Choreography is the window to the soul, not the eyes. At least for me it is. My eyes have become a bit droopy these days anyway, and on this, my 44th birthday I think – why don’t my friends just pitch in and get me that eyelid lift I have been wanting?
In other news about my vanity, I also think about dances, making dances, dances I have seen before, dances in my head that want to be made, dances in my head that are way beyond my capabilities to make, bad dances, good dances, in between dances – I can’t stop. I never would have imagined that I would choose to obsess and work in such a tedious medium. You need a bunch of people to help you make your thing happen: dancers, musicians, light people, sound people, stage people, program people; and if you don’t have Greg Catellier – you are doomed, plain and simple. There is just so much shit to deal with: scheduling, no money, studio space, grants, expectations, audiences, reviewers, friends who come to see your stuff, friends who don’t, friends who never say anything about your stuff, friends who say all the right things that you have trouble believing them…the list is endless. Dance is that thing that disappears as it is happening; etching, however, if it is good enough, or bad enough, an imprint that lasts indefinitely. It crawls inside you, grips your guts and psyche, and squeezes them – hard.
I believe that if we look at whatever it is we do with our lives, be it raising children, being a choreographer, being an executive, or the host of a travel show ( dream job ), we will find that the way we do our stuff directly relates to the way we live our lives and/or the way we think about ourselves. For me, this realization came several years ago. (I was a late bloomer. ) While doing all of that bothersome thinking about dances, I began reflecting on my work and what it meant to me and I found that the pieces I make are a mirror for the way I relate to others and myself. I have never been keen on allowing people to examine me, and so to that end, I never really land ( think of a house fly ) long enough to invite scrutiny. One on one conversations, teaching, talking, interacting…when I think too much is being seen, I run and hide. I think of it like this…it’s kind of like driving up to a house. You might think the house is nice but then when you look carefully you see the chipped paint, the weeds in the garden, the hose that isn’t neatly rolled and tucked away. So, it would be best if you drove by really fast and have a vague memory of what it is you saw. My dances are very much the same. I’ll provide plenty of distraction, many people moving around, no time to allow anyone the opportunity to examine anything, for fear that you will see the chipped paint and weeds. Busy busy busy, get it done and get out. All my insecurity and doubt is inside those dances. If you get bored, I crumble. No different than if you come to our house for a party – if you are bored, I’ve failed and will try to improve on the cosmopolitans for the next time. That is, if I can find the courage for a next time.
Somehow, the courage surfaces briefly but then your aesthetics shift. It’s a complete surprise. You just kinda thought that you’ll like what you like and that’s it. While I will always love cucumbers and watermelon and pray that that love will never go away, I can’t deny that, whether brought on by seeing inspirational dances, or just boredom with what I have done in the past, what I want to see and do choreographically has shifted dramatically. I used to only be interested in making pretty dances to pretty music. Decorating the soundtrack – making eye candy. I guess that comes from colorguard since that is the PRIMARY concern with that activity, but even that seems to be changing, too. I want audiences to feel, think, be moved, touched by, and engaged by what I put on the stage. I want it to linger, I want it to be sticky; something you can’t get off of your hands. I want gasps, and I want people to talk about it. After all these years of moving dancers around on stage I know I can get them easily from point “A” to point “B”, and I know I can do it with musicality. It is what I have been doing for years. What I don’t know is if I can make something that lives in a more profound place. I don’ t know if I have that kind of courage or skill. I don’t know if I have the confidence it takes to reveal the weeds and chipped paint and not apologize for it, or at the very least, not point it out so that people know that I know it’s there.
Two nights ago I saw Yasmeen Godder’s company perform a piece called “Storm End Come.” Six dancers, a continuous sound score and one idea. Now, in her program description, which reads like a Jungian thesis, she describes something that would take about 45 nights of dance concerts to convey, at least in my opinion. What she delivered was an idea that slowly unfolded, exposed itself, and slipped into the dark recesses of the stage. Dancers adopting animal personas, licking their arms, howling, hissing, shrieking, and amidst all of that, engaging in breathtaking contact work. This concert was basically the antithesis of the way I choreograph and although for me, it didn’t ALL work, I admired the confidence it took to just say the same thing continuously for 70 minutes. It was fragmented, and I wafted in and out of the work, waiting for those moments of crystalized togetherness, wading through, patiently, the moments that just seemed to be like that faint ringing you can sometimes get in your ear. Annoying, but a bit curious at the same time. I saw restlessness around me, and I saw people sitting back in their chairs; of course I’ll never know what they were thinking, but body language says a lot – especially in these circumstances. The show ended and the applause was generous, not crazy, but generous and afterwards I lingered to hear what people had to say. I eavesdropped to see if my thoughts aligned with others’. Fragmented, depressing, weird, exciting, beautiful were the words I heard. Keep in mind, that my eavesdropping is more difficult here because I have to stalk English speaking people. So my shifting around looks especially bizarre. Therefore I must pretend to be on the phone and move around stealthily, crazy how much time I eneded up spending by the entrance to the bathroom. But the fact remains, this dance was stuck on people’s hands. Success.
Kathleen once said there is no universal truth. There is no one type of dance that people like. She also said you can like pizza AND you can like steak, so stop comparing yourself. But I have always been one to want the thing that is closest to me at the time. If I am at a steakhouse, I don’t long for pizza. If I am at a movie, I don’t wish to be hiking. When I am in France, I want desperately to be French. My grasp on who I am and what I like is so tenuous that it gives way to whatever is more appealing, whatever is in front of my face. I forget who I am and what I do, and end up admiring the thing in front of me because I see it as perfect. I don’t see the untidy hose. Hence, I copy, imitate, become a choreographic chameleon, hoping to brush by the color or shade that suits me the best. Therein lies the perfection. Therein lies the impossibility.
When I have a day that isn’t packed with classes, meetings, rehearsals, etc. I am given the rare opportunity to consider how I would like it to unfold. I usually decide to fit in all the things that I enjoy the most. I carefully consider all the options, try to organize them logically, streamline them, move the laundry downstairs, figure out how one drive connects to the next, wipe a crumb off the counter, make sure that there is proper flow in the day, contemplate emptying the dishwasher, try to find efficiency, fur-minate Abby, re-debate the order of events, recalculate distances, listen to the refrigerator to make sure it isn’t making that whirring noise, reconsider if one drive is really worth the effort, move that magazine to a different part of the table, rethink the necessity of the dry-cleaning errand, the visit to the bookstore, the stop at Starbucks, empty the dishwasher, take Abby for a walk, debate my driving route. I usually begin this process at 9am and when I find myself still in the house at 4:00, I think to myself, “ Well, I can’t miss Judge Judy, now can I?” and suddenly the day is lost. The perfect day is gone because I could not find the perfect plan. Anything less than perfect would have been a waste, and clearly what I did was waste the day perfectly – again. Not having a schedule is like walking on toothpicks. If you balance correctly, you can get by, but get a little distracted, and those toothpicks are the first things to go. Is the lesson more “carpe diem-ish,” or is it: “get the board out of your ass-ish and just do something?”
This is absolutely the way I feel when I choreograph. I put each spice in the cupboard into the dance – shroud it with all the things I love, and consequently I end up covering up so much detail, so much nuance, because I fear your boredom. I never want to take for granted those magnificent opportunities to make work and show work, that is why there is so much dread and agony in the creating process. That is why the kitchen sink goes into the work as well. It has to endure. It has to be perfect. But – where do I start, what do I do? Which admirable dance do I emulate – how do I bury myself enough to make the work look right? how?
-a shift is necessary.
I can’t say for certain what the next dance will be like, but for me, now, today, I am going to the beach. I already know what I am packing for lunch and am hoping that I can plan the day perfectly so that I can be out of the apartment long before Judge Judy comes on in the states.