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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.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


I’m thinking about words, wondering if they’re more or less ephemeral than dance.

One of the reasons why I love dance so, why I love the performing arts in general, is this very ephemeral nature. Inherent, implicit in the concept, is that one will never encounter any particular set of circumstances again. All the world’s a stage, and as a result, everyone’s performing their show at the same time, and they all eventually melt away, upward, into the ether.

Lately I find myself very engaged with words, both well-thought-out and stream-of-consciousness ones. I find too that I want to hold on tight to them, like a lifeline or a home. And yet I know, from recent experience especially, that the tighter I try to grip, the sweatier my hands.

I am in the middle of watching “Casablanca”. Again. I’ve seen it about a million times. At the end of the first series of flashback scenes, Rick is standing, in the rain of course, at a train station waiting for Ilsa. She sends a note in her stead. We read it along with him, along with the rain as it washes her words away. Their meaning is grasped and is gone. Is the meaning gone or merely the words? Does the dance still exist, or is it just a slug’s slime trail, sort of sparkling on the concrete?

I still hold on tight. Words represent moments in time. They are our time capsules, our glimpses into our own histories and stories. Sometimes I take great comfort in re-reading my own thoughts. Maybe not from the fifth grade, but from five years ago, or from yesterday. I am unravelling my own mystery, seeing the pattern of my choices, connecting the dots.

Words inspire me when I choreograph. I often lead performers through a writing exercise where we select a few significant words from a personal writing and interpret them through movement. I’ve made many a dance launching from this pad. It’s effective in that it gets our collective, intellectual juices flowing. The movement is no longer about itself, it’s linked to a personal experience, a history. A herstory.

As I write this a heavy rain falls. I am reminded of the “Casablanca” image, and I wonder if all my words of late are washing away like Ilsa’s did, desperately and with music swelling?

Yet this rain is a relief, a new beginning, a break to a hot spell. I stand on my balcony, still wet, with lightning illuminating the sky. My stomach does a flip-flop, and my heart wonders if words truly bring people together or if the most we can attain is to be brought closer to ourselves? I’d like to think both. Words are what they are, we should take them at face value, and yet strive, with every fiber, to live up to them, the eloquent ones.


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