Lament for Solo Computer

It's been awhile, quite awhile since I wrote here about my own work. I write a lot about my work: for grant proposals, for festival applications and calls to artists, in my various and too-many notebooks, but rarely here.

This week I have the most wonderful opportunities to perform a work from Blue Ceiling dance repertoire in two very different places. The first is "Hello World", a concert/performance put together by the TOLOrk (Toronto Laptop Orchestra) at Array Music (tonight, November 19th at 7:30 pm. 155 Walnut Ave, just south of Trinity Bellwoods Park). The second is "After Dark", a fundraiser for Jillian Peever and JD Dance at the Intergalactic Arts Collective space in the Artscape Young Place building on Shaw St. 8:30pm onwards).

I'd like to tell you a little bit about this work.

Lament for Solo Computer.

It is named for the exhausting and gorgeous music by Jascha Narveson.

Sometime in 2008, I think, storyteller/actor Lisa Pijuan-Nomura and I decided we wanted to make a performance work together that would have something to do with ghosts. We asked our friend Jascha Narveson (then a graduate student in music composition at Princeton University) if he had any music that he thought might be relatable to that theme. Jascha sent us a Dropbox full of ideas, one of which was Lament for Solo Computer.

Well, Lisa and I both got pregnant and our co-creation went on the back burner. (Lisa, should we get back on this now?)

But Lament for Solo Computer lingered in my head.

Fast forward to the fall of 2012. While assisting Andrea Nann in the programming and planning of the Whole Shebang, I asked if she would be interested in a collaboration between Jascha and me. She said yes and away I went on the path to finally creating to music Jascha had suggested we use years before.

When I approached Jascha about using the music, he said he'd always hoped I would  want to use it one day. And he graciously shortened his track by 90 seconds to accommodate the strict 10 min time limit for the epic 2012 Whole Shebang. (It was epic for many reasons, not the least of which was live tattooing in performance).

The theme of that year's Whole Shebang was twinning. There were twin performers, duets, a mirror movement choir of performers and audience. My work was a solo, but my starting points were two: the lamenting computer itself (Jascha's score) and Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken". I would become a nasty, nihilistic creature who sees, for 9 min and 30 seconds, both roads at once. How would she change?

I was very angry while I made this piece. Just two weeks before I had premiered another solo, a joyful one called Frankenstein Fragments that embodied musicality and quirks and stole gratuitously from former works for the sake of self-mockery and fun. Right after the performances of Frankenstein Fragments I found out that a dear dear friend of mine who was sick, was not only very ill, but actually now dying.

I was so pissed off, I could not summon the love of performing, the drive to create. I was just mad as hell. And I had less than two weeks to make this new piece for the Whole Shebang.

I couldn't get through tech rehearsal but for the grace and loveliness of Andrea Nann (thank you Andrea), I couldn't find my place in the music, my right hamstring was twanging like a strung ham and I was quite sure the audience would think I totally sucked. Totally.


The first step to remounting Lament for Solo Computer was to watch the video. I was surprised when I watched it at how much is really in there. The choreography actually embodied that anger, rather than just me being angry on stage. The dance and the music transcended the circumstances under which it was made. At the end of the piece the applause is loud, there are whoops and cheers. Something was happening.

Here's another wonderful reason for remounting repertoire and why we as artists should be revisiting our works. When encountering the material removed from the emotional landscape in which it was originally made you get to discover what's really there....

Something was there back then and something is there now.

My friend who was dying died less than two weeks after The Whole Shebang 2012. He's in there. The anger is in there. But they don't drive the dance any more, they lie inside the impulses. They colour the muscles and skeleton in motion.

They leave room for something more.

photos by Omer Yukseker


Popular posts from this blog

Sarah Slean's poem for my dancework "The Abecedarian".

How to tear down a wall, with Tracey Norman.