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.