What is a "Bone Chorus"?

It's when the spaces in my bones vibrate, resonate.

It could be when we all pile up on each other and laugh, or cry.

When dancing feels like singing, like a bell has been struck in the core. 

It sounds like a drum. Like old skeletons laughing and dancing.  Wise and ghoulish.

The first thing that comes to mind may be inappropriate.

It could be Mozart.  A resonance of all relationships. 

Greek tragedy. The blues.  

It could be all the voices inside you

and me, finally tumbling out. 

 

Other Wise

 Dance, dance - otherwise all is lost.

Performing "Other Soft Words:Winter" at Triskelion Arts

Performing "Other Soft Words:Winter" at Triskelion Arts

That is what Pina Bausch is quoted as saying and it's a quote that has helped me work in the studio through this election so far. Let's be totally up front; those words have helped me make it through most of my life. 

Today, however, when I first woke at 3:30am to the despairing voice of my partner - "Oh, no. Oh, no. They're saying he won" - I asked myself a difficult question. It's a question that many artists have probably asked themselves in moments of private doubt or political madness: how does my work even begin to matter to a world like this?  And then....What was Pina really saying? Now...How do I proceed?

And in answer I hear the words of Sol LeWitt writing to a struggling Eva Hesse, the sculptor. His letter is a diatribe against languishing, against giving up. Always worth a read in total, this excerpt resonates right now:

"..Make your own, your own world. If you have fear make it work for you - draw and paint [and dance] your fear and anxiety..."

The question of 'why' isn't even raised. As he says, there is no need to justify this even to ourselves. And 'how'? He distills that into one word.

DO ! 

This is not the time to cringe, wring our hands and say, "Oh, what can my - or anyone's - art possibly mean in the face of such madness?" It's time to unleash our own beautiful madness on this ever changing world, and let meanings fend for themselves. It's time to open ourselves completely, viscerally, in-your-face lovingly, to-the-bone honestly, tenderly and even ragefully. To leave a trace of wild wisdom, even if it goes undiscovered for ages.

This isn't about an election cycle. It's a life cycle, a universe. This is about now, all the nows that make up all time.

So lets grieve and bitch and fear in our work. Let's dance, dance and DO! Add our wise, wild traces to those of our inspirations who created through all those times in history that must have seemed impossible. Where would we be without them? Where might the world be without us?

 

In Favor of Losing It

Whatever I have I hope I lose it
to you.

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And you can say you found it, take it to be your own
and lose it to someone else. This way

we move through our gifts and losses together.
If you are not sure what I mean

dance with someone you think you know.
Afterward, dance with someone you think
you don't know. See

they might be the same person.
 

They Died Dancing (for Orlando)

 

I want to believe they just died dancing

loving their bodies, expressing joy and pride

and the freedom of being

just being

I do not want to think them running for the door

I do not want to think them clutching in fear

I do not want to hear the cries

But I do hear them! I hear them crying and dancing

I hear us all crying and dancing

I read of human shields and love after death

of aftermath - after math, after the counting

of the names the fallen dancers

fallen lovers

Lovers, unite and get up to dance with them!

every club night, each rehearsal or

spontaneous moment of embodied madness and glory

I live dancing for everyone who cannot dance

because they do not live

because they have too much hate

because they have been shamed

because they think it doesn't matter.

It matters to us all whether we know or no,t whether we dance or not.

-clyde forth

A Peek at some of Clyde's Rehearsal Notes

Bone Chorus
The Bone Chorus
Bone Choir

Nearly audible breathing
sound of weight shifting through bone within us
between us
desperate cry of bone moving against itself
resonant tone of bone sliding within muscle
visceral screech of resistance in the joint
in the pelvis
in the inner ear
hollow spitting thwack of flesh slamming between bone & floor
or bone & bone
giggling bones in flight
whispering air pockets - millions of them! - within bone

 

 

"From A Survivor"

I came across this poem for the first time tonight, and thought of the work we are doing on Lokasparsa's new piece.  As we step into the sensation of loss, I find myself frequently confused by what seem to be the "wrong" feelings:  freedom in disaster; oppression in finding; pleasure in yearning; emptiness in requitement.  

So many layers in the world...

"From A Survivor"
by Adrienne Rich

The pact that we made was the ordinary pact
of men & women in those days

I don't know who we thought we were
that our personalities
could resist the failures of the race

Lucky or unlucky, we didn't know
the race had failures of that order
and that we were going to share them

Like everybody else, we thought of ourselves as special

Your body is as vivid to me
as it ever was: even more

since my feeling for it is clearer:
I know what it could and could not do

it is no longer
the body of a god
or anything with power over my life

Next year it would have been 20 years
and you are wastefully dead
who might have made the leap
we talked, too late, of making

which I live now
not as a leap
but a succession of brief, amazing movements

each one making possible the next.


--Jennifer
Dancer, Lokasparsa

 

Diving

In rehearsal for our new piece, we have been working (playing) with loss. What does it feel like to lose one's sight...or to lose sight of something, or someone? To lose one's temper or voice? One's dignity? To lose connection?

The work is two-fold. First, we delve. Like diving, only more like drowning. Down, down into that place of loss. It's treacherous. How far will I go? How deep can I tolerate? How honest will I let myself be with myself and with you?  

Then we move. We struggle with translation:  from loss to movement. How do we share where we have been? How do we talk to you about this ache, desperation, bitterness, shock, longing, disbelief...

We resurface to tell the story of the dive. It is the reason we went down in the first place. We dove to find something to talk to you about. That is our lifeline.

Hard work for a Monday morning.

--Jennifer
Dancer, Lokasparsa

 

For the Time Being

Wow. August was a long time ago. 

Time feels compressed and expanded by turns - and sometimes simultaneously - here at Zen Mountain Monastery. Have I been dancing? Dreaming? Practicing?

In rehearsals we've been working with themes of loss and nakedness. For me questions of "what is a duet, a pair?", and "is it even possible to actually make a solo?" inspire my rehearsal planning. Who is it that watches you in your mind when you dance alone? You are dancing with them, aren't you? 

An ensemble voice, a choir of skin and bone. There will be other voices writing about this with me here in the coming months. Jennifer Lavenhar and Caitlin Quinn each have their own perspective on the work we are doing. So let's hear them.

And let's not let another 6 months go by without Making Contact.

 

Safety Dance

When I was a girl, taking refuge meant going out to the woods and climbing in under the fallen cedar tree. It was huge and full and difficult to crawl into. I had to maneuver just the right way to enter under the dome of needles. From within the branches I could peer out, feel safe in the knowledge that I could not be seen.

To some degree, working alone in the studio has been like that too for a long time. Whether dancing or drawing or constructing an environment, I could crawl deep into myself - alone in a space just for me - and see the world through whatever I'm creating. The studio, like that woodland hide-out, becomes a sanctuary. I ask my students to enter it with a kind of reverence too. Dance and art as a religion.

Lately the question of where I take refuge and what I consider religious has been present in a new way. Recent personal upheaval created a great opportunity for seeing what I tend to rely on, as opposed to what is actually reliable.  Is being invisible a reliable way to be in the world?  Can I rely on people to pay attention to me, literally depend on that attention as my vocation demands?  What do I care about deeply enough to do it every day, even when I don't want to? At times I feel trapped between public and private, secret and exhibited. The idea of being invisible was a such a pivotal part of finding safety when I was younger. How did I of all people end up being a performer? And I'm also taking jukai vows next week. So there's that. Actually taking refuge and vowing to live the precepts. In front of people.

All the definitions of refuge I've read have in common a sense of safety and protection.  But that really isn't how I feel in the studio these days or in the Three Treasures. What I'm beginning to feel is that there is nothing to be protected from. In finding a home in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha I feel extended rather than sheltered, contained, protected. The line between Me and Everything Else is constantly being eroded; no cedar branches or studio door to hide behind. And sometimes that really sucks.

It is so much easier to stay in bed in the early morning and not practice. So convenient to grab a cigarette to placate my discomforts instead of digging my heels in and just feeling what I feel. The paradox here is that even when it feels awful, extending myself in my practice and in my dancing feels more truly secure than hiding in solitude. True safety, a refuge, doesn't have to feel comfortable. That's what I'm learning.

So, with homage to the era of the hollow cedar and Men Without Hats, here's what I am calling the Safety Dance:  practicing discomfort with less fear, truly taking refuge in that which we value the most, dancing deeply inside until we have danced ourselves to our outer limits.

The Name of This Dance Is...

The name of this dance is threshold.

Silence. Solitude, letting the light in.

The name of this dance is, I'm not ready yet but I'm getting there.

The floor is cool, the door frame is hard, the light from the window is pale yellow. I am a silhouette, a ghost. The name of this dance is you are haunting me.

Linen, translucent,

thinking of the future when this dance has its real name. Yours.

 

What Am I Dancing For?

Some days it's hard to find a reason to go out and do whatever we do, especially if it is something that seems...extra, unnecessary. For me dancing feels essential, but compared to food, shelter, freedom and love I would have to admit it's a bit optional.

Today I just went and did it because I can. Because I like to feel the air move against my skin as I move through space. And I love to see the women (and the occasional man) in my classes move. They inspire me.

One of the themes of today's class at Byrdcliffe was initiation. As in "where are you starting from?". Can you start from your armpit, your navel, your second toe? If you did start from there, where do you go?

In other parts of my life this question feels like panic sometimes. There is so much possible -- where do I begin!? In the studio I can begin anywhere, but in my life I have to begin where I am. Which can suck. As in "I don't want to be here, let alone start something new from here". What where else is there?

So tomorrow is another question, another place to start. Maybe it's best not to look for a reason but just to trust that I can begin here. In the middle of it all.

 

Fat Shorts

Tuesday I was having a super my-ass-is-too-fat-to-be-dancing kind of day. I was behind on my commitment to generate a new movement phrase each day for National Choreography Month.  (Yes, January is Nachmo) I had taught what I thought was a mediocre class that morning. I went to the studio in sweater shorts - BIG MISTAKE - with little hope of inspiration. Eventually five phrases that I pulled out of my elbow in 90 minutes were uploaded to Facebook, as my commitment obligates me to share them whether I like them or not. But not before I felt the pang of humiliation of those gray, nubbly, sweater shorts on the most unforgiving video platform ever, the ipad in bad light. I had to touch the truth of not really being pleased with my results or my body. The texture was...complex and a little sickening.

Within minutes of sharing I realized how little my opinion of myself on that single day at that single time mattered. People saw the phrases, liked some of them, had their own ideas about them. I had let them go, and it was good. Without the pressure of my own fleeting self-image, I was free to attend to how it felt to just move. The meaning in the movement beyond my body shape. How it really does help others to share when you least feel like sharing.

That's the kind of experience I hope to get down to deeply as Lokasparsa gets off the ground. The best kind of art I know makes me uncomfortable on some level when I encounter it, and I supposed, when I create it too.