Thursday, August 27, 2009

its really good when it feels like the world is converging

so, in recent personal news: I guess I moved back to NY. I am kind of happy, kind of sad. I really love LA but fortunately I really love NY too. For now, this is where it's at. I love my work and I am here to make it happen.

Tonight I went to see Fuerza Bruta.
I was traveling solo which was a little self-conscious-making at first.
I felt like I had wandered into a rave only everyone was sort of old and speaking German and Portuguese. The haze was steady and the beat was pounding as we stood in an area marked with a circle of tape on the floor. Over the course of the next hour I watched a Bond-type dfigure bound forward on a giant treadmill pushing through heavy rain, strong winds, a door, styrofoam crates and a wall of boxes. I watched two Amazonian women defy Newton's laws and chase each other on gorgeous giant mylar-- they ran at an angle very wanting for V8. There bodies were perpendicular to all of us standing on the ground and they were flying and tumbling and leaping across mylar that moved like sheets of rain in a hurricane, their bodies tiny at 60 feet high. A gaggle of mermaid-like beauties in gauzy dresses ran, dove, stretched and pounded on a football-size sheet of heavy-duty plastic filled with varying-degrees of water. The surface started high above us and floated down to just above our heads. Putting fingers to the surface, I could feel the dancers heat if not their wetness. In another section the entire cast did a sort of cross between Capoeira and aggressively-athletic Irish step dancing in unison while deconstructing a prototypical 'house' set. My favorite part was at the end though. I thought I had seen and felt it all. The gunshots and bloody shirt early on made me think of death, the fetal-like women encircling each other in womb-like water had made me think of birth.
The music got louder and louder and the lights and rain and smoke machines were dancing and everyone there joined in. All the Brazilian girls and German children ran towards the center and the rain started to pick up. Soon we were all drenched and sopping and sloshing to the music. I didn't feel alone at all anymore. Everyone seemed young and fun and beautiful.

Plus-- my friend Ryan Templeton's friend Jon Moris who I'd hung out with in LA was in the show and when I went to say hi one of my favorite LA people-- choreographer and designer extraordinnaire Ryan Heffington was there too. I saw friends, I danced with strangers; there was great SPECTACLE and I felt some real emotion. Brute force indeed.
All in all, good night.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

goodbye horses

this is a letter by a bandleader to his friends & fans about the loss of one of his music heroes. I have been thinking about my artistic heroes so much lately. Especially how important it is to have heroes/mentors whether you talk to them in real-life or just in your own head-- especially in this sort of gypsy life where there is so much change constantly. I miss Merce and Pina. And I really loved this song too.

We found out that William Garvey the man who wrote "Goodbye Horses"
(originally performed by Q. Lazzarus) died last night.

I'm so fucking sad. I'd heard the rumor from David Hawes from Catherine Wheel who was hanging out with us. So I googled it this morning and I found the death notice online and now I can't help but be so sad about it. Something about those words: "death notice."

He wrote a beautiful song. I understand why he wrote it. I know it in and out. Those enigmatic lyrics, the longing of it, the sadness. We've played it so much, I feel like it has become part of our lives.

He wrote me an e-mail a few weeks ago to tell me that I'd been singing the lyrics wrong. He'd watched a bunch of YouTube clips of us playing it and said that the line at the ends was "flying over you" not "lying
over you." He was annoyed. I wrote him back, apologized for the mistake (a few lyrics websites have it listed as "lying" and I honestly thought that's what it sounded like) and told him I would correct the mistake, that I admired him and thought it was a wonderful piece of music.

He perked right up with a few more e-mails and told me he loved our version and that we should record it. He told me that he really liked our band and then talked about how he'd spent a long time trying to
create a new sound for music. I didn't quite understand what he meant, but then I didn't care. It was just great to have this interaction with him. To be part of his world, to feel as if we were part of the same
world. Like we were both artists and we shared this song in common. It was literally the first time I'd ever felt this way.

And I love his song. I love playing it. The big break, the odd notes hanging in the air at the beginning, the crescendo at the end. We were going to ask him to join us onstage on our fall tour to play the song.

So he died on Monday and I found out last night and I read the Death Notice this morning and I can't help but tear up.

Touring is madness and you lose touch with reality. We've been on the road for over a year now and the days keep getting more and more surreal. After awhile, you start to feel like you're living in a dream-world. Like the people you meet are just characters in some kind of waking dream. It becomes a blur. There's a lot of drinking and a lot of loud music, loud crowds, crazy nights, quiet mornings, endless flights and meet-and-greets and phone calls home. And of course, music. The only part of it that feels meaningful. And William has been part of that for a long time now since we've been covering the song every night. So I feel like I've lived with him, or his creation, for a long time, here in this dream world.

I read somewhere what he intended the meaning of the lyrics to be: that in Eastern philosophy, horses are symbolic of the 5 senses. They represent the things that keep you tied to your physical existence. And when you achieve a higher level of consciousness, when you transcend your physical state, you leave the horses behind. You are "flying over" them. So the song is about someone who is so affected by loss that they decide to give up on the things that keep them tied to this world.

I know almost nothing else about him. I guess there's some sort of mundane statement to be made here about the power of music to connect people. But it doesn't feel like that. It feels like he's here, watching me write this. Like he'll be there tonight when we play it at our show. Like I know him because I know his song. And I'm so sad he died because I was so grateful that he lived.

-Mikel Jollett

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

minimal spectacle

One moment from the past few days that I must share:
Ka-Ge, a director/choreographer coming to the Lab from Thailand led a small Butoh workshop a few days ago and it has been the afterimage on my eyelids when I close them since. He is a great teacher but he also has a gift for movement that has the dual effect of moving you to stock-still awe, AND he makes it look so magical-- of course you want to try it.
The video below is not so similar to what we were doing but it does give a sense. Many of the videos on youtube can be watched but not embedded. I found the Sankai Juku ones especially compelling. If you are interested there is a lot of material online-- one thing that is important to know though is that this a 'modern' form. It was created post-WWII and very much in response to the physical and emotional pain, loss and decay Japan was suffering. It is sometimes called the 'Dance of Darkness.'
Perhaps because Ka-Ge is a natural comedian he led us to dark somber places but also shaped scenarios where we all couldn't stop laughing. In one exercise a group of six of us were 'high-so' (high-society) and at a cocktail party. Very slowly, with minimal movement over a short span of music (he was playing the theme song to The Godfather no less) we moved into a position for a group portrait. Over a count of ten each we moved as one into the zenith-point of three expressions--happiness/laughter --> anger --> sadness. Then over another ten count we morphed into dancing-- where at most you could move maybe A finger or A shoulder. It was surprisingly funny.
In another exercise we took about ten minutes or so to walk across the floor, he would call out sort of visual/environmental cues, and remind us that the wind was moving through our hair, the we could feel the sunlight on our faces, that while we were moving forward there was also a strong force, a wind, the weight of the past, pulling us back. We attempted to make manifest all of these environmental elements in every physical movement. As we got near to the other side he said we were almost at the ocean, we could see it, we had almost arrived. Then, a drop of rain fell on us. Soon, more drops, and eventually, the sky opened up and poured down. He told us we were made of salt, and the rain was making us weak, like a melting candle, we were dripping down, crumbling. The rain got less but we were already crumbled on the ground; our forms gone. The sun was shining again but we were cracking in the sun now. We were just heaps of salt drying up on the ground.
The craziest thing about this was I really had a sensory experience of being an old woman. Very very old. I felt like myself in my body, but my body was different, it didn't listen to me, it didn't respond the way I asked it to. I felt very weak and when I looked down I saw all the wrinkles and folds and all of the thoughts from my life starting passing over me. Not just the life I have led up to now either-- but I felt like I could see the future. And I know this sounds crazy, but I felt like I could see and feel my moment of expiration. My own death. It was very strange and surreal. And powerful.
I was always afraid I was going to die when I was young (especially because of some health problems I had when I was little, and also, not liking airplanes etc.) but if this flash-forward was true-- I will die a natural death, as a very, very old woman.