Going into the Bates experience, I knew I was in need of refreshment in a major way. I had been looking for a source of sustenance – actively seeking this fount for years. But it wasn’t until I was knee deep in its cool waters, lapping like a dog, did I realize how thirsty I’d actually been. Parched. I had spent the last several months working, pushing, insisting, forcing – making best efforts to engage in a disciplined course. Ignoring the threats of burnout. And I made best efforts to apply the same discipline and engagement to my Bates experience. Now I’ve spent the last week at home trying to process it all … and moving as far away from order and discipline as I can muster. It’s been a bit of a post-apocalyptic dust cloud around here up until now. So when I awoke at 3am last Friday and found myself finally cleaning the bathroom, bringing in the luggage from the back hallway, unpacking, and flossing, it probably indicated my readiness to sort through the beautiful debris. Or just reverting to my old bad habits of obsessively controlling my environment.
Working on my as yet untitled solo turned out to be an ideal way to process aspects of my Bates experience. For three weeks, each weekday morning began with my own rehearsal. It was challenging to spend the first portion of the day waiting for it, wrestling with it, avoiding conflict with it, having no clue which direction it might come from. I looked at existing material from (re)Birth, the larger evening length work for five. I spent time looking at the text I hid away on an external hard drive months earlier. I videotaped my improvisations, sifted through the video, and relearned the useful elements. And yes, I allowed the requisite time for laying on the floor and staring at the ceiling.
After sharing the studio with fellow solo-maker Helen Simoneau one Sunday afternoon, I realized I might be a bit more productive if I spent a little less time alone with the work. So, I invited some incredibly generous people into the studio to witness the battle. Donna Mejia was the first on that Sunday, July 25th. It was all too unformed, but having discovered some shared history, Donna seemed an appropriate first witness.
When Cynthia Oliver came in on the morning of Thursday, July 28th, Arthur Fink had already been photographing the mess I was making for an hour. It was an unusually humid morning, and I was rolling around in puddles of my own sweat, mumbling text to myself and singing the same refrain over and over. By the time Cynthia came in, I had given myself over to my dehydrated stupor, was a little less afraid to claim the mess, and a little more physically invested. I felt relatively safe sharing my text, movement, and voice with her after nearly two weeks in her text and movement class. Along with other useful bits of feedback, she offered the following … What would happen if, for a moment, you decided not to take care of other people and make them feel safe in the presence of your power? Good question.
I invited Vic Marks into the studio the next morning with far less fanfare. In the moments before Vic’s arrival, Melody Eggan had been sitting along the back wall watching as I struggled to retrieve yesterday’s decisions. We had an inspiring discussion about possible costume … a warmly hued tailored dress with a petticoat of unexpected color and texture. There were no cinematic rolls in puddles of sweat, no near heatstroke clarity. In fact, some of the previous day’s clarity had evaporated as the humidity had. Nonetheless, following my run-through for Vic she offered … who knows? the suspense of performance, control of space and body, a woman’s body/women’s bodies, sometimes words and movement do the same thing. It makes me wonder about you, has she given birth? Another good question.
On Saturday, I shared the solo with the larger Bates community in an informal showing in the Alumni Gym. I didn’t know how to make myself ready, but sharing provided great relief and more useful feedback. double meaning/punning, how I hold something I know and don’t know, the child I was or have had … how about more labor/exhaustion?
Much of the last week was devoted to preparation for the Different Voices concert. On the final Saturday morning of the festival, however, Helen and I decided to share our work one last time before leaving the incubator. I hadn’t arrived at any new insights since the sharing from the previous weekend, but I hoped for the clarity which sometimes comes when people watch you work it out. As it turns out, there were no new sparks of clarity from the doing, but the combination of pointed questions, admitted bias, and the inevitability of going home allowed for some serious soul stirring. I don’t perceive a change in the movement vocabulary as the section progresses. In her body she is in the same place. I’m have a bias for movement invention. The black body is marked. And having seen the piece in rehearsal three times in three weeks, Vic Marks asked, for the third time … What’s your perspective on this topic? It’s complicated, but I answered.
It has turned out to be a risky business, this solo-making. I’m probably too unresolved about the piece’s inspiration, my body’s fairly recent revolt … and have probably been approaching the material far too clinically as a result. I have not yet moved beyond the relatively neutral reporting of facts, but there were glimpses of something else. One particular assignment in Cynthia’s text and movement class allowed me to channel this something else through one small portion of text, and I have been trying to re-access it ever since. It was as if the door had been cracked just enough to indicate the presence of a deluge just beyond. But I guess it doesn’t all come at once, and I should probably be grateful. In the meantime, I am interested in looking more closely at the movement, and the sensation of the experiences I am recounting as they live in my body. In what cells are these memories hiding, why do these memories decide to sing/speak/move, and why have I invited other people into this retrieval exercise in the first place?