My Photo
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States

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

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Bridging the Gap

James Sewell Ballet has had two performances of our new piece “Turf” so far, and it’s interesting to witness the incoming responses. The subject matter (violence, torture, death and redemption) is bringing up people’s stuff, like it or not. Our job as dancers is to do due diligence in representing these atrocities as thoroughly as possible. However, is it possible to remain neutral, to just represent?

In talking with C yesterday it was interesting to note our experiential differences. I’m still thinking about that conversation and what it continues to bring up for me. The jist of it was that he is very much literally engaged in the piece. “Method” as he put it. He works himself into a lather and literally gets infuriated with me as his victim. I, however, blindfolded and bound, feel quite safe. I feel like I am interacting with C, not with a torturer. I bridge that gap myself. Otherwise it would be too terrifying, too uncertain from a dancing perspective. And here’s another thing: how “dancerly” need we be? This is the inherent struggle we are all having with this piece. Physically it’s hugely satisfying as we get to jump and soar and pair quickly and come apart. It gets quite spectacular in that sense. And then suddenly the virtuosity turns ugly and we are primitive-brained, competitive, and capable of killing. How do we make this transition while remaining within the form of dance? Need we remain within the form?

As we embark on the last of this series of performances tonight, I will contemplate these questions and look forward to re-opening them again in January when we tour and perform at O’Shaughnessy Auditorium in St. Paul. I think we can strike a balance. I think in many ways we have. My vote tends to lean toward the realistic rather than the performative. Yet here we are dancing to this highly dramatic Bartok score, and it must be acknowledged and represented in a real way.

I love this, this puzzling over a thing that’s so worthwhile. It’s interesting to note how, even with these unanswered questions, the piece is happening. It is vital. It is awesome to dance and experience in front of an audience. I guess that’s what it comes down to. Discovery onstage holds an important place for me. Not that I deliberately hold back in rehearsal (in fact I love the risk-taking that is inherent to the rehearsal process), but there is inevitably something more to be excavated onstage, and when I least expect it. I think this happens as a result of being in the moment and open-hearted.

As always I am struck by how many metaphors for life can be found in the dance world. At this juncture in my own life where I’m attempting to open my pedestrian self to be as open as the dancer in me, I discover that my suffering is down and dirty and that my joy is deeper.

At the end of “Turf” J and I meet on the bridge, hostages being traded back to our sides. We stop in the middle and remove our blindfolds. I look up into his angelic face and am flooded with compassion, recognizing a kindred suffering. We step out of time and do a duet of mutual support, physical longing and comfort.

That’s just the kind of interaction I’m reinacting in my pedestrian life. I listen to C’s romantic history and I send out threads of admiration and understanding. I comfort R with her impending divorce and can relate on a level I never thought possible. And I have a moment with B in the Rapid Park lot, where we fall deeper into the love of friendship for having shared our dreams with one another one day on my balcony at the height of summer.

Following the threads, I sip from my glass that’s perfectly full because it keeps replenishing. The stuff of my life gets dirtier and is loved harder like the Velveteen Rabbit. A door closes and another one opens. Sometimes you even get one leading onto a balcony with a view.


Post a Comment

<< Home