Sunday, August 31, 2008

SPCP - Findhorn update

I'm in Findhorn, Scotland. It's gorgeous. Just to give you a little idea:

This is the Universal Hall (our "lab" where we practice every day).

There is heather all over the place. Little purple bubbles dot the landscape.

This is what I saw when I went running through the sand dunes and got terrifically lost on my first day here. Sand dunes next to forest next to more forest and more forest.

Incidentally, in case you were wondering, Banquo, "how far is't called to Forres?" Not too far, about 6-8 miles, in fact.

oh, and this is me in London before all this stuff began

Although I'm here - and grateful for the generosity that has made that possible - I'd love to hear from those of you who are receiving this email who didn't contribute financially if you're still interested in contributing (a number of you asked for pesky reminders). If you have already contributed or you're not in a place to do so, please know that this email is NOT a plea for financial help. I am not in some sort of pound/dollar-induced spending crisis or anything like that. Read on to discover why I'm uncouthly asking again:

I've come to discover that the patrons who underwrite this commission function in a really important symbolic way (so, in other words, a totally symbolic $1 would be great, also in kind donations such as studio space usage or bodywork or something else you think might be relevant). Every day when I go into the lab to practice now - and for the months of daily practice to come - I go there with the support of each of the people who contributed to my getting here. Of course, I know regardless of the financial aspect of things, that I have your support as an artist and friend; but it would mean a great deal to me to be able to put your name on the document that I and 19 other dancers will present each and every time this solo is performed. That's really what it comes down to in the end. An amazing record of the people who enthusiastically say, "Yes!" to new and different ways of making art. And "yes!" to the particular artists involved.

Deborah is changing certain aspects of the project. In years past, the contract signed by the commissioners/adapters of this new work required 3 months of daily practice before any public performance. But Deborah has become more adamant about the collaborative/adaptive aspects of this project. In other words, she now insists that each adapter truly adapt the work by creating their own frame - simply practicing and performing the choreography is not enough. In her words:

"I can recognize my choreography when I see a dancer's self-regulated transcendence of her choreographed body within a sequence of movements/images [*] that describes a particular dance."

*NB: I have heard her say it using both of these words

In other words, we - as the adaptors - must edit, add film/costumes/set/music/whatever we need to have a dialog with the work and step up to meet it.

So the terms of the contract may be different this year (it's the 10th year of the project). We began our discussion of these possible changes yesterday - it was quite an interesting conversation, with a lot of different perspectives and experiences of contracts and what they represent among the group.


The work itself.

Where to begin.

I guess I will begin with a couple of the questions.

The questions go like this:

What if every one of the cells in my body can get what it needs in the lab while surrendering the pattern of facing in a single direction?

What if where I am is what I need is not an examination of what I need but an examination of the question "What if where I am is what I need?" What if less is more is not less?

What if the depth of the question is on its surface?

We are working with a written choreographic score - I'LL CRANE FOR YOU - and we practice performance with these - and other - questions and ideas to guide us - without the shape of that score and within the shape of that score. Sometimes we practice as a group - the whole group or smaller groups - sometimes and increasingly more right now as the solos they will eventually become.

So, in the micro sense, nothing is fixed. The description of things is set, but the experience and manifestation of them are not.

Aspects of this have made me think of wanting to ask a playwright to write a choreographic score for me and then for me to practice - in this way - with that score. And, of course, they've made me think about Chuck Mee and the physical scores he has written.

Here are some other thoughts:

I am not showing anybody anything, I am inviting being seen in the practice of performance.

What if how I am seeing changes me? ---> This is something of great interest. In attempting to expand my visual field and to see on a 'cellular level' I have come to think about seeing as something that engages and encompasses all the senses. If every cell of my body is involved in the act of seeing, than the act of seeing involves all the functions of my body.

I'm sure those of you who practice the Viewpoints can chew on that for a while. :)

This is all a lot of fun as well as being impossible. At the end of each day I need a little while to unwind (or maybe re-collect) myself, but then I really do feel incredibly alert and alive and engaged.

Thankfully, we've also got a hottub and in an hour, an apparently decadent Sunday brunch prepared entirely by kids, mostly under the age of 10 (child labor, you ask? No, evidently they love it and it's a community tradition to have the kids prepare brunch). [I wrote this post much earlier today]

So, in conclusion (of this email, if nothing more): thank you all for being who you are and reading/watching/listening/dancing along with me.

If you are a patron of the dance and I do not have your postal address, please send it to me so I can send you a postcard!

If you would like to underwrite the commission, please pledge via email or visit The Field at If you are donating in kind, please give an approximate monetary value to the donation.

For everyone concerned, the amounts will not be made public. Independent Dance, the producing body of this enterprise, does ask that I provide a breakdown of the patronage.


Friday, August 29, 2008

woe is my tardy blogging! (Edinburgh Day 6 update and Day 7)

So, after seeing the Dorian Gray, I went to the "Russian Riviera" themed Gilded Balloon Loft Bar to dance for several hours to the swing/hip-hop/drum 'n bass stylings of this duo:

The Correspondents

My first encounter with the two lovely chaps behind the irresistibly dance-inducing music was at a place called "Proud" in Camden. When my friend Dean suggested that we meet there I thought, "Wow! That sounds like a really horrible gay bar!" but it turned out to be much better than that (can you believe it? there are things, indeed, much, much, much better than that). It's a little gallery/gig space attached to a bar in a beautiful, converted stable. The stalls are still in tact, the ironwork is polished, everything is pristine (this is perhaps principally attributable to the newness of the place). I even danced barefoot! In a bar!

When I discovered that The Correspondents would be in Edinburgh during my sojourn there I knew I had to go to their gig. The bar in Edinburgh was a little strange - apparently a 'members only' place, though all I had to do to pretend membership was utter the name of the band (a secret password devised by someone really unimaginative?).

I didn't manage to get anyone to dance with me in a way that involved bodily contact...though I did enjoy a lot of shared space.

Speaking of dancing, bodily contact, and shared space - I am now in Findhorn and have just completed the third day of work with Deborah Hay. I will endeavor to write something intelligible about it later tonight.

Okay, on to Edinburgh Day 7.

My final day in Edinburgh I saw the remaining Czech companies at the festival and something really special that called into question for me the whole nature of what constitutes a performance.

Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre's WHEELS OF LIFE - an extraordinary array of mechanical creations accompanied by lights and music (Russian and Jewish folk songs and classical music) - creating a 'mechanical ballet' without any visible human involvement. The audience sits with binoculars to see the details of the machines. It's eerie and beautiful. There's no story, per se, though there are things like vignettes within each contraption. Each one is intensely personal for the artist, connected to a dimension of Russian and post-Soviet history (and the artist's specific experiences). The work has never - to my knowledge - toured to the States, where it would surely be of great interest to many.

Later that day I saw THE WEEPERS. ... (that ellipse is all I need to say about that performance) and then POLARIS, a stunning duet. Performed without words - though with a terrific auralscape - by two enchanting Czech actors, it's a story about two explorers stranded in the North Pole. The actors transform into seagulls, penguins, fish, glaciers - the entire environment in which these men are marooned. They relied extensively on blackouts - too much for my taste (hello! I can see you anyway!); but they had so won me over with their adroitness and heart that I forgave the uninspired use of blackouts by the end.

Now I'm in Findhorn at the end of my fourth day of work with Deborah Hay and a lovely group of 19 other dancers. I will endeavor to write something intelligible about our work in the coming days.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Edinburgh day 6 (dance day)


gorgeous dance performance inspired by Milan Kundera's THE INCREDIBLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING

I loved every second of it.

Coming up tonight - Matthew Bourne's DORIAN GRAY

Edinburgh Day 5 - 2 for 2!

Yesterday's Fringe forage yielded most nutritious fruits!


First I cried because their skills were so inspiring. Then I laughed and cried because the story was so moving. Then I cried some more because these things became inseparable and that's what makes art. Utterly beautiful. I chatted with them after the show. They should come to NY and CA and meet the fools(Furyans).


Within the first 45 seconds of the performance - well, even that's debatable...when, exactly, the extraordinary site-specific piece 'begins' is hard to say - a man sets himself on fire. That's a very auspicious start, I'd say. Frank Zappa, ice skating on gravel, explosions. Immense and vivid meta-narrative. Endlessly fascinating and often elusive (to me, anyhow) moment-to-moment work.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

FYI - some writing from Deborah Hay

I have cut and paste this essay from Deborah Hay's website ( All words to follow are hers, not mine.

How do I recognize my choreography?

The Solo Performance Commissioning Project began in 1998 at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, in the town of Langley, WA. It took place for ten days annually for five summers before it was relocated to the Findhorn Foundation Community in Scotland in 2004 where it has since been administered by Gill Clarke and staff from Independent Dance in London and by Karl Jay-Lewin of Bodysurf Scotland, at Findhorn.

Of the eight SPCPs that have taken place, about 140 solo adaptations have been realized. I have been an audience member at only a few public performances. It is at these public showings, however, that I am coming to learn what
xxxxChoreography: Deborah Hay
xxxxAdaptation and Performance: [example: Lindsay Doe]
means. This is how the credits appear when an adaptation is being performed.

What I mean by my choreography includes the transmission from me to the dancer, of the same set of questions I ask myself when I am performing a particular movement sequence that ministers shape to a dance. I will not talk about my movement choices here, except to say that as an aspect of my choreography they fall almost exclusively into three categories: 1) impossible to realize, 2) embarrassing to “do”, or, idiotic to contemplate, 3) maddeningly simple. These movement directions are not unlike my questions that are 1) unanswerable, 2) impossible to truly comprehend, and, at the same time, 3) poignantly immediate.

History choreographs all of us, including dancers. The choreographed body dominates most dancing, for better or for worse. The questions that guide me through a dance are like the tools one would use for renovating an already existing house. Like a screwdriver being turned counter-clockwise, or a crow bar prying boards free from a wall, the dancer applies the questions to re-choreograph his/her perceived relationship to him/herself, the audience, space, time, and the instantaneous awareness of any of these combined experiences. The questions help uproot behavior that gathers experimentally and/or experientially.

When I see a singularly coherent choreographed body, performing a solo adaptation, I know that the dancer is not choosing to exercise the re-measuring tools needed to counter-choreograph the predominance of learned behavior. I use the words “choosing to exercise” because most of us know exactly what is required when we choose to train the physical body to adapt to a choreographer’s aesthetics. Training oneself in a questioning process that counter-choreographs the learned body requires similar devotion and constancy.

Every dancer who learns one of my solo dances, signs a contract, committing to a minimum three months of practice before the first public performance of his/her solo adaptation. Three months is not an estimate. It is based on my experience with new material. In order to recognize all the ways I hold onto ideas, images, suppositions, beliefs, the ways my body attaches to what I think the material ‘is’, or should feel like, or look, I need to be alone in a studio, noticing the infinitely momentary feedback that arises from my daily performance of a reliable sequence of movement directions, influenced by the immediacy arising from the same questions day after day after day.

I recognize my choreography when I see a dancer’s self-regulated transcendence of his/her choreographed body within in a movement sequence that distinguishes one dance from another.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Edinburgh days 2, 3, and 4

I'm still aghast at the gorgeousness of this city, my enthusiasm remarkably untempered by the persistent cold and rain. (think, um, mid March in NY, maybe?)

Wednesdays festival offerings:

1) KRAPP'S LAST TAPE - one of my favorite Beckett texts, performed in a very inspiring and moving way by Peter Dineen. Dineen is a very accomplished Irish actor and I had the pleasure of chatting with him for a little while after the performance. He may be headed for NY in the not-too-distant future.



Carpetbag Brigade's YOU DON'T KNOW JACK


1) Fishmable's FORGOTTEN - awesome performance of a very touching series of stories handled quite artfully

2) RUHE (not in the Fringe, but in the Edinburgh International Festival) - what a mysterious thing. It's a performance that counterposes Schubert songs, sung immaculately by a 12-member male choir, with testimony taken in the 1960s from two Dutch nationals who voluntarily joined Nazi ranks during World War II.

That's all rather straightforward - the music is beautiful and adeptly performed. The testimony is obscure and compelling, the subjects peculiar in their apparent lack of remorse.

The real mystery is the aesthetic project of the piece itself. What the heck are they doing? Structurally, it's incredibly simple. There is little relationship between the actors - who are both convincing and very connected to the audience (though I had trouble hearing the first one and they're both mic-ed, which disappointed me a little and led to some strange variations in volume) - and the singers. There is little direct relationship between the songs and the monologues. It all feels rather informal - the audience and the singers are seated in a kind of circular arrangement in mismatched chairs - as if we're at a meeting in a community hall. Which, in a sense, we are because what we're watching is distinctly not theatrical. At least the event that we're all there ostensibly to see is not theatrical on the surface of things. But there's an awful lot of stuff going on outside and underneath (quite literally, since the singers stand on chairs when they're on) the singing and the monologuing that's just as engaging and just as much a part of what's happening - if not more. You cannot help watching your fellow audience members shift and squirm and nod off and look at their watches and mouth along with the Schubert and stare and crinkle their brows.

I can't say that I enjoyed the performance much end, but it certainly made me think and induced a certain eagerness to discuss it with others (and so I chatted for quite a while with a venue steward who had seen it). And it raises questions for me about art and performance and what is required for those things to be made. And what I expect when I go to a big international arts festival. And, like, what the heck those dudes were wearing (some of them plaid workshirts, some of them trendy hoodies, some of them crisp collared shirts) - clearly, costume design was not an aesthetic priority in the making of this production.


In other news, I love the Edinburgh Leisure Council's Commonwealth Pool Gym. That's where I work out and practice the beginning bits of the D Hay solo every day. It looks like this:

The pool (and, I assume, accompanying fitness center) was built in 1967. I don't think they've changed much of anything since then.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Edinburgh Day 1

Edinburgh is a breathtaking city. Up there with Quito, Cape Town, Rio, San Fran (and, really, SF proper pales in comparison with the others) in terms of verdant lushness combined with actual urbanity. Even though the city is choked with people right now, it feels spacious.

I took the train from London this morning on very little sleep so I'll keep this update brief.

As well as walking all over the place, I saw:

1) Fall @ the Traverse Theatre (on which I will, at least for now, reserve comment)
2) the fantastic Shazia Mirza at the Baby Grand venue at the Pleasance Courtyard (not to be confused with the Pleasance Dome, which I keep wanting to call the "Pleasure Dome").

Thursday, August 07, 2008

another little update

My first residency at The Field's fantastic FARSpace has almost come to an end.

I am so grateful to have been able to call the beautiful studio my home for the last several months.

Yogurt and Jam - my drop-in, weekly, all-levels yoga class for artists was a terrific experience. Thank you all so much for diving with such energy into your practice and helping me to cultivate my teaching skills in such a supportive and exploratory environment!

Sophia Remolde and I also used the space to train and to create the beginning of our piece inspired by Siddhartha, which we premiered (in its very early stages) at the Inbred Hybrid Collective's Book Club Burlesque on July 25th.

Thank you to Dominic Cloutier and Zarah Kravitz for prompting this collaboration!

We're going to develop the piece further and are seeking funding and an appropriate venue in NYC.


In other news, I've been assisting Julie Dohrman's Thursday night class at Virayoga, which has been another excellent experience all around. I expect I will continue to assist when I return from the UK.

I also had the opportunity beginning in early April and carrying on through June to participate in Lauren Flanigan's Viewpoints class for opera singers - I'm thrilled to be connected to this community of courageous and generous performers.

I'm teaching privately and am actively seeking new students of all levels. And I'm looking for the right studio environments for teaching group classes when I return from the UK.

Other than that, life's been full of culinary adventures (I've cooked and eaten ostrich and pork for the first time), cycling adventures (the trip to Saratoga Springs was a blast), and simple adventures of an uncategorizable sort (last night a stunning pink flower fell from a box and landed right next to me).

Okay, kids, that's all for now.