Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Getting Specific

Tom in the YAF Studio
Photo by Yuen Kin-leung Maru

I'm in a funk... the kind I only get into when I finish something that feels really important. Something about this last project in Hong Kong has left me in post-mortem meltdown. I can't quite put my finger on it, and Zach has done a really good job articulating much of what I also feel in his previous blog entries, but somehow the lyrics from the song we used in the Chapel sequence that keeps playing over and over again in my head seems to capture it best:

I know I tried,
but it's hard sometimes
the roots don't take,
it takes a while
and you pull at the strings
but they're broken, it seems
the dance isn't over for me


How do I put it to bed? Well, that's the rub. This time I don't want to neatly tie up the experience and catalog it among the works I've done. I want to use it to work my way into a broader engagement and deeper undertanding of what I feel I've only scratched the surface of.

It wasn't so much about the dance or the workshops themselves, but about the people and the site, learning to live again in a different context which somehow brought me back to the freshness I felt when I first fell in love--with dance, with another person, with a place--it's seeing what you already know anew, and then seeing something more that you never noticed. I'll try to be more specific. After all, we are all talking about specificity here.

Sometimes the images come so easily. Like the wall of hands and the sliding on the Chapel pews. I saw those in my head as soon as we walked on site with Maria Wong for our first visit prior to the workshops. I filed them away, determined to let them rest until they welded with an idea or opportunity within the workshops themselves... but I knew them already. The hands became a chorus of longing and need through the explorations and interpretations of the participants. The shuffling on the pews became an opportunity for levity in a heavy space, and a chance for each of the performers' idiosynchrasies to reveal snippits of personality within the group, popping out in sequence. I knew they were right. I knew it about the participants too. Sometimes it feels easier than it should, like decisions are making themselves.

Of course, I want more time with this, the process, the participants, the project, Hong Kong. It was rushed. The very nature of the project demanded it be, and it was also exactly what it needed to be, in terms of committment, body sustainability, time, money. But in terms of the emotional involvement, it felt like a tumultous relationship, burn fast and then burn out. I'll be pining away for years on this one. But what was it that made it so crazy?

I think the site had a lot to do with it. The traces of so much longing and caring, healing and dying color the walls with grief and with love. We don't often talk about that in site work, but everything that has ever happened in a site is accessible to the artist, especially those sensitive to it. Bethanie is a monument to human compassion and confusion, and you can't help but absorb the vibrations of everything that occured within the space. But mostly, I think it's about the connection between such a large group of strangers, who came together, and in the words of one of the participants, Derek, became not an organization but an organism. Kerry furthered the metaphor to the site itself saying that it felt like we entered its body through blood vessels and traveled into its heart. I think that's true. We definitely got at something big, but detailed too.

My regret is that we weren't able to be more comprehensive. We focused mostly on composition, in workshops, and then through the lens of the performance we created together. What we didn't cover was the politics, administrative nightmares, and headaches of securing a site, getting permissions, permits, and support--something that was lovingly done for us by the Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation with the generous support of Aedas, and through the loan of the Bethanie site from the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts. And, really, there is no way to thank all of them enough, for creating and supporting this opportunity to work together and also build bridges between global arts communities, profoundly affecting us as individuals, collaborators, investigators...

We didn't talk about documenting the experience either. Though, I believe through the blog, videography component, photographs, etc, we set an example. Hopefully soon, we'll have a really kickin video and documentary to share.

And, we never really got as deep as we would have liked to into movement creation and choreography development through site inspiration. It almost seems as if several sub-workshops would've been necessary. I would certainly have liked to have gone further into exploring fresh vocabualry with the participants and also how developing a vocabulary off-site, can then be attuned and shaped or re-shaped into something that partners with the site. Ah well, next time when we do it for longer... I guess that's it, I felt like we all left wanting more--us, the participants, the audiences, everyone--wanting more from the site, from the time, and from each other. And, I guess that's not a bad thing. It's a powerful place to leave off, and in its not-so-subtle way, implies that there is more to be done. I am looking forward to the continuance of this work with the artists in Hong Kong, and finding ways to bring them to New York--to open a channel between the two cities and the artists who are making this important work, bringing dance and performance interventions into public spaces.

--Tom

Photos by Alz Ng

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Third Rail Projects said...
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