Tuesday, December 22, 2009

under glass: at an exhibition

Underglass
Black hallways are rooms in basements
Beneath the clothes and jewelry
Of old days
And jade dancers mocking window
A pigeon cannot see the darling crumb
His eyes lost to concrete dust
Prokofiev broke off the retina
Like a bow beneath remorse

Loaves of bread planed
By snapdragons, their mouths gape
Too soft now to bite at the news

Now alone in a room of dead
Birds, shoes, purses
Ghosts of giggling children blue with
No sound of oppressive observation
No watching this funeral please

Kitten mummified; the ribbons of immortality
Unwrap in spirals of time-edged
Long ago
The diamonds continue in an upward path
Whiskers still feeling the edges of time

The door warns you of this impending sense
The walls whispers in their
Flagrant subtle colour
The bowl gathers the words in a bind, a spell
To protect a foetus
From 1900 to 1960 they embalmed Egypt
In a forgotten camera the waters stir

Say hello to spring for me in the ink used to
Keep fresh the dead
And to letter the posters
As circus rings turn to fire
Arterial, chemical
Solvol removes the clots
(The Frigid Fluid co. of Chicago enters quietly
But slams the door behind and quickly
Paints it red. I have lost Pablo
To infinity in a bottle on a paper
Advert while an elephant chases
Its partners tail the blue cloud descends
Clashing with red
The world stains itself purple my nails are
Full of purple
My eyes are full of purple
My veins exhume and expire the purple.)

Under glass crystal purses, slippers, balls
Echoes from fragility cliffs
Magnified lucite grins, leather cracks and a smile
Metal grapes are welded to the rhinestone vines
But what could you hold in a see-through purse
 the embalmed foetus, the purple ring – the fire?
Shadows on ghost faces, my face in a glass lid
The nonexistent component I am not in a bell
Jar I am a shadow – my earrings
Mimic grapes and fairytale remnants
As though they know something – earrings animate, girl still.

I take off my shoes to feel the tingle in
Hardwood floors, dead objects speaking in
Vibration
Subway passing under – like dead worlds six feet below
I pushed the door lightly and it took over for me

Baby boots, pearls and glass buttons
A bra partly anticipating –
The nipple shield of sterling silver on guard
The aesthetic of inversion
The corset binding tighter tighter
Ti – ghter—ti—the diaphanous within is pinched
Swan Lake’s surface broken 1897
The silk unwinds and the nickel drops.

Cornucopia of chemists’ darling bottles
For headache, Flesher’s Tonic
No sip from the glass – the tiniest one
The size of a plum
Purple in thigh and eye
Toenail to eyelash the seeping begins
We must remove the clots

Lethal baby bottles
Microbes swim in silken drink
Green blue pink turquoise
Etched
As Shrry glasses from grandmother white-haired
With tar chair, black glasses
Small bookcase of must and a river
Along the garden

Dog skulls point teeth at me --threat and idiocy
Their eyes absent they do not know where to bite
I am safe for the time that eyes and light mean anything

Albino house mice bring me small skulls
Red squirrel muskrat white, flashed taken to ghosts
Before birth

One small skull floating in an infinite sea of black velvet
No refraction of light
Densest sea


This gibbon skeleton clings to the tree but the tree is also dead: little rib cage like mine
Imprisoning air
His knees are giving out
One long pelvis and headless
He is almost dead, speaking to me
The light strikes me from behind and
my ghost is blinded by the red edge of my hair
An aura
I have no eyes
Mammal skulls 0-58
Bats and chipmunks

A child says ‘look they are sleeping’
He is too old to be fooled he appeases
And scuffs the floor with sneaking shoes
Tiny jaws separate from tiny head plates
As if speaking difficult words both
Buried under this black and purple backdrop

The small brown bat skulls translucent
Second from end slightly askew
He looks at me out of the other, empty, eye socket:
The rebels always manage to find me, pass on the message from

50 years ago

a baseball cap digs at the glass box
its courtisan asks ‘why is this all here’
she missed the writing on the wall. Must have.

This is no school house no temple mood whiteness
Stillness the final sleep
Underglass

Snow geese eyes slam shut
You must sleep now – subway quakes will fell you quick as a blink
Days not decades ago….feathers fresh clean
White from transformation transfiguration
Migration to a white continent
Duck billed platypus on white wood
Skeleton crowded waiting for the last supper
Rib cage sucked in – waiting to exhale

This bird had osteoporosis
A girl laughs in that stupid way people do
When afraid
Holes in the understanding
Mesh bone pieces slip through blood drips
Purple into marrow and erupts with lava
Core of Earth eats at the centre of creation
Bartering, dealing and wheeling and reeling
Fascination

Snowy owl my father the owl named for
Him the Christmas fire the sharp beak that flew through a dream of mine.
Behind eyes all lilac and ears closing to sharp
Women and their colonial thoughts erupting
From juvenile nubile mouths

The turtles come up for air, salted, dusty, old, tired, rippling, listing through the water

The tree swallow twined his straw and white feathers and spilled the
Plowed snow over
Ghost eggs. (the turtle returns to salt sea,
Crying.)


The swans lie head to the side, a pair of shoes
Of pearl and feathers, a last gasp
The ptarmigans cry towards me; eyes rolled back into their heads, beaks pointing
To the ceiling ptarmigan of sky, thurnder gods
12 ptarmigans

pheasant peacock, sparrow, finch, gliding
on their backs all white as snow
one red glass eye
he arches towards me
weeping blood.
I don’t know this
Blood of red speak to me in purple
Sparrow, I will carry you
Home in my pocket where
It is warm as prehistoric oceans

They hide their delicacy and wrinkles, their stitches
All willow and one rock
White of heart and eye
A woman in ivory pantsuit an dflowered shopping bag
Does not feel on the brink of a glass cage
She stares into the (pitiful) boxes seeing one red
Eye “how clever”

The right, yes, hooded hides just such an eye
Every night

The canary’s feet are tied together – white string
He has been kissed by orange
Many lips of sun beneath that hood
Sensory organs gather by the nose and spread
Out – a grid search for vulnerability
I see
Ivory pantsuits are dangerous, bulls eye
For bow and arrowed walls of brown-purple
Purple-black, black-brown the eye
Of such an alluring first love a Paris

The evening grosbeak brings faint green and yellow
Dusk to the room fooling the death mash
Fooling all ‘ovary on left testes on right’
It quietly waits recognition or relief from
Humiliation
The bottles of circus perfume
Embalming the two-in-one
Night

The walking skeletons have lost their beaks
(blind mice tailors)
circle circle circle chasing each others
spines like elephants in the centre ring
blue from exhaustion
funeral of sense
you can hear the quack of bones float by

albino porcupine supine, nose to nose
paws beneath chins staring into love forever
sniffing

lepus articus fluffs his fur over his shoulder
glancing back as Holly Golightly
ears forward, whiskers out

albino beaver on the island of his skull
oatmeal-coloured, ears buried in the wreckage
tail flaps behind him like a smile


Coprolite white 50 million years old fossil dung
Too much noise “You can’t shoot that
With a shotgun” Dad days to son
The room is filled to ceiling with death
The shotgun could not part
Its mass, walk away

Sit. Good dog. Skeleton guarding eternal

Kissin gnoise too much I cannot say hello
And goodbye a proper burial exhibition
Some “tsk!” from behind
Old man with red eyes and a cowl of night
They steal my goodbye time, these angels of
Subways and museums.
They steal my silence—white

The arctic hare calls ‘follow me’
Bone and sinew tethered to one another
Two teeth remain, fierce
Closed eyes, sewn shut, bulge
Tips of ears black. He heard the sneaking
Hood and red eyes before his fall
He was dipped in a bit of fire
Or perhaps his own speed

Reconstructed wainscoting, wallpaper, doors
Nothing remaining white and priceless

Air hissing from a small hole – cybercrickets
Scold for my wondering
A blue flash in the corner – new ghost – the shuffling of feet


I return to spring – white and charcoal
Hissing psshing no eyes to look
Tiny blue cups trimmed with flowers overflow
With midnight. Angel-twins a wooden doll
Black hair – I used to have her. I
Am not sure where she has gone
Death in a cool calm fashion may be sewn her
Eyes
Satin to feather
Hawk to ptarmigan
Enemy to enemy – I still lie here underglass
My purple skin is white
Was white all along
I am stuffed, sewn
Guarded by dog skeleton
As they yell “are you
Supposed to be quiet?”
Mute Cygnus olor; eyes open ears hut, black marble I see
I shake the glass, glossy in places and very old
I kiss him goodbye the guardian
Of 650
To be dismantled in two days
The walls I have fallen in love with
Will collapse
Me beneath this cage – rib, glass
Pearl, crystal
Violet, lilac
Time stands
Not still
But almost.

In their eyes
Myself
Small, fading
Towards the stairs


(a response to Spring Hurlbut’s exhibit “The Final Sleep”)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Post-Pregnancy thoughts

I never lost myself while pregnant, though it was one of my biggest fears. I always felt very much me, even more than usual perhaps. I did not feel occupied by the fetus/baby. I only felt his personality, his desire to move -- but do we interpret these moments through our own frames of reference: I felt his particular desire to move because I am a dancer and do not sometimes, refine the kernel of an idea if it means stopping moving for a moment?

I do wish I could have corrupted that part of the physiology that obliterates the memory of being pregnant and of labour. I remember labour -- what it felt like, details of the pain, the attitudes of nurses and doctors and anaesthesiologists. But I have little recollection of the sensations of pregnancy. This makes me sad. I remember looking in the mirror at my belly in a yellow t-shirt at Canadian Children's Dance Centre during a rehearsal with Peter Chin about a week before baby was born, but I remember this as one remembers a scene in a movie or a play....perhaps because I was looking in the mirror.

It is sad because the pregnancy was largely pleasurable, pain-free. The baby was snug and rather content most of the time. Only the last week or two were uncomfortable and that was because of the heat and swollen feet. My belly and baby were still fairly comfy.

I am lucky to have videos and photos of my dancing, pregnant body -- but even still these are 2-dimensional reminders of 3-dimensional sensation.

Sweetly, whenever my heart rate really gets going, I can feel the pulse of blood in the vena cava which bears a distinct resemblance to the kicking of Pablo as he swam his way into position for the big drop.

Now that he is born, I am finding myself recognizing, appreciating and sanctifying (?) the non-physical, sweat-free aspects of the creative process. Type A personality balks a little at all this, but at the same time cannot deny the intense ( and Type A Lucy loves intensity) usefulness, the reflectivity, the deepening that this time allows. It is what I've written in every grant application ("I need more time to develop my work to its deepest artistic potential") but the first thing to get cut from the budget once it demands its inevitable trimming. This is integral, this time, this non-physical part of determining what it is that I have to say that is worth saying. and it is important, now and then, to bring reflection from the recesses of creative process (the unconscious subway-riding part), to let it sit way out in the light, lazy as it may feel.

It is not.
My greatest fears are to be misunderstood or to be perceived (self-perception included) as lazy.

A major principle in the work I've done with Theatre Rusticle is perpetual motion. To find it in perceived stillness. That old saying that still waters run deep needs to be looked at again. If waters are running, even deeply, they are not in essence still, though the appearance is of inertia....

Monday, November 30, 2009

An Interview with dance-theatre artist VIV MOORE

Viv's new solo show "Worcestershire Saucy" open this Wednesday Dec. 2 at 8pm at Factory Theatre in the Studio Theatre space. Tickets are $15 (CADA, Student) and $20 (general). Reservations 416 504 9971 www.vivmoore.com

Anyone who has seen Viv on stage knows she is a rare beast, the kind of artist you want to be on stage with and the kind of lady you want to have a beer with. She has been a role model for me for many years now and though I don't drink beer, I have had the immense pleasure of being on stage with her in several different shows. She is a relentless scene partner who gently dares you to follow her when she makes an audacious move. In my years of knowing Viv I have not seen her in a solo performance. I can't wait.

Here are a few questions I asked Viv about her upcoming production.

How did "Worcestershire Saucy begin? What was the initial idea?

In 1999, I created Bogie Woman for fFIDA (Paula Citron Award). This was the start of my re-claiming my Music Hall, eccentric dance roots. The same year, when I returned to England to live by myself, I was taking a course with Gaulier in London (England). Together with my intense dislike for his way of teaching and his disregard of humans at that point in his life, I developed a frozen shoulder. So much pain meant I couldn't carry on with anything physical, so I started to work at the Royal Opera House Box Office, which was great but left me feeling creatively dull. I began to research my roots in terms of clog dance and customs and traditions that I had disregarded in the past. When I returned to Toronto 8 months later, I joined a clog group (Half Crown Clog) and began playing with the mixture of traditional and contemporary. Over the past 10 yrs I have developed ideas and realised that I needed to really say something.



What has the creative process been like -- when did you start, how have you developed it?

I started in September and it's been rich. Lying on the floor, crying, then standing up and crying, then more lying on the floor, then exhilarated discoveries - you know, the usual creative process. I was in the room by myself for 3 months, then I asked Dave (Wilson) my now-husband to come in. He knows me like no-one else, and I asked him to tell me what he saw. He's been a wonderful support - always is.



What made you decide to do this solo show? (When was the last time you did a solo show?)

I have never done a solo show. I decided it had to be a solo show, because there was all this STUFF and I needed to get it out there. It was a DO IT NOW thought, one that I knew there was no backing down from.



Will the show reveal anything to us about the secret Viv Moore?
Yes

This is the awesomeness of Viv. She is equal parts mystery and complete honesty. No matter who or what she embodies on stage, there always seems to be this essential Viv-ness, the enigma and the openness.

What are the influences for this project outside dance and theatre?

Butoh, stage combat, English Music Hall


How would you define dance-theatre?


I have no new ways of defining this. Integrated movement and speaking, all at the same time, coming from an image-based world of movement.


What is your ideal day?

Sleep in till 10; have breakfast cooked for me by my personal chef; buy several very expensive articles of clothing that have been specially chosen for me by my personal couturier; take a light tea; have a 2 hour massage by my personal masseur; eat a very nutritious dinner made by the very same chef; sleep in a large 4 poster bed in Grindelwald. You don’t believe me?


What is your favourite colour?
Mauve


Favourite city and why?

London, England. It makes me cry every time I am in it, because I miss it. The smell of it, the feel of it, the news of it. It is in my skin and bones and every sinew.

Go see this show. As her promotional materials state: You will be amused. And I bet, moved.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

For the last time...


If just once more someone tells me that my career means nothing now that I have a baby, I may have to resurrect my idea to move baby and Dennes to Big Sur where we live like curmudgeonly hermits until California breaks off from the continent in the big earthquake that begins the rapture.....or whatever.

I proudly push baby in his stroller to the studio after the last iteration of the "career means nothing" vibe. And I endeavour to make my career mean more now that baby is here.

I have two things to leave to this planet -- my baby, my art -- and hopefully both will be lasting enough to leave something to the planet in turn....

Friday, October 30, 2009

Generosity


A couple of things have happened in the last year that have caused me to doubt the value of generosity. I have, or my husband has, been taken advantage of, played, suckered in the course of wanting to help. But a book, recommended by the incredibly generous dance artist Peggy Baker, has started to pull me in off the ledge after yesterday's biggest disappointment when it comes to generosity and being taken for a fool. Yesterday I was ready to cancel a co-production with three other artists (who have nothing to do with my heartbreak surrounding generosity), I was ready to move husband and baby to a log cabin in Big Sur California and become a family of cranky old hermits who threaten trespassers with a really big stick.

The book is Lewis Hyde's "The GIft", and though it sounds like a book on witchcraft or a feel-good treatise on artistic talent for would-be artists, it instead dives into market versus gift economy models and is saving me from the corrosion of my belief system, melodramatic as that sounds.

Now I learned many years ago never to give help, money, resources with any expectation of return. I once worked for someone who was constantly giving me things, things I didn't need or want, then reminding me of the gifts given as a tool to manipulate an obligation to her. That, to me is not true generosity, that is more like capitalism. Investing in something in order to get product from it later. All fine and well but don't call it a gift.

The idea, that Hyde puts forth in the first chapter of his book, is about the energy of gifts and generosity, that the flow needs to continue. Someone who receives a gift should pass along a gift to someone else. It's a bit of that cheesy pay-it-forward concept, or the ripples in a pond image, but when you relate it to the creation and sharing of art, it makes sense. If you are creating for yourself, no matter what the form, without a sense of your audience you are stopping the flow of art's economy. That economy is built on the ephemeral value of art, on the intangible, the emotional, psychological or intellectual stimulation. It is built on the things we can't buy in a store. And we need those things. Deeply.

In another book I read recently, which I can't remember the name of at the moment, a philosopher was talking about people under extreme environmental, financial or political duress and that the cornerstones of their societies become food, shelter and culture. Think about North America and Western Europe in the 1930s -- through the Great Depression we had one of the most verdant periods of film and music and literature, among other art forms. Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer is one of my favourite examples. Everyone was writing a novel in the 1930s the way everyone has a blog or a website now.

At any rate, by the end of Lewis Hyde's first chapter I am dedicated not to becoming a miser but to choosing where and how I let that generosity flow -- both as an artist and in the broader context of my life. I will continue not to expect a return, but I will not allow things to be thrown back in my face -- the struggles I have had this year have stemmed from sharing, opening to those who believe themselves entitled, have placed their needs above mine, and above many others around them. It is hard when this happens between artists. When I can help someone with talent that is not being seen or appreciated it seems important to do what I can to facilitate the exposure of their artistry, but when their dissatisfaction with the whole artistic environment becomes expressed through a deadstop of that flow of energy -- well, I just find that sad. And then to have it thrown back at me, as though I didn't do enough, while we are all struggling to let our lights out from under a bushel...

That's what I'm done with....after all my rambling above, I am simply done with a random flow of generosity. I'll stick with field theory for performances -- let it out everywhere and let it stick where it sticks --but on a personal level, one on one, I will be choosing my channels more wisely, though not less frequently or with less fervour.

The good end to yesterday was another reminder of this flow of gifting....A friend passed along some baby clothes from someone who had passed along some baby clothes and as I washed and folded and put away these new gifts for Pablo, I showed Pablo all the clothes that he has now outgrown and put them in a bag to be passed along to someone who will pass them along to someone until they find where they are needed.

I should have just gone back to my own beginnings when I felt so betrayed by those I shared with and by my own beliefs. Until I was about 5 or 6 I don't think I had any clothes or books that weren't secondhand. And sure enough my mother would go through my closet and take out the things I couldn't wear anymore and together, we would drop them at the Salvation Army or Goodwill.

Hey, it's called Goodwill for a reason.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Ritual

My friend Monika Berenyi just sent me a film she made about what ritual means to us in the 21st century and it got me to thinking.....

Ritual is connected to the theatre for me, the practice of preparation and comfort before stepping on stage. It has never meant anything religious to me; I wasn't brought up going to church and such. The theatre is like a church for me -- not in a flakey or spiritual communion kind of way, although I suppose there is a bit of that -- but in the sense of community and transcendence it brings, the pursuit of humanity, transparency and meaning in life.

There is nothing authoritarian about my ritual or my comparison of theatre to church. I do not bow down to God, Allah or "the muse" while in the theatre or making my preparations. You can't bow down to the pursuit of meaning, transparency of humanity. If you bow your head and close your eyes you can't take part in the chase.

Bowing the head and closing the eyes happens the land of dreaming for me, equally important and sacred, in a non-religious, non-ritualistic way. I do not prepare for or coax out the dreams, they wash through when they need or want to. Then they are filtered through into preparation for taking to the stage. Perhaps the filter is the ritual. Little dream images slipping through holes in soft cheesecloth....


www.monikaberenyi.com

Friday, September 11, 2009

First time in the studio with baby Pablo




Listening to Arvo Part -- music I meditated to while pregnant, music I had hoped to play (to remind myself to breathe!) while giving birth, music that could not be played while I was giving birth because everything happened so fast. Sitting on the floor of the studio stretching after dancing/warming up for half an hour. Pablo begins stretching as the music plays. He has been sleeping since we arrived.

Focusing on his sleeping body liberates me while improvising. My body is loose, except my lower back and laterally in my pelvis (muscles over-worked during the delivery), disassembled, wriggling, eager. My ego slips away. I am watching the baby on the floor sleeping while I am dancing. I realize I need to turn the camera on in the corner and just let it go for the whole time. Something new is happening. The mirror doesn't exist, the ego, which sometimes directs my improvisations to things that feel good and I know I can do well, is absent or perhaps watching the baby too.

Pablo wakes up and freaks out a little, not knowing where he is, so we waltz around the room to "Spiegel im Spiegel" -- he laughs and smiles, especially when we do the formal waltz turns over and over again. He's having fun and I'm remembering a bit of footwork for a show Theatre Rusticle will be remounting later this season. He rather likes the Alvin Ailey poster on the wall with it's red-orange background and black silhouetted figure.

I realize bringing Pablo here is important, it forces me to ease off of precision in QUANTITATIVE terms. We may arrive at 1:30pm but what happens in the 2 hours of studio time I've booked must be loosely structured. I must be prepared to be here for 3 hours if I want to dance for 2. I need to stop being so controlled, stop scheduling myself so tightly, enjoy the details that emerge when I don't feel the need to "dance like Lucy".

To find precision in QUALITATIVE terms...I care suddenly less about going to daily technique class (which I never do and always feel guilty about). I am willing to relinquish that dream I never really chased. I am happy with Moksha yoga and studio time. I am old enough to enjoy my idiosyncracies, to develop them into a craft, rather than feel them as a liability, something which has emerged because I don't go to a symmetrical conventional class often enough. Symmetry and convention are important for training, but now that Pablo is here I see new forms of symmetry and convention which fall outside daily contemporary technique class. I am far enough into my career to not care how idiosyncratic my dancing is. To chase THIS dream -- individualism -- to be myself, to do my tendus and plies and then explore wonderland.

My elbows and throat are fascinating today driving the movement that is coming through. My feet which have weakened a little over this summer of no ballet classes and a lot of running around literally barefoot and pregnant, are solid, happy, pliable on the floor.

I must bring Pablo with me to the studio as much as I can in these early months -- until he starts locomoting or stops enjoying his studio-floor naps and watching mummie dance in the mirror. It is an incredible thing to get to do-- to share my work with him so that maybe when he is a little older he will not be sad when I am away from him working, maybe he will understand what I do and how much his existence inspires me -- not so much thematically, but at the root of my spine, in the meaty part of my soul that sends out the order "CHARGE!!!!" How loud this voice is now. I have been a passive observer for too much of my life, avoiding sensuality of the purest kind. You can't do that anymore, not with Pablo here. "Dance like Lucy" can't be in quotation marks anymore.

In the very eloquent words of my friend Sarah Slean: Love is the reason we are here.
Hear hear.
Here here.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Written for P just before he was born

little one if these leaves of grass
do not soothe
i hope
the captain's verses do
each night a little insight for little one
who cannot understand
nor hear everything
but feel vibrations
of the madman with wild white hair
among the blades
we hope for you good nights
sleep
dreams
movement, words, music
that carry we do not hope you to be
"artist"
see instead the living of life as an art
and fill your thoughts
with imaginative kindness
blade by blade
green by green each burnt to a crisp
of meaning for future reference
love of all loves made you
together we rise, that song you have liked
along the way
we have moved twisted swords
built worded armies
to combat this world
and its disappeal making new words
as necessary
like Germans
ear to ear
listening

and if your first word starts with an F
we will laugh
we only ask you not become a 20-something
smoking weed in a park with a can of cream soda and a cell phone
continue kicking as hard as you kick now
a lung a rib
a kidney
we will recognize you when you come
sounding your yawp
barbarically
musically
kickingly

(Lucy Rupert, June 25 2009)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pablo Neruda

About six or eight weeks ago, just after we moved into the new digs, I started reading our fetus Pablo Neruda poetry. I found the poem "The Son" and hung this excerpt on the door to our Pablo's room:

"Like a great storm
we shook
the tree of life
down to the innermost
fibres of the roots
and you appear now
singing in the foliage
in the highest branch
that with you we reach"

That says it all.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

baby arrives and Henry Miller's Big Sur crest

Our baby arrived July 1st at 10:06pm. The delivery was an intense, fast and slightly complicated event but baby came through unphased so who cares, now? Pablo Echlin Pehadzic. I look at him constantly amazed that two little cells met and made two more cells and made two more cells and on and on until this whole creature was formed and ready to emerge.

Someone said that Dennes and I maybe waited too long to have a baby, but at the cellular level, we can't have waited too long because any other point in time would not have created little Pablo, but some other probably just-as-wondrous creature, but not Pablo. And we are rather fond of Pablo.

During the last two weeks of the pregnancy (and during my efforts to poop post-delivery) I have been re-reading "Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch" by Henry Miller -- one of his greatest books, probably indicative of the depth of tides and beauty in Big Sur -- and I feel compelled to share this passage as a new credo for life:

"If the foregoing seems too complicated, here is a simple regimen to follow: Don't overeat, don't drink too much, don't smoke too much, don't work too much, don't think too much, don't fret, don't worry, don't complain, above all don't get irritable. Don't use a car if you can walk to your destination; don't walk if you can run; don't listen to the radio or watch television; don't read newspapers, magazines, digests, stock market reports, comics, mysteries or detective stories; don't take sleeping pills or wakeup pills; don't vote, don't buy on the instalment plan, don't play cards either for recreation or to make a haul, don't invest your money, don't mortgage your home, don't get vaccinated or inoculated, don't violate fish and game laws, don't irritate your boss, don't say yes when you mean no, don't use bad language, don't be brutal to your wife or children, don't get frightened if you are over or under weight, don't sleep more than ten hours at a stretch, don't eat store bread if you can bake your own, don't work at a job you loathe, don't think the world is coming to an end because the wrong man got elected, don't believe you are insane because you find yourself in a nut house, don't do anything more than you're asked to do but do that well, don't try to help your neighbor until you've learned how to help yourself, and so on...
Simple, what?
In short, don't create aerial dinosaurs with which to frighten the field mice!"
1957

Henry Miller is my favourite genius. It is sad that he is fairly forgotten in the study of literature.
Nonetheless, I believe I have found my new philosophy of life with Dennes and Pablo.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

and another thing....

I have had it said to me outrightly and backhandedly since I have been pregnant that NOW I will understand what my true purpose on this planet is. And let me tell you I find this absolutely offensive.

I have been told that the "glamour" of my "career" (often said, let's be honest, by older men who still have a bit of a hard time with women who have "careers") is all very fine and well for a short time, but children, well, that's the real reason to exist.

Now I'm not saying that's not true for many people, but I think one's reason for existing is purpose and it matters less what that purpose is, so long as it does not intentionally harm other beings, and more that you have a purpose.

It has been insinuated that my time as a dancer should wind down now, that it was wasted or idle time in preparation for the realness of being a mother. I know I have my faults, but I also know that meandering, wasting time, being idle are not in my repertoire. I have never acted or not acted on an impulse of entitlement. I have never gone on stage just to make myself happy.

And as for the glamour of being a dancer/performer/creator....for 95% of us in the arts there is little to no glamour, unless you mean glamour in that old world magical sense. The career itself is not glamorous. For most of us it is just a lot of extremely hard work that you must do, as the cliche goes, because you are compelled to do it, not because of money or dreams of fame. Especially in Canada there is no fame in the arts. But it doesn't mean you don't pay in sweat, to paraphrase Ms. Lydia Grant. It doesn't mean you shouldn't be paid fairly for your work as an artist. And it doesn't mean that your work as an artist is less or more valuable than a parent's drive to raise a child, or a doctor's drive to safe a life.

I will continue to be brutally honest and tell you that I believe my purpose on this planet is to be as open, honest and compassionate as I can be through the vehicle of performance, and this little creature I am about to give birth to is part of that purpose, my marriage to and huge love for Dennes is part of that purpose. To turn things on their ear: Dennes and this little creature are my reasons for that purpose. When I love this much, I feel elementally drawn to put myself out raw on the stage, to interpret disparate points of history and life through my body and to try to compel people, for a moment, sink their heels into the world around them. I guess love is my purpose. Big and corny as that might sound.

So don't diminish my "glamorous career"; it is neither glamorous nor a career, it is the core of my being, not work. My purpose on this planet is to follow the core of my being where it takes me. My drive is stronger and fiercer than my muscles and bones. Don't you dare scold me or anyone else for that or I will show you my teeth.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Insecurity

I'm about to do my last dance performance before baby is born. I am awash with insecurity.

Now usually I am an insecure dancer. I trust explicitly what my heart and mind can do on stage, but it has taken me a long time to trust what my body can do and it is wavering now. I cannot feel the edge of the stage. I doubt my choices, my feet (always a source of confidence in the past).

I doubt my ability to give birth to this creature living inside me, even though women have done it for thousands of years.

Perhaps it is strange for a dancer or an athlete to go through these last weeks of pregnancy, as the body does what it must without any input or direction from one's intelligence, from one's ability to reason. It just goes. Practicing contractions, softening, deepening. As a professional 'mover' I am used to considering, deducing and compelling the body to move, to contract, to soften, to deepen. Even in improvisation there is an element of intellect participating. There is learned behaviour variegating on itself.

But my body has not been pregnant before and it is choosing, without my feedback, how to be pregnant, how to be ready to give birth.

I find this, in an objective way, very amazing. Subjectively, it scares the crap out of me. My legs dangle from my pelvis by thin threads, my pelvis vibrates like a bell that has been struck by its clapper, my feet are concerned with providing weight to the dangling legs, but seem not to care so much about the ground itself. My arms keep throwing themselves out of alignment. And yet I do not feel like an alien has taken over my body, I do not feel disassociated from myself.

Only a wee bit scared. My confidence drops back to when I was 21 and crying in ballet class every day. What am I doing here? Is any of my dancing worth watching? Worth investigating? Will I be able to uphold all the artistic and personal ideals I set out for myself throughout the pregnancy? Will the force of stating these ideals again and again be enough to make them bloom?

It worked when I broke my arm.
But this is a different beast entirely...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Accidents or Fate? A comparative interview by Lucy Rupert with Susie Burpee and Jenn Goodwin

An interview for the DanceWorks Mainstage Event coming up April 29-May 2 at Enwave Theatre.

Accident 1. an event that is without apparent cause 4. occurrence of things by chance
Fate 1. a power regarded as predetermining events unalterably 2. an individual’s appointed lot
(source Canadian Oxford Dictionary)

Both artists have been asked the same questions: Consider the similarities and differences in their answers, and if the “how” of their answers as well as the “what” is evident in their choreography.

Susie Burpee choreographer and performer of Mischance and Fair Fortune1. What was the initial spark to create your work for this show? Ovid's myth of Pyramus and Thisbe.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyramus_and_Thisbe#Ovid.27s_version
2. Do you believe in accidents or fate?
Accidents.
3. What made you want to start choreographing? I imagined things that didn't exist yet in the world, and I wanted to realize those ideas.
4. What would you want an audience to take away from seeing your work?
I hope that they think or feel differently, if only for a moment. 5. What other artists/personalities have influenced your work in general?
Cindy Sherman's photographic work influences my self-solo work. In this work though, the other dancer, Dan Wild, influenced me greatly because we are very much in-tune as dance artists. I believe we are inextricably linked to the work.

http://www.cindysherman.com/
6. How would you describe your relationship to music/sound?That relationship is of great interest to me. With each choreography I make, I am careful to be specific about the relationship. This work is composed by Canadian indie music artists Christine Fellows and John Samson (The Weakerthans). I have continued to work with them.

http://www.theweakerthans.org/
http://www.christinefellows.com/
7. How do you build character or characters for your work?This work was created through sense-memory improvisation, which provided the emotional anchors for the work.

Sense memory, also known as 'emotional memory', is an element of Stanislavsky’s system of Method Acting, perpetuated by Lee Strasberg. Sense memory requires the actor to call on the memories he or she felt when they were in a situation similar to that of their character. Stanislavski believed an actor needed to take emotion and personality to the stage and call upon it when playing his or her character. He also explored the use of objectives, the physical body's effect on emotions, and empathizing with the character.
8. How do you choose your dancers? I am interested in seeing individuals and their personalities on stage, so my works are person-specific. Dan Wild was important because he is so emotionally driven in performance.
Jenn Goodwin choreographer of Accidents for Every Occasion

1. What was the initial spark to create your work for this show?
I’m interested in the “in betweens”, moments we are “off” and we stumble - literally and metaphorically. I like looking at mistakes, how we learn from them, repeat them, or ignore them. I am curious about the links between what is an accident, a coincidence, fate. I think I am also kind of accident-prone and that sparked a curiosity in me physically as well as thematically.

2. Do you believe in accidents or fate?Both. I think I choose which one to believe in when it suits the situation better, to be honest. But I do think some things are 'meant to be', and sometimes things 'just happen'. I like to think both are possible.

For a little bit on Finite Mathematics and the probability of random (accidental) phenomena:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Probability_theory

3. What made you start choreographing?
Beyond choreographing in my basement to Michael Jackson or Grease every weekend…when I was a bit older I was dancing in other peoples’ work, and realized I wanted to create my own images, scenes, scenarios and put them on stage. I had things I had written about - personal stories, experiences that I wanted to put into movement.

4. What would you want an audience to take away from seeing your work?
Perhaps glimpses of themselves, something they can connect with, laugh at, relate to, question. To explore their “voice”, to find their own stories and realize the importance and substance of them.

5. What other artists/personalities have influenced your work in general?
Jenny Holzer (Conceptual Artist with focus on text based work), Cindy Sherman (photographer/filmmaker), Bill Viola (Video artist), and my Aunt Noreen- a performer in her own right who uses humour in everything and to value and connect with even the toughest of times.

http://www.jennyholzer.com/
http://www.billviola.com/

6. How would you describe your relationship to music/sound?
Somewhere between Spinal Tap and Mozart.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spinal_Tap
Go to YouTube and search Spinal Tap and other clips from other movies created by Christopher Guest. (e.g.: A Mighty Wind, Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman)
http://www.mozartproject.org/

7. How do you build characters for your work?
I like whenever possible to start from the performers’ and my own experiences and then distort, grow, shrink, shift, change, question and so on.

8. How do you choose your dancers?
For the first time I did an audition this year. It was an amazing experience to see the massive amount of talent in the community and for people to come out and share that. Other times, I wanted to work with people based on shows I have seen them in.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Organic, as defined by....

Erich Mendelsohn, German architect in the Weimar era:

Organic means " exterior forms express their interior structure...and use, structure and architectural expression coalesce to an organic whole, where scientific facts and creative vision combine to an unbreakable pattern."

I hear the word organic used in dance these days to mean loose or formless, "natural", pure. Like organic food. But I like Mendelsohn's definition.

Exterior forms express their interior structure, their organs. It means something more visceral, made of blood not air.

Dancers do often stray into architecture as a source of inspiration. Usually it comes through as formal, shape-oriented rather than motion-oriented. Ironically most architects are constantly on a quest for the expression of movement through stationary matter.

Mendelsohn encountered this word when Einstein used it to describe Mendelsohn's "Einstein Tower". He took from Einstein's "Organic!" the idea that "one cannot take any part away from it, neither from its mass nor from its motion, nor even from its logical development, without destroying the whole."

Einstein Tower is a little silly looking now, more than a little phalic, but I guess we should not be surprised coming out of 1920's Germany. Still, these were the architects of modernity, something from which we are only just now emerging.

I think we are due for a revisit of this term organic, reclaim it for things meaty and kinetic, direct and abstract.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

some deep thoughts

"True scientific research has to do with curiosity and interest not whether something is useful or not. Besides, you can't really say that something is useless if you manage to figure out what it is you didn't understand at first." Jiang Rong from Wolf Totem

"Perhaps all concepts of freedom in dance made time and again by a society are always also concepts of the freedom a society is willing to give itself." Franz Anton Cramer....This makes me wonder if cut-backs and economic threat are causing us as artists to retreat emotionally? Is it the post 9-11 world? If you're going to venture out you better act like you don't care. You can think, but don't dare care, caring is vulnerability. Vulnerability hurts more.

"When the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 struck, it changed the angular momentum of the planet's spin, speeding it up like a spinning figure skater pulling her arms closer to her body. As a consequence our days are now three millionths of a second shorter." Christopher Dewdney from The Soul of the World: Unlocking the Secrets of Time

"If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present." Ludwig Wittgenstein from Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

Our perception of time can allow us to split a second into millionths and then ever-thinner slices to the point of infinity: eternity. We are immortal if a second can be so sliced...

We have nothing to lose. The world is spinning faster, we have less time before it inevitably ends itself, yet we are immortal so stop fearing vulnerability. Nothing can pierce you; the second before it happens can always be split and split again until we reach infinity.

I read too much.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Dancing with Fetus

Does baby really enjoy my dancing? He/she only kicks when I stop moving, never protests while I'm going. The only protests are occasional quiet shrieks from my abdominal muscles.

On Thursday I was part of Buzz at Theatre Passe Muraille working with Theatre Rusticle and though I have performed with fetus before, this performance was more emotionally, physically and intellectually intense than other performances.

When I got home and was winding down, I learned something the fetus-adrenalin relationship. Suddenly a karate class was taking place in my belly. Baby has been moving around and kicking lots in the last few months, but this was incredible. I was drifting to sleep, but baby was on an adrenalin high. In my mind's eye I could see the little thing yanking on the umbilical cord saying "More! more!"

Someone said to me yesterday as I relayed this story, "It makes you think about drinking coffee and alcohol while you're pregnant, eh?" It was said almost as though I have been drinking coffee and alcohol non-stop while Fetus has been along for this ride.

Everyone says it's great that I'm dancing and performing so much while pregnant, but then the nitty gritty details of many people's thoughts are that I'm doing something dangerous or risky. Someone actually said to me that having a baby is easy when you're a dancer. "You just take a year off and then come back." I actually laughed at this person. I felt terrible for laughing at them but, "How do you expect me to afford a year off, financially or physically?". Like you can just stop your form for 12 months and pop right back in where you left off. I don't even think the slovenliest of actors would think that you can remain on the edge of your discipline with a year away.

I find the negativity confusing. I am not surrounded by people who do not believe in the value and vitalness of art and culture, but suddenly I am seeing the worms come out of the woodwork, little fragments of belief that an artist should pack up shop while a baby is growing.

"The first six months all you will do is take care of the baby."
No, actually the first six months, baby and I will take care of each other. Baby will come to the studio with me and we continue to dance together. I'll learn from baby and baby will begin his/her life in a creative, imaginative world.

"You're going to have such bad back problems if you continue to dance while you're pregnant."
No, actually if I continue to dance intelligently -- which I think I have been doing for several years now-- my body will get strong in the ways it needs to in order to support the changing body.

"You know Lucy you have to eat more and healthily when you're pregnant."
No, I hadn't realized that. I'm a complete idiot.

A teacher said to me a few weeks ago that people always feel they can tell teachers how to do their jobs because they went to school once and that pregnancy and babies are a similar topic. People feel they can tell you how to be pregnant and a new parent because they were babies once.

Though I know most, if not all, of these people are speaking to me with good intentions, perhaps even a bit of protectiveness for those who know me a bit better, I find it really difficult to filter the negativity. So far in this pregnancy, that has been the hardest part. Fetus is easy.

I am grateful for a break from the well-intentioned advice-givers this week as I've been working with Theatre Rusticle, with a group of performers none of whom have babies or are likely to have babies. They are kind and respectful, but they don't offer up advice. We just get to the work and challenge ourselves inside it. They do not judge my choices and I don't judge theirs. We just make choices bravely all over the place and try to say something beautiful. I love working with this company. Creatively you don't avoid your injury/pregnancy/exhaustion/memory lapse. You just plunge into it and see what's there.

Every morning when I get to the studio I say "Fetus you let me know if I do anything you don't like and then we'll stop."

The only protests I get are my musical choices. (Baby seems to like Radiohead and Steve Reich, Johann Johannsson and Flobots. Not such a fan of Sibelius, Tori Amos or Philip Glass. What can I say?)

Fetus and I have a good dancing relationship. Fetus and my amazing husband Dennes have a good relationship. Dennes and I have a great relationship.

It's our baby and I'll dance if I want to.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Lola McLaughlin

Yesterday Lola McLaughlin died. An amazing woman, choreographer, friend, spirit. I did not know her but still I cried as I sat in the audience of DanceWorks' presentation of "Provincial Essays". So many fine points in the choreography, so many things accomplished with elegance and humour and humanity that I have watched other companies attempt, stumble upon and eventually leave hollow.

Simplicity of gesture and movement for the sake of execution with the total body. And Ron Stewart....I can't go on enough about how this strangely proportioned body can churn up space and itself. He is not ferocious but a vortex unto himself on that stage. Utterly thrilling.

All the dancers were remarkable -- not only for their ability to perform with clarity and depth, humour and emotion without slipping, just hours after finding out that Lola had passed away.

It ended. I almost missed the end. I'd been staring at a non-focal point on the stage and my mind was wandering over the images I'd just seen and then I felt the lights fading and searched for that final, deftly, obviously final, moment. But no, just a simple fade in a quiet place. Blackout.

We didn't want to clap. Even though it was clearly the end. Even though it was clearly the end of a beautiful performance.

It didn't seem to me to be a completely realized piece, despite it's immense beauty, simplicity, intensity, wit, light. But perhaps that is just perfect.

Though I didn't know her, Lola taught me an important lesson. Life is too short not to put the work on the stage. You can't be afraid of incomplete sentences, unfinished realizations, unpolished stones. When you do that with an open heart, it's the only way to reflect everyday experience even though the prism of abstract contemporary art.

It didn't feel like a completely realized piece, despite immense beauty, simplicity, intensity, wit, light. But perhaps that is just perfect...

Monday, March 2, 2009

A Framing Reference

Below is an interview I conducted with William Yong, artistic director, dancer and choreographer for Zata Omm Dance Company, regarding his upcoming premiere as part of the DanceWorks Mainstage Series at Enwave Theatre.

What frameworks do you feel in your life? How have you applied them to your current creation?
My dance work Frames is an exploration and manipulation of perceptions through the idea of framing and frames of reference. It is a structure and vision-oriented piece playing imaginatively with the overt and the hidden, the expectations and the discovery. I wanted to create a piece inspired by the idea of framing because it is of such great interest and concern in our world saturated with manipulative media. In my own life I’ve noticed a series of childhood stories that altered in my memory through the passage of time. Some of the events I have begun to see very differently as I have grown older. Psychological perspective on our experiences constantly changes depending on the accumulation of life experience. I am at a stage where I am very comfortable with myself and not too self-conscious about my imperfection, but it wasn’t always this way. This piece, in a way, reveals the progression of my perceptions. I wanted to use those ideas and imagery and set the audiences into a certain frames of mind and provoke them to react and relate.

How are you translating frames into this choreography?
An interesting aspect of this process is that I tried to manipulate my collaborators' perceptions and expectations sometimes. When I work on an idea, my collaborators would relate to my ideas differently. I would use the results in a different way than I originally intend to use. For instance, I would tell my composer in the UK to compose for this specific idea for this section. He would finish the composition and I would deliberately use it for another section and it works perfectly.

The frames are also aspects of time, age, manipulation, body image and proportion, writing, language, media and nudity. I also paid close attention to the design in the aspects of form, overall appearance and proportion. Physical perspective as well as psychological.Has the 'frame' of the physical space at Enwave Theatre or your rehearsal space influenced your creation?
Enwave Theatre and the studio space where I am rehearsing have not been major factors when developing the ideas of Frames, although I am always aware of the theatre in which I will be performing. In a couple of sections, I created imaginary space outside the four walls of the theatre box. The spaces are not physical; they represent memory, dreams or self imagery.

What inspires you most in your creative work?
For me, curiosity towards the body and its inner motives serve as the starting point for creation. Translating an idea into dance is very important to me. I want to create movements that are as self-sufficient, able convey the message and capable of creating different time and space on their own. Dance is not used as a medium to decorate theatrical space here. I always like to find various and stimulating ways to create movement with the dancers which fit and relate to the ideas. In Frames, I started exploring movement with an image, an emotion, an intention, a story or even words that related to my vision.

Do you prefer to dance in your works?
In fact, I was not intending to perform in this work. I was having trouble finding a male dancer for a long while. I am very careful about casting. Eventually I ended up choosing a female dancer instead of a male and placed myself in it. When I studied choreography at London Contemporary Dance School, I learnt strategies for dealing with the difficulties of placing myself in a work. If you are organized and find the right approach, you can take care of both performing and choreographing and do both well provided that you have the time.

You must get asked about this a lot, but I am interested to know what frames of reference you might have gleaned from your experience of dancing in Matthew Bourne's work, the famous all-male Swan Lake?
Working with Matthew was a major experience in my dance career. There, I learnt that contemporary dance can have the potential to appeal to mainstream audiences. People praised and embraced the work everywhere we went. I also learned from Matthew how to masterfully choreograph a narrative-based work; I think it is very hard to choreograph narrative. It was truly inspiring to see how he worked in the studio everyday for five years. He was very organized, well-prepared and visionary.

Just to be whimsical: what is your favourite mode of transportation?
My favourite mode of transportation would be my dreams. They take me so far and to places I could never reach otherwise. I dream about my ideas in dance.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Everything I learned about performing I learned at....

Phil's and Club Abstract.
If you know Kitchener-Waterloo, don't laugh. You know when you're there for four years of school you have no choice. At some point you will find yourself spending too much time at these bars.

I've been reading "The Body Eclectic" a group of essays about changing training models for contemporary dance and it has led me to thinking about where I got my most significant training. Sadly, not at the University of Waterloo Dance Dept. I learned many great things there, but how to dance, how to perform? Not so much. Not at the School of Toronto Dance Theatre. I was not there in a meaningful way long enough, and frankly did not have teachers who believed in me -- for various reasons, not all of which are they to blame for -- and the 8:30am Graham classes were treacherous for my body. I am built like my father more than my mother and lack the seemingly requisite maternal, uber-feminine pelvis. Some great training came after I left STDT and studied fairly intensively with Robert "Ballet Bob" McCollum -- whether he believed in me or not at the start, he gave me such good information and was the first person to encourage me to find my own technique inside the ballet form, or whatever form I was working in.

But where, how did I learn to perform?
In my basement between the ages of 10 and 18, being anti-social, but imagining singing and dancing and communicating with other people whose conjured faces lived in the walls of the fake wood panelling.

And then in 1995-1996 at Phil's and Club Abstract in Kitchener-Waterloo.
At least 3 times a week over the course of 18 months I went to one or the other of these two clubs -- alternative rock/80s retro type music -- at about 9:30-10pm, hit the dancefloor for at least 3 hours straight, then walked out the door and went home to sleep.

I did not make friends with the people who worked or frequented these bars, and basically made a spectacle of myself. I drank only occasionally and talked to almost no one. But emotionally and physically I plugged myself into each song that played, learned to keep dancing to music I didn't like, to keep dancing near people I didn't like, to keep dancing no matter what. I learned that people would watch this -- whether they thought I was a total freak, a loser, a marvel, or an artist -- to the point where bouncers would remove anyone who tried to hit on me or disturb me while I was dancing. I recall one night that someone was rather violently dragged up the stairs at Phil's. Perhaps he'd been bothering others as well, I'd never know because I rarely noticed anything except the sensation of the music, the vibrations and the emotions it sent through my skin and bones.

This time is utterly romanticized in my memory. But I think it was the most intensive training I got in performing. A drunken group of university boys is not an ideal audience and yet I received no bad reviews. Occasionally someone would buy me a drink.

Dancing so much at the end of the heyday of grunge music, finding ways to channel myself through Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana, the Violent Femmes, and Radiohead were all exceedingly worthwhile ways to spend my time and the $5 cover charge.

I won't dance for vodka-cranberry anymore, but I do often close all the blinds in the house, turn off the lights and cut a rug for an hour or two. Reminds me of why I'm still here, trying to do this.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Gwen Stefani and MLK

I think I have found the soundtrack for the beginning of each day, these days. Perhaps it is pregnant brain, but then again I've always been a bit of a crier....I just listened to Gwen Stefani's "What You Waiting For?" and seriously I started crying! But for some reason if I'm doubting my ability to dance and be pregnant and continue dancing with a young baby, I'm going to throw on that track.

Now follow that up with OMD's "Southern". You can laugh at my 1980's throw-back, and a throw back to a not-so stellar album (The Pacific Age) by the once-groundbreaking synth-heavy band, but with a bit of back-tracks combined with samples of Martin Luther King's speeches will bring to your humble little knees. Again, possibly because I'm pregnant, possibly because I'm have a secret life as a historian: words about leaving a better world for children yet to be born and making sure they know the history that has brought them here carry the most profound weight for me.

"Well I don't know what will happen now; we've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life-- longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And he's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over and I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land..." MLK, April 3, 1968.

Now, I don't necessarily fall in with any particular concept of "God", but this is most positive thing ever written or spoken and I'm on board.

Go get "A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.", the most inspiring book you'll ever read.

Save the Gwen for days when you need a kick in the arse. MLK is daily reading.

Friday, January 23, 2009

jitters

I'm dancing tomorrow in a premiere of a co-creation with the amazing Barbara Pallomina. The dance is in a format which just foreign enough to me to make me feel flutters in my stomach -- although that also might be baby. I'm not sure why I don't trust that everything will unfold as it should. It always does. And of course I always, also, don't trust that it will until 'curtain up'. Is this something everyone feels, or am I just particularly neurotic?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

dancing solo...sort of

"To succeed a work of solo dance has to move the audience on many levels. We have to be awed by the capabilities of the dancer's body, touched by the emotions the work conveys, and challenged by the intellectual puzzle the choreographer has given us to solve as we interpret the dance." Kim Hays, Swiss News.

I am proud to say that this was written by Kim Hays as a lead in to a glowing review of a dear friend of mine and phenomenal dancer, Lazaro Godoy in his solo Jugo di Limon.

Her outline of a successful solo work cobble some tall boots to fill, no doubt. I am stuck on "awed by the capabililties of the dancer's body". I think this goes beyond the technical and easily intertwines with the emotions of the work and the intellectual puzzle. Emotion and intellect will lead the body to physicalize in some pretty awesome ways. With these partners, you are never alone in a solo.

But how do you make a solo interesting? How do you construct a puzzle for yourself when you are making your own solo work? How do you capture the intrigue of the puzzle when you yourself built it? I feel my brain veering off into Greek mythology and metaphysical philosophy by even posing that question.

How do you avoid the cliche of "being in the moment", while still being in the moment?

Here's where I announce to the blogosphere that I am pregnant....and that is one way to dance a solo with a puzzle you made yourself, but cannot resolve yourself, thereby being in the moment without indulgence or inevitability, even amongst choreography. Here is a way to be awed by the capabilities of the dancer's, one's own, body, the baby's body. Baby dips, ducks and dives without complaint -- so far -- rolls, spins, leaps with enigmatic complacency. According to ultrasound imaging, baby jumps around when I am still.

Next weekend I am about to perform for the first time with baby in utero. It is a duet with another fabulous dancer, Barbara Pallomina -- it is also a mysterious trio wherein the audience will never see the third dancer's movements. Appropriately I am portraying mud and smoke -- obscure and cloudy...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

More on complicity and the economy...from Peter Brook!

After writing my last entry, I re-read The Empty Space by Peter Brook and found his description of exactly what I was trying to express about theatre and lazy directors, complicity and "deadliness". So in the words of someone far more eloquent than I:

"Of course nowhere does the Deadly Theatre install itself so securely, so comfortably and so slyly as in the works of William Shakespeare. The Deadly Theatre takes easily to Shakespeare. We see his plays done by good actors in what seems like the proper way-- they look lively and colourful, there is music and everyone is all dressed up, just as they are supposed to be in the best of classical theatres. Yet secretly we find it excruciatingly boring -- and in our hearts we either blame Shakespeare, or theatre as such, or even ourselves. To make matters worse there is always a deadly spectator, who for special reasons enjoys a lack of intensity and even a lack of entertainment, such as the scholar who emerges from routine performances of the classics smiling because nothing has distracted him from trying over and confirming his pet theories to himself, whilst reciting his favourite lines under his breath. In his heart he sincerely wants a theatre that is nobler-than-life and he confuses a sort of intellectual satisfaction with the true experience which he craves. Unfortunately, he lends the weight of his authority to dullness and so the Deadly Theatre goes on its way." (p. 12-13)

When audiences feel let down by this dullness, they resist going to any theatre. Theatre is expensive....I know, not that much more than seeing a movie, and certainly less so than professional sports and rock concerts but in those contexts audiences feel like they know what to expect: intense exertion, a contrite story summed up in slick fashion, that one big song that everyone knows and loves and when the band plays it the 20,000 people in the stadium sigh with relief. I recently experienced this phenomena in a festival in Halifax, when I performed in a work that was the poster-image for the festival. The image was plastered all through the city and at the opening show, you could feel the air quality change when I hit the shape that in the photo on the poster. Weird, for an experimental physical theatre work. But still, the recognizability made them relax, and even though it was 3/4s of the way through the show, and in an incredibly abstract moment, it seemed to quell the fears, make the whole work cling together in the audience's minds in a memorable way. A little air escaped their lips...

"Ah, there it is."
It was strange, but beautiful to experience this.

But my original point in bringing this up is combined also with the observation of rousing standing ovations at mediocre performances I've seen recently. People go to the theatre -- for dance, for mainstream or experimental or musical theatre -- to be moved and they WANT dearly to be moved by it. When people are let down, they can convince themselves that they've been transformed, or conjure a transformation because that's what they came for. Presto: standing ovation. "Why do we applaud? And what?....We want magic but we confuse it with hocus-pocus, and we have hopelessly mixed up love with sex, beauty with aestheticism." (p. 46)

Or, as Peter Brook also suggests, they can stop going. It's not worth the risk anymore. What if we lowered our ticket prices? Would the risk more affordable? Sure it's an hour and a half of my time, but it's only ten bucks....I'd be willing to risk it. Ten bucks is a fun gamble. For $30, maybe not. But we are curious creatures, even if we measure our risks carefully, especially as the economy hobbles along.

For me, in 2009 it will be important to remember another of Peter Brook's examples:
"...they are tragically incapable however hard they try of laying down for one brief instant even in rehearsal the image of themselves that has hardened round an inner emptiness." I want to forever crack that image of myself, before it has a chance to harden. The quest to know oneself as an artist, or a whole human being has got to be flexible. Typecasting is bad enough when it's done externally, why do we want to do it from the inside out. You can't resist who you are or change how an audience may interpret your movement and words, but you can't bank on it either. Perhaps I have little image of myself because we have no full-length mirrors in our house. If I discover my inner world is empty, I will start shouting, chasing down the echoes.

" ...a most powerful explanation of the various arts is that they talk of patterns which we can only begin to recognize when they manifest themselves as rhythms or shapes." (p. 47)

all quotes from: Peter Brook, The Empty Space; Penguin Classics, U.K., 1968.

2009: make manifest those patterns through rhythms and shapes that seek the barriers and attempt to blast through them, call out those complicit in laziness or dullness, make eye contact. Avoid mirrors.
Happy new year.