Can’t leave this project dangling without a reflective, final, improvisation.
Can’t leave this project dangling without a reflective, final, improvisation.
I guess after today I’m not to be trusted.
One day left in January…
In case you haven’t heard, HOCKEY IS BACK and it’s about damn time. I missed seeing the good old flightless birds of Pittsburgh zooming around on the ice. While I was watching the Penguins play tonight, I was admiring the athleticism and movement of the players. It’s such a fast-paced, high energy game. I’ve always wondered how they stay warm in such a cold place – I always feel like my muscles and joints are going to seize up if I have to dance in a cold space – but I guess they move so much that warmth doesn’t become an issue. I also love watching plays take shape on the ice – where every one comes into position and can get the puck to the right person at the right time to materialize a goal.
Although it was an unfortunate 4-1 loss to the Islanders, watching the game gave me ideas for dance movements inspired by the way hockey players move and interact. The ways the goalies dive for saves, puck handling, stick handling, checking, the sounds of the skates on ice, pucks on sticks, and bodies slamming into boards. The lack of ice leaves me at a clear disadvantage, but today’s dance was inspired by hockey nevertheless.
I know it’s a weird time to be working on something like this, but I’ve been wanting to choreograph a dance about summertime in the city for awhile. Cities totally transform in the summer when it’s really hot out. A privileged few might sequester themselves in climate-controlled buildings, but it seems to me more common that people come out of the woodwork, because their non-air conditioned apartments are unbearable. People sit on stoops, in parks, anywhere that they might catch a breeze. Something about the extreme heat is communal – we’re all going through it together, and it makes us all equally want to do nothing but sit there and sweat (except for those very few completely deranged runners that go running when it’s >95 degrees that no one can believe really exist). I want to make a dance that reflects this community of laguidness, with heavy, fluid movements interspersed with periods of “I really can’t do anything more than sit here right now and try not to let any parts of my body touch any other parts of my body.”
I’ve been thinking about this dance since last summer, and back then I did some observation and pre-choreography while I walked around the city to get ideas. Besides that, I obviously don’t have any immediate inspiration to draw from, other than the memory of summer somewhere in my cold, winterized bones. Here’s a snippet of something I hope will become a larger work.
A haiku for today’s dance:
maintain a sense of wonder.
small miracles. cool!
With so few days left in January, I’m staring the potential end of this project in the face. Will I keep going after this Thursday? What have I learned from this experience? What am I most satisfied with? Dissatisfied? I don’t have answers to a lot of the questions that are swirling in my mind, but there’s no time to think about them when you have to race against the clock to create a dance before the day ends, like this one.
This quote was shared with me recently. I think I have heard it before, and but this time, it really struck a chord. One of the reasons I’m doing this dance project is because I feel like I spend an awful lot of time doing things that don’t matter that much (“liv[ing] what is not life”) and not as much time on the things that really do matter (“liv[ing] deeply and suck[ing] all the marrow out of life”). So, here’s to living deliberately, sucking out all that marrow, and truly experiencing life.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.” – Thoreau
I like this song because of what sounds to me like cautious yet excited curiosity, or waiting to see what is in store. I never like to walk around the city with headphones on, but if I were to do such a thing, this song would probably be on the agenda regularly. Something about city life that I find interesting is that, headphones or not, everyone you see has a whole world going on in their mind that’s predominantly theirs and hidden to those around them. You can be stone faced and walking around like evyerone else but inside you could be thinking all kinds of things, happy or sad. It’s like having a secret.
It’s an understatement to say that it’s been cold in this city this week. It’s the kind of cold that hurts your face if you’re outside for more than a few minutes, and your hands get numb even though they are in your pockets with gloves on.
I’ve been watching the snow on my deck evolve over the past few days. I love the traces that were left in the snow from my dance outside a few days ago. But I noticed that my tracks were changing as the days went by. The snow couldn’t have been melting since it hasn’t been more than 20 degrees for days so… SUBLIMATION. Solid right to gas. So cool.
I thought about what would it be like to dance in such cold – how can you move freely when you can barely stand to be outside at all? And I thought it would be interesting to follow the tracks of my dance from a few days ago, but in a colder context. So I decided to venture out for today’s dance – nothing prepared, just to see what would happen.
The cold hit me like a wall, and I started moving as an automatic reaction. I was expecting to react to the cold with very small, internal movement, but it actually was more appealing to move bigger to stay warm. I lost track of my surroundings and whacked my arms into the clothesline – and just went with it. I also noticed how different the texture of the snow was from a few days ago, and how it changed my interaction with it. And then I couldn’t take it any more and ran inside, almost slipping from the snow on my boots. Invigorating!
I have this sort of odd thing where I go on a musical “shelter” kick. Three (and sort of four) of my favorite songs all happen to have the word “shelter” in the title: “Shelter from the Storm” by Bob Dylan, “Gimme Shelter” by the Rolling Stones, and “Looking for Shelter” by Good Old War (the “sort of four” part comes from the fact that I prefer a certain live version of the Dylan song to the original, but love them both). For whatever reason, I can listen to these four songs on repeat over and over again. They are often my go-to songs when I need a soul kickstart, a way to absorb and/or release energy, or when I feel like I’m in need of shelter myself.
I relish the fact that they are all such different songs, but have the common thread of shelter as so much more than a physical structure. It’s a basic human need and something we’re all looking for, but not in the sense of needing it in the physiological sense for safety or survival. Yet the three spin it in such different ways – the Stones, political; Dylan, almost mythological; and Good Old War, feels to me like companionship on an adventure. You can watch today’s dance to see my angle on it. But, as per Reading Rainbow, you don’t have to take my word for it.