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Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States

I am a dancer with Minneapolis based James Sewell Ballet, a small, contemporary ballet company. I also choreograph independently.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

My Beautiful Spine

As we of JSB embark on our second run at the Joyce in as many years, I am reflecting on then, now, and the state of my spine.

During a lay-off a few weeks ago I got an MRI to finally know what’s going on in there. The deal is I have degenerative disc disease between L5 and S1 (essentially where spine meets pelvis) and also an annular tear. Scary words but I have been assured that this is somewhat par for the course and to “let pain be (my) guide”.

This is a tricky negotiation as the pain differs widely day to day. I am also trying to be drug free; alas, I am going back on Celebrex for the Joyce. Thank goodness it exists.

Prior to the MRI I had basic x-rays taken. They revealed nothing as the damage is in the soft tissue. But here’s the gift: I saw my spine and it is beautiful. It is straight and gracefully curved with perfect spaces in between the meeting points of bone. It was pure white, solidly white on the translucent x-ray film. I carry that image with me into this physically intense and emotionally demanding week at the Joyce (the pinnacle venue of its size for regional companies like ours).

All of us have something going on, either physically, emotionally or both. In that sense we are all in this together. We have the power to carry one another, quite literally, through these performances safely and with the utmost integrity and artistry.

“Anagram” is first on the program and its’ first movement is like threading a needle. It is not the super-hero like beginning of “Moving Works”, our opener last time. This is a delicate revealing, with James soloing and improvising on material from the highly crafted piece. He brings us out one by one and we commence our lemon chiffon dance. My goal is to use my head with abandon, nail my double pirouettes, and keep my face sincere and full of light. The second movement is sublime, a trio for Benjamin, Sally and Justin. (Refer to previous blog, “Inheriting Roles-Implicit in Ballet.) The final movement is fast and slow, a true re-cap, a cool down. My favorite moment is laying down in a swoon.

Here’s the hard part: we have a five minute pause in which to strip pointe shoes, pink tights and dresses and peel on skin-tight, acid green unitards with long sleeves. These things are hard to put on in any circumstance, let alone a sweaty one. We’ll all be staying upstairs for that quick-change; modesty can resume next week. This is preparation for “Involution”, our polar opposite of “Anagram”, our effort to connect with ourselves, each other and the audience, every time. The piece is special in that it is a genuine experience. We embark on actual physical struggles that lead us into isolation. We hit rock bottom and slowly, like the beginning of new life, we bubble up, new yet experienced. The ending is always different and always startlingly perfect.

Intermission then “Guy Noir: The Ballet”, a character piece with a Garrison Keillor voice-over. (Yes, he collaborated with us, revealed his red socks, and brought us chocolate.) I play Martha Isadora, an over-the-top modern dancer/drama queen. The best is when Justin, Nic and I can’t keep straight faces for laughing at one another. The scream in the blackout is mine.

That’s our program. It couldn’t be more varied. By the end, the audience will know each of us. My hope is that they won’t believe that we’re the same dancers James brought onstage two hours ago. We want to bring them on our journey and let them leave with a piece of each of us.

To those reading between April 4th and the 9th, send energetic and healing thoughts our way. Here we go…

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What wonderful thoughts on a reflection well said. I can't wait to see you guys perform at the Joyce. I know the shows will be magical.

P.S.
I think your spine is beautiful too. -John DeSerio

12:54 PM  
Anonymous Cliff Flanders said...

I had the privilege of seeing your company last night at the Joyce. You were all astonishing but you, Ms Freeh, were incandescent. You have such magnetism that I found it hard not to keep my eye from coming back to you, even when you were not the focus of the piece. I particularly loved the first two dances, as different as they were from each other. I read in the playbill that you are also a choreographer. Is there anywhere I could see your work in that sphere. In any case, thank you again for expanding my life last night.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Roger Ball said...

Fabulous show at the Joyce last evening. Particularly enjoyed the first two pieces. You are clearly the star in the JS Company. The second piece was very sexy all around. Whew!

Hope the run at the Joyce goes exceptionally well.

11:56 AM  
Blogger barefootblogger said...

To John, Cliff and Roger,

Wow! Thanks so much for your amazing comments. Cliff, to answer your question, my work is thus far pretty localized around the Twin Cities. If you leave me your contact info in my personal e-mail I would be most happy to keep you posted: barefootpenny@visi.com.

Thanks so much for reading and seeing,

Penny

9:22 PM  

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