When you make work that is deeply personal, it can be hard to revisit. I am in the midst of dusting off Lauren & Bethany, a work I made for an emerging choreographer's showcase in Indianapolis, to present at RAD Fest in Kalamazoo, Michigan next weekend. Sarah says this piece is a kind of child of ROSA: A Dance That Might Be About Roses, a work in progress conceived and directed by Sarah, and I wholeheartedly agree. Without ROSA and without Sarah, there would be no Lauren & Bethany.
I am having to step back into feelings of utter emptiness and it is HARD. To allow my body to remember what it felt like to walk into my house in Memphis and find it laid bare. That house and I had taken care of each other for seven years. On our last day together, I lovingly swept and washed her floors and polished the woodwork, and when I was done, we danced. In the months leading up to my move, Sarah and I spent so many delicious hours in the pagoda/studio in the construction zone for ROSA: A Dance That Might Be About Roses. Words can not adequately express how achingly lovely that time together was: creating, laughing, crying, screaming... wanting so desperately to stop time from marching forward.
Have you ever felt as if a layer of your skin was missing??? That is what it means to step back into this work. To feel completely raw... To push against the emptiness, trying to be brave but failing miserably. To devour every last drop, SPEND IT ALL, and then slowly put one foot in front of the other.
For the past six months, I have spent my Wednesday nights learning Solo Vernacular Jazz dances from local Lindy Hop dancer, Danny Beyrer. These routines are rooted in the drive and pulse of Swing music and have wonderfully absurd names like: Big Apple, Mama Stew, Shim Sham, and the Tranky Doo. Within the routines are codified steps: Fall Off the Log, Suzie Q, Apple Jacks, and the list goes on and on, I can not believe I have been on this earth for 39 years and did not know that these dances existed!!!!!!! Rhythm is like food to me and I have been starved for it since I arrived in Indianapolis two years ago. Learning these routines has made me feel at home in my body again and has done so much for my dancing. These dances have helped me to bring a sense of ease and coolness to movement, which goes against my natural instinct to be BIG and BOLD.
I have been filling Sarah in on my rhythm journey and desperately wishing she was swinging right next to me every Wednesday night. In January I texted her a video of me practicing the Tranky Doo in my kitchen.
Bethany: A kitchen Tranky Doo pour vous!
Sarah: Oh snap. Bucklin my seatbelt. I simply don't believe you.
Bethany: If you'd like to learn it, I'll break it down to the nitty gritty details via video and send them to you to learn along at your leisure.
Sarah: Please! Now, some of that had to be your invention.
Bethany: Definitely added my own flavor but the steps area all Tranky Doo Choreo and almost each move has a name: Fall Off the Log, Apple Jacks, Boogie Forwards, Boogie Backs, Shorty George, Suzy Q
Sarah: Jesus. That is so damn sweet.
So slowly but surely, I have been recording pieces of the Tranky Doo in my kitchen and sending it off to Sarah in Memphis. As some of you know, Sarah is working on The Feeling is Mutual, a prelude to a One Woman Show she has begun developing, that she will be presenting in Memphis' first ever Fringe Festival. During our weekly phone pow-wow last week, she asked if I could, in my own unique way, begin to transcribe the Tranky Doo onto paper. She has plans for the doodles as she begins to research movement material for The Feeling is Mutual. So, I'm off to my kitchen to continue to record pieces of the Tranky Doo and doodle it on paper and let it all ride the radio waves to Sarah's phone and smile knowing she is somewhere in Memphis making magic with it.
Today I have my first rehearsal for THE FEELING IS MUTUAL. Since this work is that odd thing--a one woman show that explores relationship--it seemed only fitting that I rehearse not quite alone, maybe a little bit alone--like, when you and someone else at the airport are both alone, in the same quiet red-eye wing of the airport. it matters that there's another heartbeat in the waiting room. You might even trust someone enough to go to sleep.
So I've asked a friend to come sit and "hold space' for me on the performance stairs at the Crosstown Concourse today at 4pm. I said, hey, bring some work you can get done. She's going to have her laptop, basically ignoring me. But it makes all the difference in the world.
Strange Attractions: Cultivating a New One-Woman Show for Memphis' First-ever Fringe Festival, AND gearing up for Soft Animals in Motion's February edition: the Fabulous Fungi Kingdom
So it turns out there is an unexpected parallel between workshop this month and my one woman show: both explore the force that astrophysicists lovingly call "Big G." Yep, you guessed it. Gravity.
Talking with ecologist friend Will last night, he explained to me the movement patterns of mushrooms, larger members of the fungi kingdom (a kingdom which is more than three times as prolific in its output of diverse species as our Animal kingdom is,) Turns out mushrooms are--wait for it--negatively gravotropic. What the f does that mean? It means they develop against gravity. Not unlike our own trend, since we entered bipedal locomotion. We know why we started going "against the grain" as it were. But why do our friends, the mushrooms? We can speculate, or... we can dance. Why? Because as Neil Degrass Tyson so eloquently points out, we are not the top of the chain of life bur participants. Getting to know the more-than-human world is a profound and delicious way of getting to know ourselves. Be on the dance floor with me next Saturday February 17 from 3-5 to find out more. Theatreworks 2085 Monroe Ave Memphis, TN 38104. $20 or preferred.
BREAKING NEWS: I'm going to be presented in Memphis' FIRST EVER FRINGE FESTIVAL. If you are new to that word, a Fringe Festival is an opportunity for diverse performance makers to come together and present original work without any other affiliation, much like a film festival. It is often the start of something, a place to discover and to experiment. I am pleased to be coming "home" to interdisciplinary performance work, For this. I'll be presenting the prelude to a One Woman Show I have just begun developing. In no small way, this work is an ode to gravity and other inevitable (if sometimes uneasy) attractions. It is called The Feeling is Mutual. Dates are between April 13-22 at Voices of the South's Theatre South in Cooper Young. Stay tuned, loved ones. And for fun, please meet my mascot and muse, Frog the Rooster.
Yes, this is a true story. Why else would we bother?