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


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.