T:BA:07 Day Three – Saturday, 08 September 2007
Typically I would start my Saturday morning with Iyengar Yoga with Sharon Hanson, but this is T:BA week; so I don’t think so…
Sure, I only got about 4-1/2 hours of sleep, but, once again, this is T:BA week…
Much like on the Playa, I highly recommend that people take care of themselves if they are on a similarly festive path through the events. Eat well, take moments of pause in the sun or gazing upon the Visual Arts collections, and get at least some sleep here and there!
Well, with that bit of sleep, I got up, showered and bee-lined it down to Conduit for Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s flow of form and word workshop.
The workshop was open to all, and there was a pretty good turn-out of people of all experience levels and interests in the arts.
At the core of Marc’s understanding of his explorations through media and movement, is the idea of “Media – - > reMix – - > Community – - > reMix …” So, he started us off with the words:
“For colored girls whom have considered suicide when the rainbow is not enough.”
The underlined words were to be replaced by others of our choosing.
Some of the folks had some great ones, but just for discussion, I’ll give you mine:
[btw, I hope that you will ‘comment’ with yours, or just contact me outside of this bLog, as I would love to learn about your poetic vision too!]
“For lost + found souls whom have considered jumping, leaping, twirling, bellowing, yelping, sitting peaceful as grass in the wind when the flow is not enough.” – f.zal
From these words that were reMixed by the people that courageously shared them, we were then to compose a thirteen word poem following in it’s vein.
“Dreaming peaceful wind skeletons;
We gasp as fire;
Burning actors’ faith into restoration.”
This became our ‘title’ for the dance piece that was to follow.
We were also asked to compose four words that spoke to an ugly time in our lives: “sad, lonely, unfelt heart” and one of a beauteous moment: “Helping, Striving, Creating … smile …”
Next became time to move.
Marc led us through a series of about twenty explorations where our bodies popped through space, resonating with not our bones, skin or image; but rather with our word, our narrative, our selves!
It is hard for me, who is not a trained dancer, to describe the series of movements that we quickly ingested and performed with zing; but I will try to atleast describe one portion that I really loved, as it was also in-line with what I loved about Marc’s piece at the Gerding Armory…
Standing, drawing up rear leg in-line with center, hopping forward and aside, toes in, horse stance, toes out, criss-cross hop-scotch, back lunge, sweeping to the ground, left leg out, crossing infront and back over the right, flexed momentum, kicking back out, gravity lost, flip, spin, flying through the air, whomp, dual hands and toes to the ground, spread eagle platform!
Man, I LOVED IT!
Thank you Marc!
There was one lady that came to the workshop, she is a poet, but certainly had never considered movement, or ‘dance’. She left enamoured! Gushing with a new-found love and appreciation for the collaboration of synchronous arts.
A few minute later, the crowd parted, mostly, and Donna Uchizono entered the space.
This second workshop at Conduit was intended to be a ‘Masters’ class; and I am far from a ‘Master’ of anything with the word dance associated with it. But, T:BA [and PICA for that matter] is not about doing what you know, gazing safely from your comfort zone, it is [for me] about pushing yourself, exploring new things, meeting inspirational people, learning from a perspective that you did not even know existed until the moment that it envelops you.
So, take a deep breath, find your center, stand-up tall, and walk over to ask the prestigious Donna Uchizono for permission to attend…
“Ummm, excuse me, Hi. I know that this is intended to be a ‘Masters’ class, and I want to be respectful of your space and vision…. I love to dance, but I am not a professional, and do not have any formal training… May I participate?”
There was a bit of back and forth between her and Levi as to the appropriateness of the request, but, in the end, they were kind enough to let me stay and join in the fun.
As an added bonus, as I was feeling a bit guilty about not attending yoga this morning, we started off with a yogic warm-up. Then, we were divided up boy / girl, well, ok; so that did not work, as there were only two or three boys there and about thirty more girls. So, it was a division of larger frames / petite frames to assist with some of the carries and drops we were about to do.
I was then quite fortunate to be paired up with a wonderful MFA dance student from the U.Oregon. Not only was she open to the idea that I was far from a professional dancer, but we seemed to move well together. If you went to see Donna’s “State of Heads”, then you saw what we were taught. In the performance, it was about ten to twenty seconds of a duet; but it took us about a half hour to get the basics down. Head supported heavy, cast up, other’s head drops, caught, lifted back up again, shoulder fall to chest, and up, head to right, shimmy back, drop, cascade forward, legs arcing back, plant to the ground, arm back to head, cantilever and running fall back, push up, head drop back, catch, up, torso drop back, against chest and leg, up, rest to ground, catch head with foot, up, crawl under leg, nudge, drop arm and head, push arm back, swing around, catch neck, swivel up, forward and around head, bodies standing, arm out, fall in and under, arm cradles body, lift, pivot, step, lunge, leg lift and toss…. Yep that sounds like about ten to twenty seconds… To watch the entire piece tonight [see below] knowing the amount of work that goes into just a few seconds, was amazing! Thank you Donna and Company.
Leaving the workshop, I was chatting with a friend, and went off to get a bite to eat at Elephants. Baguette with mozzerela, tomato and basil, an almond protein drink and some squash soup. After four hours of dance, I figured that my body needed a bit to refresh. Yum!
Over to PNCA for a moment to check out the Visual Arts Reception. Make sure that you go to see the works, especially Regina Silveira [see earlier post for description].
Back home to walk the pup, relax for a bit, and shower off the sweat from dancing. To my delight, I had a postcard from Ryan Wilson Paulson. I hope to send him a response at: P.O. Box 5221, Portland, Oregon 97206.
Tonight was a sumptuous dinner at Higgins before the shows. Nice glass of wine, figs [always a good thing when they are in season], gazpacho, and a delicious hazelnut pesto over pasta.
Then, over to the PCPA [Portland Center for the Performing Arts] for two shows.
The first one of the evening was the Suicide Kings in the Winningstad. I always get excited when I am going to be seeing a show in the Winningstad. It has this wonderful Noh theatre sensibility, in a coked up 80’s way. It remains my favorite space in town.
Marc Bamuthi Joseph directed the show, which brings the power of a poetry slam into a theatrical narrative. I enjoyed the show, a collection of spoken word, biography and social commentary. The phrase that stuck with me the most was when a ‘janitor’ commented after the Columbine-esque shooting, that when the cops come, “they take away the bullets, but they do not fill the holes.” This is the problem. Our society is working to take away the evidence of pain, disenfranchisement, loneliness; but we are not doing what it takes to fill the holes in our souls, to prevent disaster before it takes seed, gives root, takes fruit, fruitless. I was also struck by audience reactions. Of course, it makes sense that when words were cast about injustice and making change, everyone cheered. But, when sullen words, deep-heart words, blood-soakes phrases were uttered, silence. Is it from sorrow, or a desire to disavow and disregard the painful moment, push them under the carpet, fain their non-existence? We cannot, we must not, we have to acknowledge pain as much, if not more then the critical. We need to fill the holes before more of them are shot up in arms, minds and/or school walls!
Perhaps a way we can begin, is to engage some of our “visual acquaintances”. “Visual Acquaintances” is a term that Jim McGinn tossed at me this morning while we were at Donna’s workshop. Jim is an amazingly talented dancer, and will be in tEEth next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at the Winningstad. I have ‘known’ him for years, through friends, through PICA, through the Portland arts community; but we are simply visual acquaintances. We do not really know each other, we have barely ever had much of a conversation until this morning. But, we feel that we know each other, as we have seen each other so many times, amongst familiar backdrops. Hopefully, we will actually converse with each other sometime soon, maybe even grab a cup of tea. But, if not, then we will find each other at another friend’s dinner party, or a PICA, etc. Don’t become satiated with just being visual acquaintances with many of the people you have come to ‘know’ through T:BA. Engage each other, discuss what you are experiencing, risk creating a friendship…
Over at the Newmark, the crowd was lined up, winding up the stair all the way to the balcony doors. I have been hyping up the Donna Uchizono Company’s performances, as have many others. Both because Donna’s vision has always been spectacular; and the fact that Mikhail Baryshnikov was in the second performance, that did not hurt any.
The first piece “State of Heads” was flooded with amazing lighting, and series of fun costume layers. To have spent the morning working with Donna, Levi Gonzalez, Carla Rudiger and Rebecca Serrell; I felt a special connection to them. Plus, I was awaiting that moment when I could feel “Ha, I know what they are about to do next… “shimmy back, drop, cascade forward, legs arcing back” [above]. The three of them moved about as automatomical marionettes, asynchronous, playful, and technically strong. Towards the end, there was a part where the music amped up, as something tribal or perhaps Malayan. It was my favorite aspect of the performance.
Then, after a short intermission, was the piece I have been waiting for forever. Baryshnikov, live, here, in my town, just a dozen feet before me…
OK, so I need to give you a bit of my internal narrative here.
Baryshnikov to me, to my family is a G-d; no a Demig-d. He has always represented the pinnacle of heritage in my family. On my Father’s side, my Grandfather came to the states as barely a teenager from what is now Latvia. My Grandfather had left some twenty years before Baryshnikov even entered the world in 1948, but my family’s appreciation of the arts and culture came from here. While my Grandfather was a Commissioner in Philadelphia, he did much to enhance the fine and applied arts across the City. My Great-Aunt, one of the two remaining children that came through Ellis Island, still sits on the board of a conservatoire of ballet and classical music in Florida where she has retired.
Complimentary to this, my Mother was an aspiring ballerina and figure-skater, until an ice fall and broken hip. Dance was never an option, it is in my blood. I have no training, but dance is my home, my peace, my love. They might as well have set up an alter for Baryshnikov right there next to my crib with Vladimir Vysotsky droning away “Koni Priveredlivye”.
I faintly remember seeing him once as a child, but I was a child, so what did I know. Ghost images in my mind. Since then, I have seen him perform only through video, as I had unfortunately missed any live performance, until tonight!
Donna was nervous about the show, and whispered to me that no matter what, even if I hate the show, that “Misha” deserves to have me cheer, to have me stand. What she did not know, is all he had to do was be in the room, and I would gladly jump with enthusiasm, cheer, bow-down in a Myersian “I’m not worthy” moment. [OK, so I also got a bit giddy with the very knowledge of having someone whom knows him well, to be talking with me and calling him “Misha”. I’ll have to stick with Mister, Sir, or atleast Mikhail Baryshnikov in the formal; as I do not want to disrespect him in any manner.]
House lights dimmed, curtain pulled back, there he stood. His presence filled the room. OK, so he does not do insane aerials any longer, or throw his body to the ground or walls like an offering to the form; but he’s still got it! And big time!
I do not know how to describe it.
I’m here trying to bLog the bLog that I ‘officially’ signed-up to do, for the performance that I have been looking forward to for decades, Mikhail Baryshnikov live, and I do not know what to say.
I love to use metaphor, to paint a picture, to allow you the reader to experience things again from my heart, through my eyes, tingling with my fingers. But, here, words fail me.
Taylor Mac abhors the use of comparison, but it is hard to not fall back to such easy ways.
Let me start with the other two dancers that shared the stage with Baryshnikov…
Hristoula Harakas and Jodi Melnick were amazing! They sense of space, acuity of form and movement was delightful, beautiful, enchanting. On a stage of their own, they would be mavens, ravished by critics with gold. But, in the presence of Baryshnikov, they became mortal. At the top of their art, but mortal just like the rest of us in the audience, in the audience watching a G-d upon the stage. Every word that I try to use, that bubbles up in my mind has this connotation about age, which I do not want to reference. Baryshnikov’s movement, presence and form have nothing to do with chronology, they exude from him as a gift, a given, a prodigal child. You first notice it when he simply clapped his hand against his body. The sound rings of Baryshnikov. I never thought that such a banal gesture, a simple sound could have signature. But, I recognized it. With closed eyes, I could hear this being as much of his as each pivot, glide, and stance.
There was one moment, one movement in the performance, even ever so simple, but awe inspiring. Baryshnikov was to leave the stage, to allow the other dancers the space to perform solo. He glanced over to her, slightly back to the crowd, and then, still in lunge, back leg out stretched, toes bent under and flexed, he successively pushed back with his front leg to glide fluidly backwards and into the wings.
Perhaps by the lecture tomorrow I will be able to gain some composure. To not be so drunk on his mythology. But, for now, this is all I can explain. There will be more!
The last hurrah for the night was “Awesome” at the Wonder Ballroom.
They are cute, sassy, irreverent, and fun.
Last year, I would have mocked them, said that they were lowering the state of the art in the Festival. But, this year, I have a new-found appreciation. They were entertaining. They were a smooth dessert, gliding down my throat after a long and delicious meal. I did not need complexity, or challenge, they were just what was needed. Well, maybe,… I suppose that I could have gone downstairs and chilled-out with some more Guido van der Werve. Maybe tomorrow evening.
For now, signing off, time for some sleep to prepare myself for yet another AMAZING T:BA day!
Fredrick H. Zal
Architect | Sculptor | Advocate
an.architecture and industrial design studio
advocating dialogue in the fine + applied arts