The above image is a still taken by the amazing photographer Misako Akimoto of the beginning of my piece "Where You Are Has a Name" which I began at Axis Dance Company's Disabled Choreographer's Lab (the first one! Thank you Judy Smith, Marc Brew, and Caroline Bowditch!) at the Malonga Casquelord Center for the Arts in Oakland this past June.
What Misako captured in black in white in this moment, took place about a minute or less into my piece. Adonis, who is a Cuban, male, able bodied person, has just been screaming through the jaws of his own arms. His elbows make a snout, the boundary and perimeter of his shoulders, triceps, forearms, and hands a ceremonial mask. Behind him is his lover, or his ghost. One or both of them might not be alive, one or both of them might be grieving the other, or haunting the other. Hannah, who is female, able bodied, and white, wraps her arms around Adonis' ribs, and assists him lowering himself to the ground in a split as she squats slowly down behind him and he points his toes. The scream has faded away by this point.
In this photo we cannot see the memory forest creeping in on them from both sides. The four other dancers, two of whom are physically disabled and two of whom are physically able bodied, stagger in, taking up sweeping space with their branch arms. They are an environment establishing itself.
What was so wonderful about asking Adonis to begin this piece with a scream was that it was the last thing he had the instinct to do. This piece, in its current, and yet past, iteration, is a combination of indulging and opposing instincts. It is about my grieving of what an animal took from me, and yet it is also about imagining a different world of possibilities for this animal, for these animals, for me, who is an animal.
The day of the sharing, I told Adonis to scream about "What Is Fucked Up." I knew he had it in him. And I was right. As a performer, I am fallen in love with, and I fall in love with my own ability. As a choreographer or designer or director, I fall in love with the people who enact my vision, as simultaneously mother and teacher and audience member.
It's weird to be a teacher, or a choreographer, because, a few weeks later I am not.
A few weeks later I am in the Intiman Theatre Emerging Artist Program with Sara Porkalob (who is both a peer and a mentor and idol tbh) being told to do things which are not my instinct to do. It is not my instinct to rehearse things that I write out loud before I read them. Of course as an actor and a singer I should know that my voice is a muscle too. But I succeed in not knowing that, or being afraid to know that. I have often, shamelessly, thought that I am brave. I like when I fuck up. I like when I get lost. When I am aware that I didn't do something as well as I could have and I don't know why. It's much better than knowing that someone else has fucked up, knowing why, and feeling helpless to intervene. I love being on a treacherous journey with myself.
Today we clowned with Henry James Walker. And I was in my element. Because my body and my face get me through life. Don't yours? I love making people laugh by being a physically and facially confused yet charming person trying to survive.
I have been told that it's my voice which makes people less likely to kill me. My body is misinterpretable after all, and I have covered my persimmon brown, zaftig, counter clockwise twisting, skinny stiff ankled body in interpretive tattoos, including even ones on my face like Harry Potter or a man who has killed someone or the Indigenous North African people I originated from but have never had to touch, to look at, to look at me. It is my voice, my verbal articulation which is so so clear and helps others interpreting my body to breathe a sigh of relief that their work can be done.
When I was literally almost killed, though, it was my eyes, I think, which stopped him before we got to the river. I followed them up with words, but because he was also a fairy, he had known what I meant before I spoke, and he knew to be afraid, and impressed. He told me I was a lion.
This reminds me that I want to make a performance work called, "Lions and Tigers and Chairs."
I think the bone I have to pick with words, the writing, and the saying of them, as that I have always been a beautiful writer. I have a lot of ways I can grow always, but every new iteration has evoked something satisfying in other people. Therefore I have felt depended upon to verbally perform my body's role or purpose in society/space. So that others can understand and be moved. In this way I can sympathize with symmetrically gorgeous people who want to know if other people know that there's more to them than their face and body. That their face and body is not the symbol and the boat of their life.
I trust my body as a life raft, even if others do not.
I do feel lucky to be able to articulate myself in a way that others understand and even think is beautiful.
But I continue to want so much more.
I am currently working on a staged reading of Athena Stevens' incredible, meaty, 2-3 person play, Schism. In it I have to scream as if I have fallen in the shower after being sexually rejected. I have screamed in this way before, and it has not ever been my instinct to scream this way onstage. Our voice is connected to muscles inside our bodies and also those muscles are connected to memories. So in this way, isn't screaming a deep dance? How funny, that some dancers, and connoisseurs of dance, look down on theatre, and some actors, and connoisseurs of theatre look down on dance. When they both require muscling through terror and looking your enemies in the face in order to determine, after all, that they are friends waiting to happen.
Thank you, Sarah Geiger (h? no h?) for telling me you like my writing and for asking if I have a blog. I do. Here it is. You're cool.
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