is that politically you can do this!

As artists, arts and culture workers or organizations we should be advocating for culture. It used to be we had to advocate for funding increases proportionate to other sectors and to the costs and standards of living increase, but now we have to advocate just to stay at the same level as always. This should be frightening to us, regardless of what party we believe in on other issues, and regardless of what party is threatening our livelihood. And we shouldn't just be advocating for increases in funding. We should be highlighting how vital culture is to any society. There is no society without it. Culture is not something "normal people" can't relate to; "normal people" are making culture all the time. Culture is how we interpret landscape, skylines, fashion; how we organize our gardens, our time. Dance is how fast we walk to work with our iPods. Music is the rhythm of the squirrels dodging cars on residential streets....Culture is simply how we perceive and make sense of the world we inhabit.

Our mayor here in Toronto, for his faults on other counts I'm sure, understands how culture is woven into the social, economic and political fabric of a community, not as a fringe benefit of living in a rich country --because arts and culture thrive in places where people have very little -- but as an inextricable part of human interaction, arts and culture as form to the voices we possess collectively and individually. If we don't have that chance to put our voices into form, we reduce our language to metaphoric grunts and snorts.

Come on, man, we're better than that.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

This is just the beginning.....

....of my writing about Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's MYTH, which I just saw at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. I made the pilgrimmage alone on a wing and a prayer. I've been reading about his work for years and this is the first chance I've encountered to see his work. It could be disastrous. All this idealizing and I could have totally bottomed out with a stinker -- but this is no stinker. In fact that word shouldn't come close to descriptions of this show. Although a few people left about half an hour into it....

...What a thing they missed.

"Real people" and their shadows trapped in a library. Walls have slippery doors that the shadows slide, twist and tease their way through. Their movements have no bones. Like shadows they have clear edges but physics don't seem to apply to them. The "real people" search through their personal myths and stories to make sense of the swirling beasts around them, they are possessed, they reason, they cry, they sing.

Singing and music-making descends from the rafters where 8 musicians are perched. A six-foot man in drag tap dances with a team of shadows. Two women fight inside one giant white hoop skirt. A shadow rebels from its owner tearing at her as she tears at him. A baby cries for his maman as he contorts in softly flops across the floor. His maman looks for her maman among her library-fellows, ignoring the baby she has just delivered.

What truly broke my heart was a quote from Henry Miller that was projected across the top of the set for "chapitre 3":

"All growth is a leap in the dark."

Anyone who knows me well, knows I am obsessed with Miller's work, philosophy, life. What followed the projection of this quote was somehow a summation of my hopes and fears of life.

I could only go along for this amazing ride. I can't say I understood all the action, but I did not feel I needed to. I felt the logic of the director/choreographer, though I could not palpate it. I felt the struggle of the shadows and their people though their individual stories were obscured.

Shadows obscure the true colour and shape of things, but meanwhile reveal the shape of other things. Another projected quote was "The sun has never seen its shadow".

After MYTH, it feels like maybe the shadows have seen, and felt, everything.

To be continued....

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Nuit Blanche dancing at Casa Loma

In the stables of historic horses named Prince and The Widow...every hour 10 minutes of dancing, 10 minutes of preparing the body, 5 minutes getting out of the stable, 20 minutes of desperate active napping.

at 3am I felt distinctly that my body was asleep while my mind, by act of sheer telekinesis, was moving the body without the help of muscles or skeleton. Eyes open, feet smell -- they are not used to being in shoes for 16 hours straight. Audiences are shell shocked, rude, rapt, lovely. The floor is cold, hard, easy to spin on, stained by historic horse poop.

it was an incredible night of dancing. filling a ghost ridden building with fresh, respectful life. Guided by horses long gone and the Romantic fantasies that swirl around Casa Loma -- especially at 4am.

From what I can see the Nuit Blanche festivities were most inspired across the city. I only wish I could have seen the dancing mascots at Lamport Stadium.

some part of my body is still dancing, scraping a hoof, tossing a tiny, cellular mane. It may take days for the ghosts to leave me.