Dears, it has been a little while since I wrote. Grad school has taken up much of my energy. As I draw close to completion there, (graduation in August!), the larger tides of my life are begging to be tended to, and that means dance making, dance sharing, dance thinking, and lately... dance doodling. Doodling the personage of the beating heart behind my latest work.
Grandmammal is a beasty presence that has been with me since late high school in one form or another. She recently returned as I've been working on my one woman show (the same I presented last April and worked on at Crosstown Arts last summer). Suffice it to say that she represents simultaneously the origin and the culmination of our evolution as mammals--a species whose future is as uncertain as the rest, but uniquely positioned to impact that future for better or worse. I see her coming and I see her going. I see her calling us forward from a long way off. I see her as a liability and an aspiration at the same time. The heart of the matter of why this species exists at all, which is to bond. We are about bonding. And yet, for me, she is always seen in a kind of in-looking solitude.
As I've done since last spring, I go to the Crosstown Arts public space and work a few times a week, but this time with no 'soft bouncer.' What I'm doing looks like idiosyncratic pedestrianism some days, tourism others, gymnastic exercises sometimes, or the musings of a mad woman. Sometimes it's an amoebic ode or a matter of rest. Either way, it fills me with evident joy to show up and do my ordinary extraordinary dailies and then go on with my life, letting the work accumulate in my subconscious.
I am inspired by people who work when no one is looking. I really love the awkwardness, though, of committing to personal and spatial research on a small platform with others noodling past, pausing or not. It's like an encouragement to become aware that our behavior itself is a canvas. Dance is behavior, too, not just display. It can be doing something in civic space that's as communicative or not as another body walking and eyeballing, or pushing a broom, or playing with their phone as they lean on a crumbling column.
And yet it is also a shy experience I am tenderly eager to share with you.
Working in public isn't a new thing. We all work in public to greater or lesser degrees. Yet there has been something poignant and bizarre about committing to a naked creative process--well, an exposed one anyway--by working at the Performance Stairs at the Concourse. That's why for each rehearsal I have been graced by the willingness of a fellow artist friend to hold space, to be what I call a "soft bouncer:' someone willing to give, if not the boot, a strong side-eye to anyone who tries to stop me from doing what I need to do there.
Which is what?
Wrestle gravity. Tangle with invisible partners. And keep homing in, here, on the central corps of movement material by looping through it, out of it, and back in.
Carol Sams took this (and added the slow mo, lordy!) Thanks to her for her keen bouncer-ship.
Thank you SO much for reading and caring.
DATES have been announced for my show. Friday April 13 9pm, Saturday same deal, Sunday 1:30pm. 1000 S. Cooper St. Memphis TN 38104.TheatreSouth.
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?
Intercellular Collaborations, and Fungi February: Dancing with what Else is Out There (and in here.)
During Soft Animals in Motion in January, in which we explored the buoyancy and motivity of single cell organisms using a variety of movement in solo and group structures, an idea was suggested to explore the world of the Fungi in February. I'll be talking with an expert in fungi to learn more about how these specimens communicate important news to one another, and the history of their emergence in the grand spectacle of evolution. As always, I am curious about how dance is itself an act of evolution, which of course means that examining our evolution--if you choose to believe it--from particles into microorganisms and outwards through a series of morphologies into bipedalism and tool- and toy-making, can be fruitful as a means of creative, interpersonal, and personal inquiry.
February 17 from 3-5pm at Theatreworks, we will be expanding and deepening our capacities to imagine, to extend, flex, curl, and unfurl, and to relay messages through the air. Join us! See the Current Offerings tab for more info, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yesterday diverse movers came together for a two hour session aimed at exploring diverse unison, the evolution of mammalian movement patterns, (what??), and interspecies duets. we had a ball. Looking to make this a monthly offering, so please stay tuned, and bring your single cell boogie, your spiraling giraffe meanderings, and your tadpole gyration to the next round.
This fall has been a juicy, terrible, terrific time for roses. In October, there was our beautiful screening at Ditty TV and a short residency for me and Bethany with fellow rose-artist Lauren Curry. We worked together to bring out a new solo for her, and she truly blew my personal mind by taking what I gave her, tossing it to one side, and revealing a quieter and more resonant truth, cobbled from mismatched songs, angles, a simple trajectory.
Bethany and I worked with Paulette Regan and Maxine "Silverbird" Strawder to craft simple duets for the event at Ditty TV that would give a general idea of what we envision for our pre-show, community-based portion: a nocturne for remembered dances, performed by older community members who have a cherished "move" or "two-step" from decades ago. Terrie Starr accompanied us on keyboard with an insomniac version of "When You Wish Upon a Star." This was a vivid dream come true.
Then Trump got elected, because of a stream of run-of-the-mill f'ed-up events, including an electoral system that is outmoded. Flowers everywhere sobbed and grieved, including the ones between our legs. Such a terrible and sad day was November 8th 2016.
And then we got back to work, which is what women do. Restoking the fires of our courage and faith in this project as all women must in their own projects of all kinds, in our bodies-of-woman, in this planet's example everywhere speaking to us, in ordinary people doing the best they can to keep their chins lifted, their kids, animals, gardens, businesses clean, safe and well fed, their trash to the curb on the right day of the week, their soul un-crushed by the weight of mortality, of expediency, of social pressures to fit in or get out.
So we are back on the beat. And I personally promise to do a better job of keeping in touch here and using what power and voice I have to uplift beauty and authenticity in an everyday kind of no-big-deal way.
We have to be more out of the closet than ever now. We must be more present to one another. We must reveal our true colors as they emerge and take in deeply from the offerings of others. All of this requires putting our cellular devices down and smelling the air and surrendering our preoccupations with keeping the stories of our lives in motion.
Thank you for sharing in this story bigger than any one story.
It's no secret to anyone who's seen ROSA and seen Pedro Almodovar's 2002 film, Talk to Her, that ROSA has stolen a few petals from that outrageous picture as well as from the dance muse at is center, Pina Bausch.
Cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe here captures actresses Leonor Watling (left) and Rosario Flores (right) who portray a dancer and a bull-fighter who are both in comas and both being cared for by a male nurse who believes you have to talk to her. There's more than a few transgressions in this movie. It creeps under the skin and dances there.
Bethany and I recently spent a couple more days together--thanks to family willing to watch B's five year old, friends willing to host us and my two rambunctious and shedding puppies, and our rehearsal space offering us another helpful discount--and these days together were hard to describe.
Waking up with hours at the studio ahead--having talked through my rambling notes, threaded through both of our hearts since the last work session together in May, we sat with crumpled and eager morning-faces over our steel cut oats. Bee was looking at me with a confidence and trust I felt I had better stand up to.
That meant asking her a question, as usual.
Me: Bee, with all this where do we start?
Bee: Well, let's start with our relationship. It's where we are, and we'll know how to go from there.
Me; Why are you so smart?
Bee: And even better? I'm yours.
So we go to the studio and a window opened into a little world of furious emotion and crafting that neither of us saw coming--and yet we were not derailed. I have been looking into the history of mental illness and addiction in my family going back five generations and this work has been trickling like old water down a mountain in the background of ROSA since this year's revisitation.
Going our separate ways after this residency, new themes had opened up in the soil of ROSA.
What is it to watch someone you love making their own lives utterly impossible? really watch and not turn away?
How do you intervene or not intervene? What happens in your body as you watch? Should you close your eyes? Is there a value in your keen witnessing?
How does the dance you did as a young person live in you at age 100?
How does the dance you do at age 100 live in you now?
Where is the uncanny seem between the old and the new, and why does it slip and fall when we need it most to stay in place, like a faulty hem?
An old dress reveals a fresh whiff of peony. A new handkerchief releases the memory of the scratch of granddad's cheek.
Nothing stays where you put it even though you live alone.
These are the frightening pleasures of this particular creative process, as ROSA grows bigger, stronger legs and the four of us an ensemble begin to occupy it more fully. We need Lauren's voice more. We need Stephanie's voice more. We're working to fund those realities, and it's all coming together with gratitude, my White privilege of course, there's always that--and a few licks of hard work.
Up next: a score for Stephanie and Lauren inspired by TALK TO HER to explore long-distance until our next work session. Join in with us or comment with your thoughts, that'll be coming down the pike next weekend.
Meanwhile, I wish for you the time and space, at least a wee bit and hopefully a lot more, to let joy be your transmission.