Sunday, August 31, 2008


by the way that is Deborah Hay, Julie working on a solo, Genvieve, and
Yvonne. Yes there are boys here too (I think there are 4 of us) but I
haven't gotten their pictures yet. You do see Sandy dancing in one of
the photos - he's a ROSAS dancer ... FAST!

31 August 08

So we've just finished our Sunday rehearsal at 9 p.m. Everyone has
gone through I'LL CRANE FOR YOU as a solo now. So that nerve wracking
process has been accomplished. It's fantastic everyone's different
take on the piece. And then we go back into it between times to
perform it as a group and find yet again new material, new sensations,
new information, new news. And Deborah is able to give such specific
notes to everyone which is so helpful. Actually it is helpful simply
to take all the notes she gives to people and accept them for oneself.

There is a lot of adrenalin in these solos. There is a lot of
adrenalin in the room. Deborah is very clear that this solo can in no
way be adrenalin driven. One must find a way to put that down and
"get what you need and nothing less." Helps with the blind adrenalin
rush. And this "getting what one needs" is what allows the performer
to transcend the habit of Time. That is to say, that Time must be
dealt with, but not simply as "I'll change time here" but that if one
is insisting on "getting what I need" then one will transcend the trap
or habit of time. What do I mean by time? Well in the dumb way just
from getting into a fixed rhythmic pattern.

What am I saying here? Well, that the choreography as such isn't
really the point, but experiencing the dancer dealing with Space &
with Time is the point. In fact as Deborah keeps saying, "be crafty
about Time & Space because there is not a lot else happening ...." I
love this -- get right to the point. Of course there is a lot
happening, but that's a secret ... sssssshhhhhhhhhhhhh ....

Saturday, August 30, 2008

30 August 08

Day 4.

It is amazing how quickly we are working. My body is feeling it and
my mind is ALIVE.
We finished by talking about the 'contract' we will make with Deborah
about how to proceed once these 10 days of choreography have ended.
What the practice is and how long one is expected to practice after
we've finished here before attempting public performance. Really it
is a way for Deborah to protect herself and ensure that the
performances that result from her choreography and direction are
honored. It is a fair expectation. And it is a radical act she is
putting into the world. These 20 people she barely knows will perform
her work. And then what is it WE bring to the event? How do we meet
her as performers? What do we offer? What will be the 'frame' as we
are calling it for our own adaptations? Good questions. And honorable.

Out of the 20 here, 10 have now offered the 1st solo version/attempt/
crack at the choreography in front of our peers. Really it is nerve
wracking. But it is also true, as Deborah says, that what we
attempting is impossible. And so one watches the others with a great
deal of respect and compassion. We are a real mix of experiences --
some are dancers, some are dancer/choreographers, some have their own
dance theater companies, some are performers meaning "theater people"
I think, and I of course fall into this latter. It is also true that
we all are attempting to eliminate, or somehow diminish our
"choreographed" bodies / selves from the work. Our choreographed
bodies mean the behavior, trained expectations, habits accumulated
from our professional work, as well as the bodies which have been
choreographed by the cultures in which we live. How to get down to
the "authentic self" underneath all the habit, assumption, behavior
patterns, and choreography? Practice. This dance is called a
performance practice. It is a way of seeing. And it is understood
too that the audience is practicing as well while watching the
performer. We are all practicing. There is nothing to show, but the
attention paid in the moment and a way of seeing.

This is getting perhaps a little too heady, and I am simply trying to
wrap my head and myself around it as I work and as I type this.

What is true is that we are all learning the same choreographic
"script" provided by Deborah. What HAPPENS is that each time we do it
it looks very different from the last time we did it, and very
different from those attempts of each of the other performers. There
will be 20 unique versions of I'LL CRANE FOR YOU, and each of these
will change with each successive performance. Get it? Yeah, right?!

Okay, We're all scrambling for inconsistent internet connection and
wondering about the political scene at home (those of us from the
USA). We're a little isolated here.

I hope that this blog situation is interesting, or informative, or
something for you.
I'll keep cracking at it.

Best to all of you. Sending love and respect.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

the drive

The following contain the gardens of Cawdor Castle,
The drive into the highlands including Dalwhinnie and Tomatin (good
single malts),
My short cut walk from the B&B through the gorse to rehearsal,
The doorway into the studio / theater which is called Universal Hall,

Deborah Hay checking her email

going to Findhorn

more highlands not far from Dalwhinnie



Cawdor Castle for my MacBeth friends ....

Findhorn bay

2 minutes from my B&B

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

27 August 08

Hello Everyone,

I've just finished day 1 of the SPCP and it has been a mind bending day.  We spent the morning getting acclimated to the environment.  Findhorn is a small experimental village community which began in the late 60's / early 70's as, well here is a blurb from the village website:

"The Findhorn ecovillage is a synthesis of the very best of current thinking on sustainable human settlements. It is a constantly evolving model providing solutions to human and social needs, while at the same time working in partnership with the environment to offer an enhanced quality of life for all."

You can log on to read more about it.  There are relationships with the UN and with various ecological and humanitarian organizations all over the world.  

But that is not why I am here.  It just happens to be a great place to isolate oneself and to concentrate on the work at hand.  It reminds me of conversations in the SITI company in which we realize how important it is for us to find places as a company to get away from the distractions of NYC and really have nothing to do but rehearse and work.  It is not unlike the feeling of being in Toga where there really is only the training and the festival, and the rest of the time is spent resting or healing or pitching in with the dorm cleaning, the dish washing, the ushering for the festival, rehearsing, etc.  The work at hand is foremost in one's thoughts and bodies and thereby it (the work) simply gets done more efficiently. We, SITI, make most of our work, or portions of it, away in either Prague, or Actors Theater, or Japan back in the day, and similar situations.  

In fact being here has reminded me of my first trip to Toga Mura, Japan.  There is the same feeling of traveling into the unknown.  There is the strong feeling of "knowing" somehow that this is the right thing at the right time.  Going to Toga when I was 24 was a life changing experience.  It still is.  I had no true idea even then that one could be an actor - not really.  But I was going to graduate school and doing lots of plays until one day Kelly Maurer said to me, You really must go to Toga and do this work and I'll help you.  And she did;  and I did.  I arrived that first night after 2 days of travel straight to the mountain and was hustled to the outdoor theater and stood in the back for the performance of SCOT company's THE TROJAN WOMEN.  It was then and there that I realized that this is what people can do in the world.  I felt my entire being shift, my brain, rewire, the tears rolling down my face, and stood open-mouthed in this beautiful theater in the remote regions of the Japan alps watching these animal-actors transport themselves and 1000 spectators from all over the world deep into the human psyche.  And from that day onward nothing has been the same. I remained to train for 9 weeks. It changed again 8 years later when the SITI company was formed there.  And that has been a 16 year journey which began with that night of THE TROJAN WOMEN under the stars.  Nothing has been the same.

And now I am writing this late at night outside the theater here in Findhorn, beyond the scottish highlands, just near the sea where I can hear the gulls even as I write, under the stars (which are covered over by clouds I'm afraid and might be for the 11 days I'm here).    It feels familiar somehow.  I don't want to unfairly overlay it with expectations, but I feel the similarities.  And this work of Deborah Hay which has shifted the thinking of so many artists who've danced her dances from Australia to France to the US and elsewhere, from the unknown and lesser know, to the likes of William Forsythe.  To hear the stories of the dancers here and what they've seen of Deborah's work.  Deborah really wanted to hear how the fund raising went for everyone.  So we all sat around her accommodations and told the story of how we managed to raise the money by asking our friends, our peers, our colleagues and our families to help.  We each had to tell a story and try to be articulate and make it happen.  I told the story of the 7 hour movement marathon I did in the Skidmore dance theater.  One spoke of asking his family with whom he hasn't communicated in a long time who don't even really know what he does or how he lives.  They agreed that he should do his solo he's making here for them in their homes.  And so now he "has a gig" as he says -- he will perform for his family and reunite and show them what he does.  A reintroduction of a kind.  So many stories.  Deborah was clear at the end of it all that what she was learning was that we all had to be articulate and tell our stories, our linear stories about this non-linear experience that we are having -  our work.  We learned that even the French who've got a ministry of culture and they and the world assumes that no one is going to donate to them and support them because the government is there for them.  Well this is changing rapidly in the present global and political climate.  The Americans in particular were shocked.  We assume no government support and know that we have to ask for private help.  

Anyway, this is turning into something else.  I simply wanted to say to all of you who donated and took a chance to help me get here that you were very much in the room with me, with all of us telling our stories, and you will be in the programs of all these dancers listed among all of THEIR patrons too.  It will be a kind of book and testament to the people creating and the ownership of this work which is in the hands of you and people like you all over the world.  And if you add your name to the 10 year list of people who've pledged to participants of the Solo Performance Commissioning Project, you realize just how big a net is being thrown - globally.  Thank you.

I have pictures and things to send.  Internet is difficult  to get right now, so I am typing fast with very cold fingers under the one light available outside here in the dark before I lose the wifi connection.

More to follow.  My very best wishes.  
Good night.


Poem of the day (or whenever I change it)

Always the setting forth was the same,
Same sea, same dangers waiting for him
As though he had got nowhere but older.
Behind him on the receding shore
The identical reproaches, and somewhere
Out before him, the unravelling patience
He was wedded to. There were the islands
Each with its woman and twining welcome
To be navigated, and one to call ``home.''
The knowledge of all that he betrayed
Grew till it was the same whether he stayed
Or went. Therefore he went. And what wonder
If sometimes he could not remember
Which was the one who wished on his departure
Perils that he could never sail through,
And which, improbable, remote, and true,
Was the one he kept sailing home to?

By: W.S.Merwin