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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Poems sent to me this week

                      [                                                                                              ] 

Imagine your favorite words flowing easily and poetically together within the above brackets....and newly formed never-seen-before-in-the-history-of-humankind words sprouting either side,and floating utterly (not udderly) lovely image of:  ________________ (fill in the blank).
--Sharon Mansur

The soul is called a spirit.
A soul is like a ghost.
The soul goes on to places
the body can't follow,
The body can't follow.

The body is:
the voice
The smile
The angel
The eyes
The place 
In time.

If you love a body,
I just know you love a soul!
I just know you love a soul!

--Gwendolyn Rooker

Laying in bed.
Reading your updates.
Going to read it again.
Till I'm up-late. Lates.

--Gabriel Caste

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Mexico 2012

I have a dream on my second night in Mexico that there are dozens of people body surfing in a cove. The waves become higher and higher until the screams of delight became screams of terror. Then the earth splits into three and millions of people are separated from each other. From the night sky I can see two Earth chunks floating in low orbits. 

The dream must be inspired by the previous morning: I wake up and Rolando and I have breakfast as we watch a live stream of Felix Baumgartner breaking the world record of highest manned balloon trip. He’s in the stratosphere, 125,000ft above ground. In the capsule he goes through a very tense checklist of 30 things before jumping. Then he jumps. We watch him tumble through space in an oxygen suit, with no air resistance at first. He has a radio and mission control keeps asking him to speak to make sure he’s still conscious. His words are unintelligible but reassuring. The camera jumps to images of his family crying and applauding. Then after 4 mins of free fall, his parachute ejects and he controls his landing by manipulating the cords. He lands on his feet then falls to his knees. It’s incredibly moving and stupid. Why do humans do these inane, life threatening things? And yet when they work out it seems absolutely right and obvious to take these risks.

The day I arrive Rolando picks me up from the airport and after I get settled he takes me out for tacos. From inside the taqueria, we see a large dog standing on a platform on the back of a scooter. He looks as if he’s on a huge platter about to be served. Then Rolando takes me to the skate shop. (He had bought a skateboard days earlier, but didn't know how to stop it-- it flew out into the street and was crushed underneath a car). The skate shop owner is generous and gives him half off for another one. It’s hot pink and I try it, also no idea how to stop it.

Rolando is a precocious music school drop out. He is a voracious reader, listener and concert-goer. When he sees me reading Susan Rethorst’s book he says, "Oh I’ve heard of this book" and pulls up Megan Bridge’s review of it on thINKing DANCE on his web browser. I say: "How the fuck did you learn about ThINKing DANCE, a dance blog based in Philly??" he replies "Oh I dunno, I just find things and read about them." He’s 19 years old.

On Sunday, my second day, I go to a concert in a toy museum full of planes, trains, dolls, board games. There are barbies of all kinds: nurse barbie, leathery barbie, a whole row of naked purple barbies and whole row of naked green barbies. There’s an 18 ft high black man’s face with a wide mouth and two big hands playing maracas. A Spaniard named Iñigo explains that this guy came from a dance club where a pianist would play from inside the mouth as it moved up and down. 

At the concert Burkhard and Lisa play an electronics duo. Then Andrea plays a captivating solo that incorporates movement in unison with her sound. She has ear buds that make clicking sounds to indicate when a sound is about to happen so she can move in time with it. I have a long argument with Burkhard after because I voice my desire that more musicians be conscious of their bodies as they perform. He says he isn’t interested in using the body in performance. I reply: “Why perform live then?” I’m not suggesting that all musicians choreograph their bodies, but at least to acknowledge their physical presence being seen. The consciousness that Andrea brings to her presence on stage is refreshing, even when she isn’t moving. 

Waiting for the concert to begin, I talk with Bani, an Iranian filmmaker. She has just completed a feature length film about a Tehran women living a stifled life. Bani was born in Tehran, grew up in TX, moved to NY then to France, then Mexico. She says Mexico City reminds her more of Tehran than any other place she’s been. She says the subways smell the same.

The event begins with a talk about Andrea and Burkhard’s new book, Echtzeitmusik Berlin, about the Berlin music scene. Then there’s a set of improvised music by the Germans and Bonnie. I’m inspired by how these musicians decided to write her own history (since it’s not being documented elsewhere). This makes me want to write.

This is my solo performance of Deborah Hay’s “I Think Not.” Tech starts very late, but goes smoothly. UVA staff takes much care to make the green room cozy with coffee, water and snacks and my name taped to the door in big block letters. Audience members still enter the dressing room, in spite of the name tag. They stream through to enter the stage from the backdoor. This is because my solo performance is billed as a workshop.

Then the show begins without me. No one thought to come check in with me before starting the show.

I hear the applause and am not even in costume. I go to the front and insist they turn the house lights back up and give me 5 more minutes. I’m shaking with rage and confusion, but am calmed by Chris. I channel Deborah Hay’s instruction to notice the feelings and let them go... And there they go!

As soon as I begin the dance, I feel elated, joyous, full, alive. The world is my oyster. I take everything in stride, enjoy the challenges, the impossibility of the tasks, and stay awake to my seeing the whole time.

The conversation afterward with the audience is fantastic. It’s an opportunity for me to contemplate and articulate my work with Deborah and all that it means to me; the values that I share with her, the ways she has influenced my aesthetics through her process.

The audience talk back is intimate and runs longer than the dance. Rolando translates. Emilio and Chris ask provocative questions. Some younger dancers ask why I don’t care about the audience (they believe this presumably because I don’t express an explicit story or feeling). And we have a long conversation about why I and many other artists have decided to move beyond spoon-feeding experience to viewers. I’m not sure how much of a dent I make in their assumptions about dance, but at least it’s a beginning. 

Afterward two other young dancers come up to me with wide eyes asking me how they can study with Deborah Hay. Their minds have been blown apart.

When we arrive at UVA, Chris has set up the theater beautifully for his 8pm concert with Juan, Emilio and Fernando.

There’s a 6pm event that Chris has devised, an experiential concert in the park adjacent to UVA, culminating in a duo with me and Misha, playing baritone horn. 

Chris leads us through 3 experiential exercises inspired by his work with Pauline Oliveros and Jennifer Monson. The first is a 15 min sound walk through the park, listening to the sounds near, midrange and far. As the 20 of us enter slowly, mindfully walking, the tone of the park changes. 

There’s a canopy of dense bird sounds. Cars in the distance. Airplanes even further. The crunching of leaves underfoot. The sound of my own breath. Runners passing by. Children screaming. Dogs intermittently barking.

There are some very strange exercises being performed by park goers: pseudo-aerobic movements of the arms and torso that are jerky and appear very uncomfortable. I’m curious about where these people are learning to exercise?

We convene in the center and partner for the next part: Whisper a conversation with your partner about what you heard, walking towards and away from one another, playing with the threshold between language and sound.

Then the third exercise: Show your partner a direction to look in, see the furthest thing and slowly track your eyes closer and closer, scanning the sagittal landscape as your partner traces your bones from distal to proximal. The vantage points we choose are lush. The park is full of knotty trees, bushes, ornate/rusty benches, paths and arches.

By the time we reconvene as a group, all of our senses are awakened and enlivened. Then Misha and I perform a 10 minute duo. The instructions for viewing are for the audience to watch us 50% of the time and the rest of the time view or listen to the surroundings. This invitation to consciously choose where and how to attend actually allows more space for them to witness us. Sometimes the pressure to be a good audience member can constrict the viewing / listening experience, the person zones out, loses consciousness and doesn’t even realize where they’ve gone.

The duo with Misha is very concrete and simple. After participating in the perceptual exercises, improvising is an effortless stream of non-thinking, sensing and relating on a bone level.

It’s dusk. The sun sets during this duo. For the finale 7 police motorcycles streamed through the park, their headlights beaming into the audience’s eyes.

The concert in the theater is a feast of sound and space. My capacity for listening and enjoying subtlety of sound has increased exponentially on this trip. I feel the potential to listen for hours and never be bored. Every concert feels too short and I’m always left wanting more. This quartet, base, percussion and electronics is quiet and sensitive. the sound travels from one end of the room to the next. There are bowed things and metal and glass vibrating in the most beautiful tones. It’s a composition by Chris and the material is quite limited, but performed with total commitment and attention.

One night I go with Chris and Bonnie to look at a new apartment for them for the following week. We walk for 40 mins at dusk through the center of the city. We walk through a department store that reminds me of my childhood: Macy’s with those old wooden escalators. We enter the post office, which is unbelievably ornate: old fashioned elevators pulleyed by chains, traveling through glass channels. Chris mentions it’s funny that the P.O. is so grand, meanwhile the mail system is so broken that the mail rarely arrives.

Another day I take a walk and see an open air hair salon with an old hound dog sitting outside, huge paws, long ears and it’s skin piling up around itself on the sidewalk. I go to a park and see 50 teenagers hula hooping. One of Rolando’s friend’s, Sebastian, tells me that Dali hated Mexico City because it was more surrealistic than he was. 

Chris and I co-teach an improv workshop. We strive to blur the line between musician and dancer so we create parameters for scores that could be interpreted as sound or movement. The participants aren’t all trained, but are very open and smart in their choice making. Rolando translates and is incredibly facile. He could listen to me or Chris speak about multiple subjects for 5 mins and then repeat everything in the exact order of topics.

The place where the workshop and performances are held is called UVA:

It was built on the site of the 1968 student massacre:

Apparently the police bombed the students, revealing Aztec ruins in the process. On the walk to UVA we see these ruins lining a lawn. And also, built from the stones of these ruins a 16th century church standing right next to it. This city is just history piled on top of history. The biggest church in the center of the city was built on top of pyramids, from the stones of the pyramids. And the whole city was built on a drained lake that’s sinking in many places. Row houses adjacent to each other are tipped at odd angles, lopsided, nothing is level here. In the cab ride back to the apartment I see a church with full trees growing out of the crevices in between the stones.

I meet Misha in front of the Cathedral for a walk. Another incredibly ornate and grand building. We wander through the Cathedral then through the center of the city, past the national palace “where the president hangs out” as Chris says. We walk on new pedestrian streets that were built by the richest man in the world. He bought downtown and revitalized the whole thing. The center had been abandoned after the big earthquake in the 80’s when over 100K people were killed. Rents were stabilized and landlords couldn’t afford to renovate, so they let their buildings go fallow. Everyone moved to outlying neighborhoods and the center became a ghost town. So it’s generally believed that this revitalization has been a good thing. But the security guard with a machine gun outside of a jewelry store is a little disconcerting. And the cops all look like riot cops. They have helmets and huge shields, as if they’re expecting trouble. 

In the center there are indigenous people in loin clothes performing cleansing rituals for 10 pesos. This includes being saged, beaten with branches and being prayed/sung over.

We then walk by a major one way street with 5 lanes. Two buses are trying to pass cars going in the WRONG DIRECTION. Cops look on without doing a thing. 

The curb is bordered by a gate, lined with prostitutes. Cops stand on the building side of the sidewalk. There are an equal amount of cops and prostitutes on opposite sides of the street.

We head into the dense, sprawling La Merced (market). It takes us a hour to walk through it. Stalls stand should to shoulder with narrow walkways. Everything you could imagine is being sold.

There are at least 20 stands just for cactus. I wonder, who buys all this cactus? Misha says, DF is a big city, there are millions of people and they love cactus. The vendors cut the spikes off of the flat, turgid leaves and pile them up in huge bags.

There’s an onion section that makes me cry and chili peppers that make me cough. There are herbs to “cure” every malady, including cancer. Materials for shamanic rituals. Piñatas. Kitchenware. Children’s toys. Underwear. Bags. Jeans. Dried, edible crickets. Caramelized pumpkins worshipped by swarms of bees. An indigenous kind of mushroom that grows in the stalk of corn, that is apparently delicious, but outlawed in the U.S. Dozens of varieties of mole paste in huge tubs. Seafood. Pigs feet. Powdered spices the deepest hues of red, orange and brown. 

And throughout the 3 hr walk in the thick, bustling, impossibly crowded, smoggy, loud, cacophonous city: A periodic window down a street offers a view of the surrounding mountains and a reminder that we’re on the planet Earth.

Then we board a bus toward UVA that stops at an intersection for about 10 minutes for no apparent reason.

On my last night we look for a dance club, but only find one with 90’s american pop music. So we bring a laptop and speakers up to the roof for salsa. Misha and Emilio invite some of their friends to join us, including a dancer named Claudia.

Claudia gives Andrea, Bonnie and I salsa lesson. She’s fluid, precise and understatedly sexy. I am beyond humbled by my undifferentiated hips. 

Then she hollers, the only way for us to really learn is to dance in partners. Luckily, I get to partner with her a bit and sense the music through her movement. 

The security guard to the building comes up to the roof at around 3am and says “no parties after 2am...” We can make can make all the noise we want until 2am on a weeknight and it’s totally fine, but not after 2am!

Bonnie plays some music without speakers from her little ipod and we all crowd around and dance very quietly.

I talk with Claudia lying on the ground, stargazing... There are actually some stars through the smog.

Claudia says she recently went to NY for the first time, had been hesitant to go to the U.S. as many Latin Americans are because our government has so thoroughly fucked them over, but she was impressed and happy to learn that she likes the U.S., at least NY. I’ve had this conversation so many times before. Latino(as) express the realization to me that the American people are distinct from their government. Yet I still feel shame. Even though I have socialist values, I benefit from the wealth the U.S. steals from other nations. 

Claudia tells me that she performs folkloric dance from all over the world. She makes some of her living dancing but spends a lot of time modeling for magazines and artists. She says every moment she’s not dancing feels like wasted time. Lo entiendo.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Freiburg, 2011

Dancing with a lab state of mind.

At the teachers meeting we had several lab sessions. One of them, initiated by Jorg, was a self directed lab where we all danced in the space and discovered our lab questions from within the dance, rather than from a predetermined plan. As the dance unfolded we all investigated our own unspoken questions together. What developed was a committed, focused, shared dance space where we researched our personal interests of the moment. Trusting that everyone was following their own interest enabled me to delve into my desires and questions completely, without hesitation or doubt. The door to the studio was
open and several people witnessed. One of them asked the other, "What are they doing?" and the other replied, "I think they're doing a dance about inclusiveness."

Viewing the dance.

As I write this now, I am sitting in the office adjacent to the studio. Through the window I see two people dancing with large, yellow handles capped to their heads. There are tiny cameras inside recording their faces as they dance. This is a project developed by one of the videographers who wants to make a video of the danced face because so much of the enjoyment of CI is personal and subjective and not necessarily evident in the movement of the body.

Notes written in the bathrooms.

How long can I wear this shirt before it smells too bad?
Can you have a rolling point of contact for the next 24 hours?
Did you call your mother today?

Freedom and responsibility.

The organizers invite the teachers to initiate projects. They invite us to give feedback and are transparent about their working methods and decisions. With this freedom comes the responsibility to manifest our ideas, rather than expect someone else to do it for us. This can be as simple as creating an idea for a study lab, or as complex as making changes to the structure of the schedule or the arrangement of the space. Everyone must agree to go ahead with the plan or be ready to work hard for changes. This feedback mechanism, the constant meetings, circles, check-ins can be tedious but ultimately empower everyone to feel like a part of the festival creation. The leadership style of Barbara, Benno, Eckie and Dani is not too tight, not too loose. We enjoy freedom and also the underlying wisdom that they have acquired from their 12 years of making Freiburg a home for CI.

Egalitarianism embedded in everything we do.

The organizers of Freiburg are profoundly integritous because they weave the values of CI into every aspect of their festival. Everyone is able to practice CI, regardless of age, ability, sensibility. And at Freiburg, everyone’s voice is heard. Ecki held a meeting at dinner one night, inviting anyone who wished to ask him questions about the festival. One rainy day the children were stranded in the gym and were disrupting classes. Apparently there were more children this year than ever and Ecki asked all the teachers in a circle, "What do you suggest we do?" After much discussion a committee was formed and we all agreed
to accept whatever the committee decided was best. The ability of the organizers to let go and allow others to facilitate demonstrates a deep trust they have, and also a sober understanding that a festival of this scope could not happen without the engagement of all the teachers, volunteers and participants.


There is space for every facet of CI here. Art. Community. Composition. Play. Exploration. Experimentation. Somatic Research.
Therapeutic Touch. Social Dance. In many contact events I have felt a strong leaning toward one aspect of CI or another, excluding many people's interests. At Freiburg I feel that there is space for all the aspects of CI to reside. For example, one evening Karen gave a history talk in studio 3 while the marimba warmed up the jam in studio 1 while a video on CI from Belarus was screened in the kitchen.

The Circle.

After 4 days of teachers meetings with 40-50 participants, another 200 arrived for the festival. At the opening circle we spent 25 minutes watching everyone stand, announce their name and hometown, then sit again. It was an electric moment where every detail of how people stood and vocalized was heightened by the sheer number of people in the room. Some declared their hometown in English and other’s in their native language. Some spoke with pride (One man hollered "Basque" and some people applauded) and other’s spoke with self-consciousness. The voices echoed in the large hall and the spaces between each announcement were ripe with anticipation, vulnerability and a sense of global connection.

Choreography of the gymnasium.

The hall is separated by curtains which rise and fall depending on the activities. On the 2nd day the three separate intensive classes each ended with open dancing and then the curtains rose to allow for a full festival jam. When the curtains rose the mind of each class remained distinct as if there were ghost curtains. Jorg’s class was following slow rolling points, Karen's class was full of frisky, light energy and Ray’s class was somewhere in between. Eventually the dances merged and mingled. The broadening of the space created a sense of possibility and mental expansion.

Spontaneous performances.

A trio in snorkel gear and underwear emerged at lunch and danced through the tables. Their eye masks fogged and they swam away disoriented.

In the 2nd big circle a group of facilitators announced the possibility of spontaneous performances as a trio of little girls all
in pink slid on their backs in the middle of the circle in unison.

Gunter, a teacher, interrupted this 250 person circle dressed in some traditional German, small town attire: big tie, suspenders and hair slicked to the side. He introduced himself as Heinz. The organizers, taken aback, allowed him to speak. Heinz said that he had seen contact for the first time at Freiburg last year and was fascinated but had no one to practice with (he lived alone with his grandmother and surely couldn’t tell her) so he took a book out from the library and practiced the principles with a punching bag. He pulled out the bag and demonstrated rolling point, counter balance, the small dance and even flying. Then he announced that although he was late to register, he would like to attend the festival, pro-rated, and would like to begin
by having a one minute dance with everyone, which would take at least 3 or 4 hours. He would begin with Jorg, who had no idea this was planned. They proceeded to dance all the principles of contact in one frenzied minute which culminated in Jorg spinning Gunter horizontally on his head, and of course, a ferocious wave of laughter and applause.

SPCP with Deborah Hay, 2011


The north sea is frigid. I'm allergic to the heather, growing all over the dunes. Scotland is cold in August: 58 in the day and 40 at night. The caravan is barely heated. It rains everyday. I have the kind of cough I used to always have when I lived in New England but the place is so gorgeous, I just don't care.

Apparently this land was a military base after WWII and was craggy, dry, full of sand dunes. Now it's the most verdant place I've ever seen. Some people claim it's a miracle. Others say the grasses fixed the earth with nitrogen and was it ripe to become fertile.

We're staying on a huge swath of land owned by a private foundation called "The foundation," devoted to ecological experiments, eco-architecture and meditation. I'm not sure how this place fits within the town of Findhorn. Everyone here is very Earthy but not too annoying or cultish. Still, all the buildings and structures have plaques like "family house" - "children's playhouse" - "biomass boiler" - "windmills" - "office of personal and spiritual affairs" - "weaving studio" - "sanctuary" - "singing chamber" - "art barn" -"ecologia office." It's strange and kind of reminds me of the village in the 60's British TV series "the prisoner" except this place is not sinister, just very planned and wholesome. People here hold hands before doing dishes.

I just found out that Annie Wilson's family is from nearby Inverness! I also learned from Sally that many Scots were displaced to the US, houses burned and they were put on ships. All to make space for sheep.

Did you know that the hood of a car is a bonnet and the trunk is a boot? Did you know that a bobby pin is a kirby grip? That being gassy is called having bad wind? We say silly goose, they say silly sausage.


One night we sat around and told each other our funding stories. The Europeans mostly got arts grants and the Americans mostly begged their friends. But Deborah said this is slowly changing, particularly that Europeans are becoming more comfortable with writing letters to their communities.

We have a German speaking Italian from a town near Austria and a Swedish speaking Finn from the West of Finland. I'm learning more about how these borders are so fuzzy from all the wars. And so many people feel caught on the wrong side of a border.

We have two pregnant women, a Norwegian and a Sri Lankan from Wales. We have two women with babies and husbands who take care of them all day, a New Yorker and a Parisian who speaks almost no English.

My favorite is Sally, my roomie from Leicester, UK, who is the best performer and wears pink pajamas.

One night we had a camp fire and sang songs from our countries. Deborah is a party animal.

Things I'm learning about indigenous peoples from the participants: The Maori dances are taught to white kids in NZ schools because they have a treaty, (Simon performed one at the camp fire) but in Australia no one learns Aboriginal songs because the whites decimated the Aboriginal population and there's no peace between them. The Laplanders are well integrated in Norway but I forgot to ask the Swede and the Finn how they're doing in those countries.

Deborah Hay

Deborah keeps saying: "Remember to move your fucking head." because it's the best way to be able to shift our perceptions. We're not allowed to close our eyes. We're not allowed to relax. We need to stay a little toned all the time. And we need to "remember to move our fucking heads." She really says that all the time, but otherwise is very very nice.

She insists we never fall, succumb to gravity or move sequentially. She actually said her work is the opposite of David Dorfman which is hilarious to me because my beaux danced with Dorfman for 13 yrs!

Deborah is amazing. Just watching her move, she glows! Her feedback is direct, kind, but uncompromising.

She claims to have had a role in inspiring Steve Paxton to develop contact improv based on their wild parties and dancing all night in the 60's. I believe it!

I think not

Our piece is called "I think not." There's very little specific movement content, only spatial pathways, singing and riddles. Spatial pathways performed while meditating on riddles and perceiving our bodies moving through space, using our eyes.

One day we practiced walking in a spiral with everyone witnessing on the round. It was hard not to be affected by all those people watching.

The dance is impossible. In one section she asks us to "dance our music" while singing a UFO song while trying to cover the whole space. In another she has us moving on a grid (which is hard to track in the round), doing one movement per direction while talking in a fake voice in a fake language in a conversational tone while hiding the fact that we're moving on a grid.

There is no separation between me and you because my perception of you is happening through my senses in my body and vice versa.

I'm trying to allow my perceptions to determine my movement, not my creative mind.

We are instructed to practice this dance everyday w out warming up. Ready, fire, aim.

There's no sound in outerspace, but we still must sing a song from outerspace.

Dancing in the round is dizzying.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Argentina 2011

Argentina (Specifically Buenos Aires) is a lovely and dysfunctional place. Some examples:

1) Some of the bus stations can´t afford ticket sellers. So they have the guys at nearby bodegas selling tickets. You have to wander around to figure out which kiosk is also a ticket seller because there are no signs indicating. Also, they have no bus schedules. At 2am on Sat night four of us bought tickets in La Plata to travel back to Buenos Aires. Turns out the bus company we bought tix for wasn´t leaving til 3am, but several buses from a different company came and went. We stood outside the station, wondering if we should go back to the party we had been at or wait an hr in the station. We got distracted by the stars (strange constellations like The Southern Cross!) and stood in the street mesmerized and exhausted for 20 mins before we realized we hadn´t made a decision. Then we sat in the bus station and watched three people mop meticulously square by square. One mopper´s pants were falling down.

2) Some bad people in Argentina (and other countries too, such as Egypt) are hoarding all the coins and then selling them at higher rates. You need coins to take the bus. Everyone takes the bus. You can stand in line at the bank every week and get a ration of coins or go to a store, buy some crap and beg for change (they might not give it.) The government decided to fix this by creating a universal train/subway/bus card. Only one per person so they can´t be sold on the black market. The other day Violeta took me to some strange kiosk where they took my ID and recorded it to make sure I didn´t already have a card. Then we went to another kiosk to fill it with money. Now I can use it for all transportation except for the buses that still require coins, which are about half of them.

3) The bus I rode with Leo and Nico had a silhouette of a naked woman on the machine where you put your coins. No explanation.

4) No money to AC the old subway cars inherited from Korea.

5) Plenty of money to operate rows and rows of T.V.s in the subway station, showing images of dolphins swimming in the cool, cool ocean.


Some interesting facts...

Their White House is called the Pink House, lit by pink light from below, where the president, Christina works, but she doesn´t live there.

Everybody I´ve talked to loves Christina, although inflation is high, the economy is recovering from the crisis in 2000 and many more people have work. (Leo and Mariana just paid off their mortgage with money earned entirely from music and paintings, amazing!) There´s graffiti everywhere offering her condolences since her husband Nestor, the previous president, died last year.

During the crisis no one could get money out off the bank and neighborhoods created cooperatives where people bartered goods and services. Many people survived almost entirely from bartering.

One remnant of the crisis is that you see huge families at night picking through dumpsters to find things to sell.

Violeta translated the cat-calls we received on the street and some were very surprising. One older man yelled out: "I really love the way you ladies dress. Your clothes are lovely"

Violeta showed me these stencils of white scarves outside the Pink House, representing the white scarves of the grandmas who demonstrated during the dirty war, marching everyday with enlarged pictures on poster board of their missing children. I´ve seen so many images of this in films and it was chilling to be in the place where it happened.

There are a lot of kids with piercings in the cleft btwn upper lip and nose.

'Super dulce de leche' is dulce de leche ice cream with dulce de leche.

There´s no word for "cute" in Spanish.


At our La Plata gig I discovered that my shorts had holes in the bum. I was wearing no underwear. Mariana gave me her underwear. She also wept during the performance. She is a generous and sensitive creature.

Jose performed a piece where he took 20 minutes to slowly sit in a chair. The real time image of his slow sitting was projected onto him in front of a mirror so there were many Jose's slowly sitting.


As I've mentioned before. Rosario is the city of my dreams. The place is run by socialists. Cooperation, sharing and neighborly brotherhood is the norm. The city grid is easy to navigate. The streets are lined with trees and independent stores. People walk slowly. The sleepy Parana river calms the tone of the city. The riverside is minimally planned so that people can self organize. The movement of the people in these spaces is vibrant and improvisational. There are skate boarders and BMX bikers performing tricks on the stairs, large patches of untamed grassy spaces where people picnic, vendors everywhere selling food and stray beggar dogs who can be quite brazen with their affection. There are huge holes in every street and parks every few blocks. There is the perfect amount of order and decay.

Everyone here has a washing machine but no dryer. The machine takes two hrs and the drying takes two days. All the buildings require a key to get in and out. The building that Chelo lives in is neither old nor new. The elevator doors accordion open with quite a bit of upper body strength. There are vegetarian restaurants and health food stores everywhere. I had expected to eat a lot of Argentine steak, but I haven´t had meat at all.

Gabi's studio is one of the most breezy, beautiful spaces I've ever been in. There are high brick ceilings and rows of balconies. The hall and studios have windows that view into one another so you see through the whole building. She has daily classes in Yoga, Feldenkrais, Pilates, Alexander and a somatic modality native to Argentina called Sensopercepcion. She is cultivating a somatic village.

My workshops have been full and enriching. My translator, Lorena, is a master with words and can practice yoga, sense her body, and express herself in English and Spanish simultaneously. What a gift.

Chelo and I went to an island on the Parana river. The place where we embarked is called ¨Florda¨ and it's been surreal hearing people say everyday ¨I'm going to Florida.¨ We rowed Chelo's canoe across the river around the island and found a shady spot full of mosquitoes. We built a fire and smoked them away but it took diligence to maintain enough smoke. I've made it a full week in this damp riverside city without using OFF or any chemicals to keep the blood eaters away. I forgot my eucalyptus lemon concoction in Philly so my body is one pocked, red welted mess.

The mosquito eggs hatched Friday when Peter and I rode two half-broken bicycles 20 miles to ¨Florida¨ and back. They arrived at dusk on our way back to town and the path was a treacherous parade: Unlit, broken pavement, joggers and children and bicycles traveling in all directions, untrimmed trees every few feet we had to duck under and hoards of mosquitoes. The trip to the riverside beach with Peter was eventful. He put a tropical plant that floats on the river all the way from Brazil, called a camelote, on his head and danced around in the water causing a scene. The roots looked like a mohawk and the green leaves were animated like puppets on his head. Then we swam a little past the ropes. The force of the river was so strong we could only swim in place. If we stopped swimming we drifted away. Some locals screamed from the shore. ¨Where are you from?¨I said ¨New York¨ and they said: ¨You don´t have a river in NY.¨ I said: ¨Yes we do.¨ They said: ¨The Hudson is no Parana. There are alternating currents that create eddies that can suck you under and kill you.¨ I thanked them for the advice and as I got out of the water I saw a huge sign that said ¨Peligro¨ (danger) Oops. Peter was stubborn. He insisted that the Danube was equally strong and that he swam in it as a child, that he knew rivers. He stayed in the water for awhile as the locals called out to him in English: ¨Please come out.¨ He finally got out of the water, indignant, but compliant.

The trip to the river with Chelo was less dramatic, more peaceful. We floated in the canoe on the brown muddy water under a deep blue sky, intense sun, dragon flies and these wispy insect webs that float in the air, tethered to trees, called ¨Devil's drool.¨ We sat for a long time at our smoky campground drinking mate and talking. Yesterday was my first mate ever, just a few sips. I can't believe I made it here three times with no mate! My allergist recommended I avoid it because it can be moldy, but I had no negative reaction yesterday so I decided to go for it today. Chelo taught me the ritual of the preparation and I felt initiated into a new tribe. He added herbs that cut through the bitterness and I felt the drink slowly uplift my mood, not like the spike and crash of coffee, but more like white tea. I now understand the importance of sharing mate. It's the first thing that people offer when you enter their home. In fact, on another shore we ran into a friend of Chelo's who offered us his mate before kissing us hello. Everyone here kisses once on the cheek as a greeting, even if you're meeting for the first time, and everyone here shares the mate calabaza (cup) and bombilla (straw.) There is no germophobia and I can sense my North American sterility fading away.

Chelo's friend had some friends who had seen my performance last night. I asked him what they thought of it and he said he didn't know, but would I like him to call them? I said yes and we laughed as he interviewed them on the phone. I insisted on critical feedback, not just compliments. They said that they thought it was beautiful, but that the music and dance were disconnected in the beginning. They felt that we found each other in the middle, and that it was satisfying to see us meet, but frustrating in the beginning. Chelo speculated that perhaps all interdisciplinary improvisation is about the attempt to find each other and that it rarely begins in harmony. Also, he said that there is the risk of never finding each other, which does happen sometimes and it's the risk that makes the performance thrilling.


Can you fall in love with a place?

The answer is no. You cannot fall in love with a place. You can fall in love with the people who animate the place. The people who build and develop the place. I am in love with the Argentineans. I love their streets and architecture, but their Spanish and Italian inspired buildings uninhabited would be meaningless. It's the people's movement through them that makes me swoon.

I love the cobble stone streets, the old ornate churches and government buildings. I also love the holes in the sidewalk.

I took a series of photos of holes in the street. Big ones with hazard tape around them and garbage thrown inside, holes that seem resigned to live there for awhile. Leo said he loves the holes too. It's like walking in an urban wilderness.

I love this place so much I don't even mind the dog shit, no one scoops the poop. I don't even mind the lack of street signs, or stop signs. The cars speed through intersections and you're at their mercy. I love this place so much I don't even mind the disgusting heat in the subway during my morning commute to teach.

I love the old wooden paneled parillas and bars with bazaar murals painted on the walls of western indigenous scenes and t.v.s in every corner. But my experience in these places is colored by all the conversations and collaborations I'm having with the *people*.

I had an argument with Peter last week. He wanted to know why there weren't any clear descriptions of BMC exercises one could learn from a book. I explained that working within the field of somatics requires a paradigm shift. The writing about the work is a support, but the work itself is in the relationship between teacher and student, between colleagues and within one's own explorations. We can't study somatics the same way we study math or science. There are no absolute discoveries that can be updated and agreed upon field-wide as there are in science... Somatics is experiential and the research within the field is more of a layering of ideas upon one another.

The work is in the relationships between people, the interchange of ideas and experience.

And that's what I'm working on right now, relationships. My relationship to the somatic and dance material that I've been cultivating, my ability to share it with others and watch it deepen through the transmission. My relationship to my colleagues and friends here. My relationship to this place, which is tied to the people.

I had a difficult time leaving Rosario, which is the most idyllic place I've ever been that I could tolerate (I've been to perfect places which nauseate me with their perfection, such as Portland Maine, but Rosario is also very real, flawed and I love it for it's flaws; the mosquitoes, the holes in the sidewalk, the lack of soy milk, etc.) I had a micro-meltdown in the bus station where I learned that since it was a holiday (carnival, which doesn't even really happen here. Most people just use it as an excuse to get away for a long weekend) I should have reserved a ticket. I had planned to travel with Chrisof, who had reserved a seat for a 4pm, but I couldn't get a ticket til 6pm. I negotiated with the bus driver to let me on if someone didn't show and he agreed, but unfortunately the bus was full. I sat in the smoggy, white noised, television infested, florescent lit station replaying my week in Rosario in my mind. I was happy, sad, happy, sad. I cried a bit, which is always nice to do in stations in far away places where no one knows you.

I arrived in BsAs in the evening on Monday. I met Leo who let me in to his mother in law's house (Silvia, who wasn't there) and I stayed up til 4 am watching video footage of our performances and sorting through photos.

The next day I slept in and Leo came over for a long session of lunch and video / sound editing. We talked about the business of making art. Apparently, the crumbs of funding that we artists in the U.S. compete over don't exist here at all, so there's really no choice but to support yourself and your art. For example, the choice of whether to apply for arts funding (and try to legitimize your work through foundation support) vs. subsidize your work through teaching is a question that many of us struggle with. I've chosen to mostly subsidize my own work because I prefer the freedom and also my grant writing sucks. But Leo, a brilliant artist has no real paying gigs here (there are none) and supports his family through teaching. There is no other choice. I learned that there's only one paying contemporary dance company in Argentina. ONE!

Being with Leo feels like coming home. He is the perfect, neurotic, hilarious big brother. He came over one morning to pick up his son but said, oh I just wanted to see how you look in the morning (awful.) He texts to check up on me, to make sure I got home safe or am feeling okay. LOVE!

Christof and I went to a parilla that was a buffet where you pick your own vegetables and then go up to a man where you point to various cow parts on a grill and he cuts them for you. I asked for the vacio, the ¨regular¨ part. We had an interesting conversation about the accessibility or lack thereof of interdisciplinary free improvisation. I've noticed that the more comfortable I become with the unknown, the strangeness of the sound and movement that arises, the more comfortable I perceive audiences to be. I wonder if there's a subconscious interchange between performer and viewer? I just feel that over the years audiences seem to be more and more open to the work, even in smaller cities like Rosario, where most of the folks have never seen experimental performance before. I wonder how much of this is my perception, or is my work changing?

I taught a three day a contact workshop I call ¨Blood, Sea,¨ inspired by embodying the fluids. As you might imagine the people who showed up were all very witchy women, except for one 22 year old theater student, Santiago. When I asked participants what brought them there, everyone said that the workshop description fascinated them. I've included the workshop desc below in case you're interested in reading. I'm surprised and delighted by those who arrived as a result of this whimsical writing I did a few months ago, having no idea how we would actually work with this material in dance. It was like a game, coming up with explorations and scores to embody the fluids, blood, lymph, cerebrospinal, etc. I kept finding the need to discuss the containers of the fluids: Blood and lymph vessels, the three maters (pia, arachnoid, dura) in the central nervous system, the cells themselves, as a way of preventing us from becoming puddles on the floor. It reminded me that whatever material I'm exploring, I need to find it's opposite in order to understand it's true nature.

I think often in contact improv circles there's a lot of ¨We're all one¨ hullabaloo. And yes, sure, it's true, we're all made of the same stuff, the same star dust, yeah. But finding the duality of YOU and ME is the only way we can find the meeting point in the dance, the shared intention that's neither YOU or ME. The old yogi's said you can't have non-duality without first understanding duality. Yep.

We all hung out after class one day and I spoke with a contemporary dancer, Amaral, who told me that she speaks absolutely no English because she is a socialist and as a political statement never wanted to learn. I told her that I am also a socialist, that I come from line of socialists and that we all speak English because we happened to land in the U.S. She conceded and we had a wonderful conversation about dance and somatics. When it got too complex Violeta translated for us.

By the end of the lunch I was sure she no longer believed that all Americans suck, (at least not I,) and I was happy about that. I've witnessed this several times on these trips, a change of heart about U.S.-loathing. It's unfortunate, the image that the U.S. exports of itself. True, our government is exploitative and war-mongering, and there are huge swathes of tea-partying retards in the U.S. but there are some wonderful things about us. We are innovative, creative, friendly, we smile a lot and we give hugs.

On Friday night I went to a restaurant / performance in someone's home. On the roof actually. Violeta asked me to meet her in front of a train station, but when I arrived I saw only train tracks and no ¨front¨ of the station. I asked some cops where the ¨front¨was and they had no idea. I texted Violeta with a description of where I was and waited. The cops were very concerned about my safety. I was a bad neighborhood, they said. They let me use their phone to call Violeta since calls from mine cost mucho dinero. Violeta said I went to the wrong place and would meet me there shortly. Meanwhile, the cops waited with me and asked me many questions. When I apologized for my terrible Spanish they agreed, it's terrible. When I said I was from Philly one of them hummed the tune to Rocky. They asked me what the cops are like in Philly and I said ¨very nice.¨

Violeta had pointed to the wrong place on my map, but I tried to let it go and just enjoy the long walk we had to the house. It was easy to forget my frustration because she arrived smiling in a beautiful dress with some bling around her neck (they love the bling here) and a tear drop bindi painted on her forehead. Violeta is stunning. 50-something but appears ageless. She has violet streaks in her asymmetrical hair, blue toe nails and a petite, athletic, charged frame. She speaks perfect English with a British accent and swims breezily between English and Spanish. She is half Basque, half Russian Jew. What a combo! She makes her living teaching Contact Improvisation and basically is my hero.

Coming home late to Silvias house... the houses have shared private alleys so you get a little window into rows of homes, their sounds and smells. In Silvia's alley there's a sliver of sky above with those strange stars, clothes swinging from rooftops and decks and tons of Jasmine growing all around. At this hour there was a dog opera, dogs from various houses singing to each other.

The next day it rained hard. After that temperature changed and suddenly it was fall. We had our final performance at the house of one of Leo's trumpet students. She's 18 and still lives with her parents. Her parents said okay to the house show. She and her boyfriend cleared out the living room and we had an intimate space with high ceilings, wood floors, exposed brick walls and incandescent lights. It worked.

About 30 people came, 5 from my workshop, and we ate, drank and performed at 11pm. We created a 40 minute piece which we compartmentalized by taking turns, giving each other solos and shifting the focus and intensity of the lighting. The audience was so attentive I felt almost embarrassed by their gaze. The three of us became very sad during the piece because it was our last gig together. Santiago said the piece seemed lonely. And it was.

After we all talked for a long time. I asked for criticism and several young people said they had been expecting something that looked more like dance. Amaral's only criticism is that I should REALLY LEARN SPANISH for my 4th visit to Latin America. Si. Cristina, one of my workshop organizers who has been dancing in BsAs for years, said that there's no improvised performance happening in Argentina. And that musicians and dancers don't collaborate. And that my pared down approach to movement, embracing the stylized and the pedestrian is also rare. Interesting. These are things we take for granted in the U.S. and Europe since Judson.

My last full day. Leo and fam and I went to the park for a picnic. Their son Nico, 9 yrs old, went to the skate park to practice some terrifying looking tricks under the tutelage of some talented pot head teenage skaters. Nico was wearing a baggy t shirt with some shiny gold print (love the bling), and jeans with a huge hole in the front revealing boxers with little hearts on them. Awe. We sat in the park for hours. A friend from La Plata who I stayed with last year, Paula, visited with us. She's a print maker and brought me t-shirts that she made, all originals, and some tight shorts with pink animals on them.

On my last night Christof tricked me into drinking coffee at midnight and talking with him til late about how I should move to BsAs part time as he did. He can be very convincing.

On my last day I had lunch with Santiago. We sat on Silvia's deck and I tricked him into singing Tom Waits songs with his wonderful Columbian accent (wait, wait, how does that one go?)

Mariana's father drove me to the airport as he did last year. We didn't say much on the drive, but as we said goodbye he said "See you next year." which felt just right.


Blood, Sea: salty, fluid dances

In this class we will explore several threads of Body-Mind Centering within our Contact Improvisation dances: Phylogenetic: our evolution from the ocean to land, ontogenetic: our journey from the amniotic sea of the womb to adulthood and the embodied anatomy of the fluids; how they can inspire and support movement.

The title is drawn from the writing of Italo Calvino. His short story, "Blood, Sea" refers to the balance of salinity in our blood and in the ocean from which we humans evolved: “Bathed by the primordial wave which continues to flow in the arteries, our blood in fact has a chemical composition analogous to that of the sea of our origins.” As we evolved into terrestrial beings, we brought the sea inside of us, onto land.

The blood spirals though the arteries and veins, carrying nourishment to all of the cells of the body. The arteriole blood travels out toward the distal points of the body and has a repetitive, pulsing rhythm. The venous blood travels back toward the heart and has a wavelike, swinging rhythm. The place where the arteriole and venous capillaries meet is called the isoring, a balanced resting place between coming and going. By balancing this inward and outward flow and finding the meeting place of stillness, we can move with more facility between solo, duo and ensemble dances.

Some physical ways we will explore the circulatory system include: running, inverting, breathing, finding deep rest, sensing our heart beat, giving and receiving weight, moving towards and away, body surfing with an aquatic frame of mind, hearty and bloodful laughter, etc.

This workshop delves into the spiralic, rhythmic, oceanic nature of the blood to find momentum, gravity and flow within our contact dances. Tuning in to the fluid movement within, we will discover how the spiralic nature of all the systems of the body, including muscle, bone and fascia can support our dancing and we will dance with heart.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Solo Performance Commissioning Project 2011 supporters:

Fatima Adamu ~ Dance Advance ~ Jolyn Ariseman ~ David Aronstein ~ Asher Auel ~ Karen Bernard / New Dance Alliance ~ Adams Berzins ~ Aaron Birk ~ Daniel Blacksberg ~ Debra Bluth ~ Tina Heuges Bracciale ~ Joe Burgio ~ Ben Camp ~ Ellen Chenoweth ~ Asimina Chremos ~ Neige Christenson ~ Stefanie Cohen ~ Gene Coleman ~ Community Education Center ~ Shawn Convey ~ Lucinda Christian ~ Teresa Czepiel ~ Cait Davis ~ Chris Deephouse ~ Fumiko Docker ~ David Dove ~ Darrell Duane ~ Shayna Dulberger ~ Ashley Fargnoli ~ David Fishkin ~ Margie Foley ~ Meg Foley ~ Chris Forsyth ~ Erin Foreman-Murray ~ Christina Gesualdi ~ Neil Golden ~ Eun Jung Choi-Gonzalez ~ Laura Grant ~ Loren Groenendaal ~ rosS Hamlin ~ Eve Hanan ~ Curt Haworth ~ Andy Hayleck ~ Liza Henty-Clark ~ Troy Herion ~ Ana Hernandez ~ Katt Hernandez ~ Sophia Hoffer-Perkins ~ Gregory Holt ~ Jess Hooks ~ Julia Horn ~ Dustin Hurt ~ Nicholas Jahr ~ Jane Jerardi ~ Jesse Johnson ~ Karina Kacala ~ Hannah de Keijzer ~ Marcia Klein ~ Hana van der Kolk ~ Jaamil Kosoko ~ Julie Krug ~ John Lanou ~ Rebecca Lloyd-Jones ~ Sharon Mansur ~ Jainee McCarroll ~ Ethan McCreadie ~ Jen Mcginn ~ Carolyn Merritt ~ Nick Millevoi ~ Jessica Morgan ~ Marjorie Morgan ~ Shannon Murphy ~ Erin Foreman-Murray ~ Sara Narva ~ Guinevere Liberty Nell ~ Ielle Paloumpis ~ Mike Parker ~ Rebecca Patek ~ Philadelphia Community Acupuncture ~ Blaine Pirareo ~ Jumatatu Poe ~ Dawn Pratson ~ Naomi Pressman ~ Fran Quintana ~ Marcelo Racich ~ Gabrielle Revlock ~ Ric Royer ~ Jenny Sawyer ~ Kristen Shaverdian ~ Joel Siegel ~ Paula Siegel ~ Ilana Silverstein ~ Melanie Stewart ~ Zornitsa Stoyanova ~ Guillermo Ortega Tanus ~ Kathryn Johnson TeBordo ~ Ian Thal Layard Thompson ~ Simon Tisman ~ Jacques-Jean Tiziou ~ Robin Trent ~ Ginger Wagg ~ Becca Weber ~ Emily Wexler ~ Marcel Foster Williams ~ Annie Wilson ~ Rob Wright ~ Walter Wright ~ Sheila Zagar ~ Christina Zani ~ Moti Mark Zemelman

Monday, February 25, 2008

Argentina, 2010

When I ride on the subways in Buenos Aires, I imagine a shadow self who grew up here, speaks Spanish, drinks mate. It was so arbitrary, the Europeans immigrating to the West in the 20th century. Many of them boarded ships without knowing which country they were going to. Sometimes I imagine that my great grandparents got on the wrong boat. But maybe that fantasy is in place so that I never have to accept the flaws of my home country. I can always claim that my U.S. citizenship was accidental.

It’s a convenient fantasy that serves me when I’m enjoying the sense of familial cohesion that exists in South America. It’s not a convenient fantasy when I am mugged (twice, both times failed) Or when I am stranded somewhere in the middle of the night, lost, tired and pathetically monolingual.

Why is my heart more open in Argentina? Are people more electric while traveling? More electric around travelers? Would this feeling subside if I lived here?


In contact class we practiced heart duets with eyes closed. Partners moved while holding each others hearts. I wandered through the space to make sure that no one crashed into each other and felt privy to the most tender, intimate dances.

When I asked the workshop participants to invite being seen, Stephania sang a song softly, to herself. She walked through the space, facing us, facing away and I sensed that she was letting go of the pattern of her cells facing one direction, even though she had never heard that riddle/directive from Deborah Hay.

Stephania is from Uruguay, which she had never left until this workshop. She is 25 yrs old. Ema took us to an American style restaurant where Stephania, upon my insistence, had her first lox on a bagel, which she attempted to eat with a knife and fork until I intervened. She asked me how to pronounce the contraction of cannot. We discussed the widespread teaching of British English, how Violeta, my translator, sounds like a European. We discussed the pronunciation of can’t and how the Brits say “caahn’t” which sounds a little like “cunt” and we took pleasure in repeating the word many times.





Ema, who organized my BA workshops told me that after the death of his parents (within several months of each other) he took a workshop with Pina Bausch and that dancing saved his life. Ema has a generous smile and a quiet patience when he’s dancing, eating, listening. Ema trusts.

Elegant Violeta, (the first dancer to teach CI in BA,) and I had dinner after the workshop performance. We passed by a milonga in the park and then the pulsing, drumming and heat of a Carnival passed us by on a narrow street. We stood pressed against a building and Violeta told me that every neighborhood at this time of year has a Carnival, each with a political or social theme. After seeing a few darker folks dancing in the carnival, I was curious about the conspicuous absence of people of African descent in Argentina. I had asked this question to many people and had been given many different answers: The slaves were all killed, there weren’t that many slaves, they all fled to Brazil, they were used on the front lines of the war with Paraguay... Violeta gave me the most startling answer of all... Historians disagree about what happened to the people of African descent in Argentina. Historians disagree?

A 3 hour meal. A woman sang a tango in the restaurant for money. She had a deep, strong voice and clutched her purse to her chest as she sang. What would happen in the U.S. if a singer came into a restaurant to busk?

The next day I had another 3 hour meal with Ema, Nanak and Adrian. Nanak teaches kundalini yoga and wears diaphanous scarves around her head. One day on the subway someone called her “Taliban.” She laughed, shook her head, and repeated the word “Taliban.”

The next day I had another 3 hour meal with Leo, and Christof, an Austrian musician who has relocated to BA. He explained to me how easy it is to move to Argentina. I did some math: the rent I could gain from my house = living expenses in BA and realized I’m a fool not to live there. A fool. Here is an excerpt of Me and Leo and Cristof performing in La Plata.

There are coincidences and then there are meaningful coincidences that we call synchronicity. Leo, Christof and I all come from secular, atheist, communist, Jewish families. We were all born and raised on different continents. Although they had played music together for years, Leo and Christof didn't even know about their common heritage until I arrived and broached the subject. Perhaps our commonality doesn't play any role in our improvisational dialogue, but it feels meaningful to me that our
grandparents probably ranted the exact same political philosophies in Yiddish and that our families all struggled with the question of how much to share and how much to hide of their dangerous political beliefs.


In La Plata I stayed with Cristian, who lives in a masterfully designed home, inherited from his parents, made of mostly windows, skylights and a few bricks. The house is a L shaped around a courtyard. The entry is door inside a square of bricks floating inside a wall of greens and bushes. There is an old dog Bubo who guards the house. At meals Cristian feeds Bubo from the table, just as his father did. His partner, Paula, shakes her head, just as his mother did.

Jose, Leandro and Cristian took me to a restaurant inside of someone’s house. There were four items on the menu. We sat by the kitchen. On the table were books, including one called “the world’s greatest art” in which we all looked for images of ourselves... missing! Cristian played dj on the laptop. We marveled at the 5 years that had passed since I was last in La Plata. Since then, these guys have branched off from music and visual art to performance art. Leandro recently performed a piece where he was homeless for several days and got arrested twice. Jose made a beautiful video piece where he disrobes in the median of a street and pours water on himself. Clouds pass across the sky, cars and people pass. No one stops.

At dinner, one of them took out their ID card and I asked them if they always carry them. Yes. Cristrian demonstrated a habit of older Argentines to touch their back pocket every time they see a cop to make sure they have their ID, a kinesthetic remnant of the military government.

In Argentina, I feel closer to my deceased father, who taught Latin American history, though I remember shamefully little about the history of the country. In light of Britain threatening to declare war on Argentina a few days before I left, History prof, Joel Tannenbaum schooled me via facebook comment:

“Nicole, I'll make this as concise as I can:
It is one of the weirder accidents of the 19th century that the British somehow ended up in control of a small archipelago off the southern coast of Argentina. They sent a bunch of British people there who spent the next century engaging in such activities as animal husbandry, woolcombing, and being cold and bored.

Then, one day, in the very early 80s, Argentina's very not-nice military dictatorship took a break from throwing communists out of airplanes and decided that these islands actually belonged to them.

Since the islands actually offered the British no strategic or economic benefit, and the Argentinian junta really had no plans for the place except as parking for one of their weak-ass aircraft carriers, it probably would have made sense for the British to just let them amuse themselves.

But there happened to be a general election coming up, and Margaret Thatcher happened to look at some polling data and realize she was losing very badly, and had one of her signature crazy ideas: Get a last-minute electoral boost by sending a bunch of boats basically the entire length of the planet to briefly fire up the glory days of the empire by "liberating" some islands that had significantly more sheep than people.

This turned out to be a bit more than the Royal Armed Forces was actually capable of, but likely Mrs. Thatcher's nice friend Mr. Reagan loaned her some stinger missiles at the last moment which she used to destroy the Argentinian navy, which consisted of one boat.

This actually won her the election.

Fast forward nearly two decades. The current British Prime Minister, easily the craziest person to hold the office since Maggie, has a general election coming up which he is almost certainly going to lose. And lo and behold, what should appear in the news one day...

Just think of it as another form of 80s nostalgia.”

(Upon reading this Christof mentioned that the discovery of oil on the Malvinas also had something to do with this recent spat.)


I had a dream that I was on a plane with my father. I don’t know where we were coming from or where we were headed, but we stopped for fuel in a small town in Massachusetts. We had a conversation about illness as a an opportunity to ask for help from the people in our lives, a conversation we never had when he was alive. He said “oh, I understand” and then the plane sped down the runway. The plan never made it aloft and snow started flurrying throughout the cabin.


On my way to Rosario some men sprayed moisturizer all over my bag. Then another man came and tried to “help me” clean it. I took his tissues and kept walking. Apparently, if I had stopped to clean my bags I would have been descended upon by many men who would have taken my bags. Instead, I traveled for 4 hours on the bus smelling like lotion.

Rosario is the dream place.

Gabi Morales lives in a high ceilinged house with exposed brick; a sunny, breezy space with beautiful old wood everything. She is a frequent host, often has teachers staying with her when they offer workshops at her studio.

Her studio is also beautiful and she has set a standard in Rosario for high quality, rigorous dance and somatic work. The students who come to her space are smart movers, a pure pleasure to work with. It's a testament to Gabi's dedication, integrity and commitment to integrating somatic work into dance training. The Minister of Education in the province of Rosario has hired her to develop a somatic education curriculum for the public schools. Imagine the lives of young people whose kinesthetic intelligence will be fostered everyday at school?

Gabi was feeling sick so her Hungarian/Swiss partner Peter accompanied me to the studio by bike. After class, we ate by the river. Peter talked about somatics as a way of becoming mindful about the dance, and how we need a mental equivalent of somatics... not quite psychology, but a sort of occupational therapy for the not sick; a way of analyzing our everyday behaviors and making our mental choices more efficient and more aligned with our values. Why do I spend my life´s work looking at the micro-body, and not examine the macro-earth/body? Why do I carefully consider the food I put in my body, but not the origin of the fabric in my bath towels?

As we ate, stray dogs begged for food and children tried to sell things to us. Even in idyllic Rosario, you can´t forget you´re in a struggling country.

On the rio Parana there are these floating plants that coast down from Brazil called Camalotes

As dusk set in we contemplated the astronomy of the South. When we track the sun we´re looking NORTH! so the sun floats from right to left... backwards!

And a slice of the night sky has the same constellations we see in the North, but if you look South, there´s a whole mess of stars we Northerners have never seen, like the Southern cross

We rode back by the river and saw a place with outdoor grills where people can purchase charcoal and cook their own food. We passed a building with boys playing on a huge bike ramp inside. A merry go round, a playground where we stopped to swing with these little girls who heard our English and said ¨Hi!¨ Peter took a lot of pictures.

We passed by a monument commemorating the Argentine flag and walls with tons of leftist graffiti. Rosario has a Socialist mayor and is the perfect combination of order and chaos. We rode our bikes on an unpaved dirt path and marveled at how if this was Europe or the U.S. it would be paved, privatized and regulated. In Rosario, the entire waterfront is public.

The following evening Peter and I were joined by Chelo, who had translated for me in my workshop. He had been in my workshop in Rosario 5 yrs ago and remembered my performance at the Tango hall where half the audience left because they had been expecting tango.

The three of us walked home. We saw a park full of the trees called ¨drunken wood.¨ They are bulbous and strange.

We stopped by Chelo’s house so he could burn us dvds of the video from the workshop performance. He has a large, populous fish tank with one lone fish in a wine glass on top of the tank. He had to separate this male from another male because they had been fighting.

As he burned the dvd I goofed around on his physioball and them flew off it and jammed my toe. On the bike ride home a stray dog ran towards us barking. Peter calmly kept riding, but I frantically turned around. The street was narrow, so I had to dismount my bike, rotate it, remount and then ride away. Peter watched my awkward maneuver, laughing.


I took an excursion to see the rainforest to see the waterfalls in Iguazu in the North of Missiones province, where the earth is red. In the lawn in front of the airport, on my way back to BA, I dug up some red earth and put it in a plastic baggy for my boyfriend.


Back in Buenos Aires I stayed with Leonel, Mariana and their son Nico, age 8. Nico let me sleep in his bed. He made me coffee in the morning. He let me ride his skateboard and begged his exhausted daddy, who he calls "Leo," to translate for us so we could communicate. Nico plays rock and roll on the guitar. I love Nico.

Mariana had her first solo art show while I was there and was so nervous she couldn’t sleep. She sold several paintings which will allow the family to make renovations to their home. She names her paintings after people and showed me an image of one online called “Nicole.” It was inspired by an artist, who’s name I can’t remember, who’s work is in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The painting is blue and I like it.

Leo and I had an conversation about no nada, translated as "nothing," literally means no nothing, which logically should be *some*thing. I explained to him that no nada is a double negative which he repeated quietly to himself as he smoked on the hammock in his courtyard: “If no nada means no nothing, it’s something?”

The Courtyard in their house is the central space that connects the kitchen, two bedrooms and bathroom. It's where they eat, smoke, dry laundry, nap in the hammock and also where Nico tears through on his skateboard.

I’ve seen Leo 4 times now, twice in the U.S. and twice in Argentina. During the first visit to Argentina he took me up to Jujuy in the foothills of the Northwestern Andies. We traveled by bus and our hosts tried to lodge us in a whore house and he was stalked by a crazy cellist and we fought over the attention of a beautiful woman named Guchi and I got stranded in a hailstorm in the mountains with a dancer named Maria Paz.

Every time Leo and I improvise it feels like coming home. I appreciate his intense listening skills and the time we've shared together traveling adds layers of experience onto our improvisations. On my last night we performed at Una Casa. A House. Actually, in the basement of Una Casa. Upstairs Charles, the owner of the house and his partner sold beer and home cooked food. I performed Sand in my Soda Pop and improvised with Leo and Cristof. Their music was so lush I wanted to just listen and felt like my dancing was extraneous. I also performed a piece with E°, all of us crushed into windows in the basement, each opening up to brick walls. No escape. We placed candles beneath each window and performed simultaneous solos. As Leandro and Cristian climbed the walls and beams of the ceilings, Jose undressed in the tiny space and pulled out his hair. I spoke a slow quiet monologue about how happy I was to be with them.

On my last day in Argentina, we went to a parilla called Cafe Eros which doubles as a community center where kids noisily play soccer. Christoph mentioned that he had lived in Berlin in the same building as Axel and Andrea... He had been there the same time that Bhob and I stayed at Andrea's 7 years ago, but I didn't remember meeting him. Then he gave me a cd of his, which I already had but hadn't put together that he was the same artist. How bazaar. We had some cheap, delicious steaks and then went back to Leo’s for coffee. It was pouring rain, the first rain of my visit and we listed to sad tango music on the lo fi radio. It felt good to brood, to be in Buenos Aires and to adore my Argentine family.

Leo and I call each other cousin because although we’re not related our love for each other is like blood. At the airport I received a text from him: “Everything was so magic, right? We always gonna be together here and there...”

JAPAN 2008

I'm here in Japan for two weeks to dance, rehearse and perform with Corrie Befort. This project was funded in part by a professional development grant from Dance Advance. I'm staying this week in Ebina, outside of Tokyo with Corrie. Next week I'll be staying in Tokyo with another dancer friend of mine from Philly, Rebecca Lloyd Jones.

When I arrived on Sunday the 25th, after 20 hours of traveling, I stood transfixed in the Shinjuku train station, waiting for Corrie to pick me up. A man asked in English if I needed help and I said no. I must have looked a mess standing there in the center of the station, people streaming around me, suitcases and bags strewn at my feet, circles under my eyes, slack jawed, mesmerized by three women in pink bunny costumes dancing in a video ad on the side of a building, standing there as if in the midst of a petit mal seizure. I must have looked terrible, but I was actually very happy. I knew that Corrie would come. I called her cell from a pay phone. Of course, she had said take the "South Exit" and I had taken the "New South Exit". Duh.

Corrie lives in an agricultural area, outside of Tokyo called Ebina. She lives on a quiet, pristine street in a very spacious house. Her husband is in the navy and is stationed in Japan. We went grocery shopping on the Army base. There were bowling alleys, bars, McDonalds, grocery stores and movie theaters. Many of these military families live in Japan, but they stayed in America. Corrie and her husband don't live on base. She's been studying Japanese intensively here for the past 3 yrs and has immersed herself in the Japanese dance community.

On Monday we went to an Aikido class on the army base, where Corrie has been practicing for a few months with a Japanese teacher. I had studied Aikido for one year, ten yrs ago and a lot came back to me; the rolls and terrible wrist twisting. One guy said I was a natural as he winced in pain from my terrible wrist twisting. I was taught how to bow, how to get up with my left foot first and go down with my right. We practiced rolls and pushing each other up and down and wrist twisting. One guy said, "Don't look down, you've been looking down your whole life", which was a condescending thing to say, especially since he had just been showing me how to place my feet *down* on the floor.

The Onsen are natural hot spring baths. We found one hidden in a garden of bamboo trees with wooded pathways, creeks and fire torches. An old man appeared at a sliding door and invited us in. He struck a drum several times as we took off our shoes. For real. We were led to a tea room with Western Classical music playing. It was ornately decorated with chandeliers, and smelled musty. Then we were directed to the hot spring baths where we washed at shower stalls, seated on these tiny stools. Then we boiled in the bath there for awhile. There is an interesting thing about slippers here. They give you slippers to wear indoors, but then there are different slippers to wear in the bathroom, so you're always changing footwear and it's always too small for me. Also many of the toilet seats are heated.

We've been rehearsing at Corrie's community center, a very short bike ride from her house. The studio at the center has windows that open out to rice fields. In our first rehearsal, flocks of sparrows darted towards and away from us. As they flew towards us they expanded and then they contracted as they sped away, all in unison. We performed solos for one another as a way to become acquainted with each other's movement. As we soloed dozens of birds danced behind us. We also practiced improvised text and movement and contact improvisation. At our 3rd rehearsal we were joined by Yuki Enomoto who will be performing with us next week. We directed each other in impromptu solo compositions. One person would dance, another direct and another watch. We did every configuration between us and learned a lot about our different directorial styles. Yuki directed me to find a place where I wanted to be and to make myself very comfortable, whereas I directed her to perform a previously choreographed phrase over and over while singing a song she could barely recall from childhood, to the point of exhaustion. I was very demanding, but her solo was stunning. Our most recently rehearsal was outdoors on a gorgeous day. You can see footage from that rehearsal here:

Kazuo Ohno's studio is outside of Yokohama. We had to walk up steep hills and stairs to reach the studio. from the top we saw the twinkling lights of the city. Houses were packed very close to one another, but there were still tons of trees and gardens flourishing in the crevices. The studio was tiny, in a house at the top of the hill, filled with chairs, couches and knick knacks. I think there must be a living space somewhere in the house, because Yoshito Ohno seemed right at home.

Yoshito Ohno's class was the most surreal experience I've ever had. An Italian dancer who's been studying with him for years offered to translate for me. He began by asking us to walk slowly. We walked as he played Western classical music for approx 90 seconds. Then he lectured for 5 minutes on the importance of every moment and how it is a gift to be alive. We walked again for 90 seconds. He made postural adjustments with little fans. Then he gave us all artificial roses and discussed the similarity between us and the rose. He touched the crown of my head and said this is the head of the rose and my feet are the roots. He had us run with the roses, asked us to let go of our ego, to disappear and be the rose, have the rose initiated our running. Then he cut a sheet of paper with a box cutter and asked us to cut the space. He said that if we lift our chins we won't have the power to cut the space. It seemed like an Alexander lesson on LSD.

Then he gave us sheet of gauze and asked us to dance with the gauze and to let the light fabric teach us about delicacy. He said all this was very serious, of the utmost importance, that when we get old we won't be able to dance unless we understand this lesson of delicacy. He talked about other dancers who possess(ed) this delicacy: Martha Graham, Pina Baush, his father, Kazuo Ohno. He had us dance to some ambient music, and then some more classical. At one point he thought we were being irreverent and careless, so he told us to dance for all the children in the world who can't sleep.

Dance for all the children in the world who can't sleep.

In other circumstances, I would have laughed because it sounded so heavy handed, but I was exhausted from standing for 2 hrs, listening to him lecture and the ambient music, My nervous system was totally fried. My dance had very little movement. I mostly just stood there with gauze in my hands, crying. After class we had tea and snacks, chatted and laughed like normal people.

At my second class with Ohno, people were already practicing their slow walking when we arrived. He had us dance with just our hands, then walk backwards, then dance just with our backs, then walk around while threading a needle, then push against the wall, then push against the air as if the wall was there. He talked about Buddhist philosophy, existence and nonexistence. I hardly understood a thing. He played Amazing Grace over and over and I cried while walking slowly. Again we had tea and snacks. Yoshito Ohno had a wonderful sweet presence with his students. He exuded warmth and affection. I told him his class was very meaningful to me, though I didn't really understand a lot of it. He said I taught him as well and he gave me a fake rose and a piece of gauze to practice with. I will practice, though I don't even know what I'm doing when I'm dancing Butoh.

General Impressions
Here is where I list all the strange things I've seen so far:

At 5 o'clock there's a song that plays from huge speakers to let people know it's time to go home from work.

The neighbors warn Corrie not to hang up her clothes on Yellow Dust Day, when yellow dust blows in from China and dirties her clothes.

The Japanese are so economic with their design. Corrie's pantry is in the floor. The sink water feeds into the toilet. They leave their bath water for days, reusing it over and over (showering beforehand)

The technology here is astounding. The rail system is extensive and efficient. Everything talks to you, the escalator, the bathtub. And the bath plays a song that chimes throughout the house when it's full. In some places there are fake flushing sounds at the toilets for modesty.

Everyone is so polite and organized. People line up for the train. Corrie lost a bag of new clothes on the train and retrieved it at lost and found. Not one stole it.

Many people wear masks because of the pollution and/or because they're sick.

Everything really is smaller here, I keep hitting my head on the handles on the trains. I haven't seen a single homeless person.

When I up I check my email and correspond with people who are going to bed. It's yesterday in America. When I go to sleep I check my email and they're waking up.

Flashing lights everywhere.

There is a second hand store called "hard-off", and an Americana shop specializing in super detailed beach boy station wagons called "rod sports".

"bottled water" in a can

We rode a train through the foggy Konagawa mountains - absolutely stunning. We went to Odawara to see the ocean. There were massive concrete dumbbells lining the beach to protect the highway and city from typhoons. The sand was black and there were flying fish. The day was cold and overcast but the water was warm.

The main street of Odawara was lined with colorful translucent balls, strung from building to building
and hyper cheerful folk music played from speakers. I couldn't decide if this was whimsical or creepy.

The next day we rode our bikes along the Sagami river and visited some temples. It's fall here and there were red and yellow leaves falling continuously around it.

I arrived in Tokyo on Sunday and have found the experience to be quite daunting. I'm very allergic to the air here and it's hard for me to figure out what to eat when I'm on my own because I have a lot of food allergies. I feel overstimulated and very foreign most of the time, punctuated by moments of pure magic.

I'm staying here with Beka, her sister, brother in law and their tiny baby in their tiny apartment in Ikebukuro. I feel totally in the way. The only place for me to stretch is on the baby mat. Luckily they work 9-5 and I don't wake up until after they're gone. Otherwise, it would be a zoo. They've been extremely generous with me, cooking me dinner and teaching me how to eat Japanese food. Apparently everyone dips their own spoon in the same dish to serve themselves. I was politely told to hold my bowl close to my face so the food doesn't fly off the chopsticks and onto the floor. Oops. Beka made me miso soup for breakfast and we had mochi with green tea for snacks. It's the real deal.

On my first night here Beka took me to a "rehearsal" with her theater company, Science Projects, directed by Yelena Gluzman. The rehearsal consisted of a meeting at an Italian restaurant, where we stood at the bar for 2 hrs (food is cheaper when you stand) talking about Gurdjieff and expanding consciousness. Yelena, the director, gave them notes for her new piece "Worman" over wine and cheese and I was a fly on the wall. I tried to imagine what the piece looks like from their conversation. There are two casts, the Americans who are savages and the Japanese who are an anthropological film crew studying them. Fascinating.

Then we went to this area of Shinjuku that has dozens of bars that only fit 5 people at a time. We wandered into one that already had 5 people in it. The bartender encouraged us to come in anyway and we squished in. It was very festive in that little room. They all asked Ruskie? Ruskie? Because apparently it was a bar frequented by Russians. The funny thing is that Yelana and her performer, Dima were both born in Russia and speak Russian, though they're American citizens. I'm of Russian ancestry, but don't speak Russian. Beka is Of German ancestry, is American, but was raised in Japan. Lauren, another performer is Australian. So there were all these Japanese people speaking Russian, Japanese and English with us, but couldn't figure out who was what. Every bar in Goldengai has a theme. The decor in this place was eclectic. Lauren speculated that the theme was Papua New Guinea/Folk/JapaneseAvant-Garde/Dance/1970's Performance Art. There were masks on the wall and photos of the owner everywhere, doing ballet, playing the piano, doing expressive dance. This was a very special evening.

I took a contemporary dance class from a woman named Anna (one name only). Her movement was very fast and small and since I was a foot taller than her and the other dancers I looked really dumb doing it. Plus, she played this haunted house sounding music which made it seem even more strange. 10 mins before the end of class I sprained my finger during an inversion and was relieved to have to stop. I iced it and it seems to be fine.

Beka insisted we do this. She explained that Karaoke is just to entertain yourself, not to perform for others. It's true. We got a private room and alternated singing. As I sang she checked the menu for her next song and I did the same. Occasionally we watched each other, but mostly we regressed to age 10, alone in our bedrooms, pretending to be pop stars, singing love songs about boys who "don't even know we exist". She sang Japanese songs from when she was a kid and I sang a lot of Cyndi Lauper. We were required to order drinks so we got Oolong tea. When the guy brought it in, I stopped singing, suddenly embarrassed. This was very different from doing Karaoke in bars in the U.S., which is more like performing for strangers, pretending to be a pop star. This Karaoke was different, it was a solitary affair.

You must be an artist!
I walked around glamorous Shibuya at night feeling alienated. Everyone was posturing and I felt frumpy and foreign. The choreography of the main intersection was amazing. At the red light, the people would pile up as the cars raced by. Then at the green light, bicyclists would cut through the remaining space before the pedestrians completely filled the street. It reminded me of Ohno's image of cutting the space. I watched the filling and emptying several times. The flashing lights and ads on the buildings were seizure inducing. Back in Beka's quiet neighborhood, I was stopped by a Japanese woman who asked me where I'm from. I said New York to make it simple, (Philadelphia? Where's that?) and she asked if I'm an artist. She's a painter and she loves to dance too. She said she knew I was an artist because of the way I look as she touched my fisherman's paints. I was wearing at least 7 different colors, as usual, and probably looked a little crazy, as an artist should. She looked a little crazy with a white furry hat askew, dangling earrings and a long knit sweater. She was pretty, but had yellow teeth and her eyes were kind of intense. I was thrilled to have the company and found it unusual to have a Japanese woman stop to chat in the middle of the night. We talked for 20 mins and exchanged emails. She asked me to meet her sometime and teach her contemporary dance. I sort of smiled and nodded.

Tonight was the strangest class yet. We danced for a total of 12 minutes in the 2 hour class. Yoshito Ohno spent the rest of the time telling us about the history of Butoh. He spoke in poetry so by the time the English translation reached me it was a mess. I did understand that he told a lot of anecdotes about Hijikata. Hijikata didn't eat for 2 weeks before one of his dances, so that he would be as emaciated as the Japanese farmers were during WWII. Ohno said that Hijikata used intense repetitive jumping as a training tool. I remember practicing this jumping with Deborah Butler when I studied with her in Boston. 15 minutes of continuous jumping, followed by extremely slow, contemplative movement. The jumping was very effective in exhausting the body to the point where the ego is totally dead. What's left is just the body moving. Apparently Hijikata went to a cemetery to discover what death smells like?! Butoh is sometimes referred to as the dance of death. Ohno also said it is the dance of babies. Ohno said that he never knew why Hijikata liked to dance to Amazing Grace. He wasn't religious at all, but Amazing Grace was his song. He also talked about Marcel Marceau, and how he possessed the presence of a Butoh Dancer.

We danced with roses and paper again. Then we had tea and snacks. I met a Japanese dancer based in Japan and Amsterdam who curates the Tokyo Contact Improvisation Festival and she invited me to send her my resume to be considered as a teacher there. Serendipity! I also met a Japanese man at the class who is not a dancer, but is a beautiful mover. I asked him what brought him to the class and he told me that his parents met in Ohno's class 30 yrs ago. He is estranged from his parents, but wants to learn more about them, so he is studying Butoh. I was honored that he shared this with me.

I took 4 different trains back to Beka's. As it got later each transfer was more intense. I was catching the last trains before closing. People were running through the stations, packing like sardines into the last cars. Many people were drunk, falling asleep, falling down.

Sushi-go-round: Sushi circles on a conveyor belt and you grab whatever you want, only $1.00 per plate!
Business men read manga (comix)
Each train has it's own song.

Dancing in Shibuya
Beka and I taped a small dance we did in Shibuya in the main intersection.
I added some Swedish pop music to the movie because it seemed just right. Please tell me know what you think!

Here is some video of Ohno's class.

I was late to my last class with Ohno because I got on an express train and it took me too far. My most glamorous moment in Japan: I had missed dinner, was starving, so I ate sushi with my bare hands on the train. When I got there he was demonstrating presence and delicacy by having three people dance near buckets of water, sensing the water. Then he talked about the preciousness of life and every moment. Then he had us walk with flowers. Then we ran with flowers and he demonstrated crying out "mama, mama look at the flower run" to show us the level of curiosity and joy we should have while running with the flower. He said that we should dance with the honesty and innocence of a child, that our feelings of sadness, anger and joy should be transparent in our dancing. He asked us to open our eyes, see the space we're dancing in and have a soft, wide gaze.

This class was about watching. He had us watch each other and told us to watch with our bodies, not our minds, to dance as we're watching and have empathy for the people we're watching. He said watching is where you learn, everyday life is our teacher, dancing and gardening are no different. Once again I cried while walking slowly. Ohno's studio has been a sweet reprieve, a place where I can drop in and feel. There's a Japanese woman who I've seen cry at every class. It's lovely to watch her dance because she's so present with herself.

I've felt safer in Ohno's studio than anywhere I've ever been. It's very powerful for me to go to a place where we talk about mortality because I think about death everyday. My father was sick for most of my life and I watched him progressively decay over many years. There's a book of photos of Kazuo Ohno at the studio; haunting pictures of him dancing in women's attire, and then pictures of him aging. The final photos are of him bedridden with his family dancing around him. The last image is of Ohno, mouth agape, hardly conscious, hardly breathing with an infant lying face up on top of him, smiling. I've never seen images of someone so honored at the very end of their lives.

After class we had tea and snacks. There were dancers from all over the world there and it was very festive. Then Ohno performed the most wonderful thing I've ever seen. He performed a Butoh dance with a puppet of Kazuo Ohno to "Can't help falling in love with you". Yoshito Ohno disappeared and all we saw was the grotesque, beautiful movement of the puppet with the crooning voice of Elvis Presley. I would have taped it for you all, but my battery died. Tragic.

BabyQ workshop
Yoko Higashino, the director of BabyQ teaches dance improvisation and technique twice a week at her tiny studio in Koenji. Yoko is an intense lady. One minute she'll be standing calmly and the next minute she'll bend backwards and end up twisted on the floor, effortlessly. When she demonstrates an improvisational concept, she dances full-out as if in performance.

After a long warmup she taught us a movement phrase. It was a very luscious, dynamic and beautiful piece of choreography. It was simple, precise, and juicy, something to sink my teeth into. It was short and easy to remember, but intricate enough to want to repeat and refine. It was fun to play with phrasing. She gave us the opportunity to practice many times in small groups.

It was hot in there. Some of her younger students drew faces in the steamed windows. Yoko was a wonderful blend of precision and passion, amazing to behold. She was always slightly off balance, dancing at the edge of her ability, not in her comfort zone. Unfortunately, she's one of those dancers who would rather be dancing than teaching. She's extremely intelligent, but didn't watch her students closely enough.

After the phrase we improvised for an hour. Her directions we simple: initiate from our pelvis, our head, different body parts, etc. Then we had to sync up a hand with another body part, which made for some unusual unison movement within our bodies. I sensed the energy in the room diminishing and I craved more specific guidance and attention. I craved a teacher Like K.J. Holmes (Hi K.J!), who is able to sense the energy of the room and shift dynamically between internal and external focus, keeping the dancers totally engaged. For example, in one of K.J.'s classes, she had us work with partners, internally focused, touching each other's backs with our hands as we moved. Then, when she sensed us all zoning out, she had us clap our hands in front and behind of ourselves, to wake us up and shift our focus to the outer world.

Though I appreciated Yoko's extreme talent as an improviser, I craved this kind of specific attention from her. I saw her discovering new and interesting things in her body at every moment, but she wasn't able to convey to the class how to be this present and embodied. She spent a total of 30 minutes of class time at her Mac, working on her playlist, which consisted mostly of hip hop, and she spent at least 5 mins staring at the floor, trying to articulate her directions for us. She should have spent that amount of time, before and after class taking notes and trying articulate her methods more clearly.

Noh theater
I spent Sunday with Helena Espvall, my friend from Philly who is here for 2 months playing music. It was her second day here and she had that shell-shocked, wholly-shit-I'm-in-Tokyo look on her face. She described difficulties with the shower and water heater in her apartment, all sorts of technological and logistical mishaps. We went to see a Noh Theater performance, recommended by our friend Gene Coleman. The Noh Theater was so slow and inaccessible to us it was practically unwatchable. Men sang to one another while moving very slowly across the stage, but there wasn't the tension that Ohno has when walking. There was a containment to the walking that made it almost invisible and I became very sleepy.

BabyQ Performance
The BabyQ performance was the opposite of Noh Theater. There were 12 dancers thrashing about to loud electronic music. There was violence, rape, gay sex, straight sex. One guy mimed jerking off and humped the wall. Another man pulled a woman's hair and they pushed each other to the floor. A woman sprayed water all over her body and made farting noises against her wet skin. There was awkward coughing and scratching. In the last scene a man peed or ejaculated on a woman. I'm not sure what it was supposed to be, but it was actually only water, I think. Total spectacle. The few moments of pure dance were beautiful, particularly Yoko's dancing. She was transcendent and was the only one on stage who could embody these painful emotions and experiences authentically. The other dancers seemed to need more direction. They were acting out the *idea* of pain. At the end of the evening the usher handed out feedback forms and I wrote to Yoko that the portrayal of violence without any reflection or insight just perpetuates the violence. For example, during the rape scene I looked around at the audience and several men seemed very aroused. I asked one of the dancers who I had met in class if Yoko's work is typical in Tokyo and she said that BabyQ is definitely the most edgy dance company in town. I wonder if Yoko is exploring all of these dangerous images without reflection because she feels an urgency to perform these taboos?

Capoeira Party
Beka took me to a party with her Capoeira friends. Most of them have gone to Brazil to study. I asked them why they chose a Brazilian martial art when there are so many Japanese martial arts. They said they were attracted to the creative aspect of Capoeira. It's not just a sport, but includes song, dance, and improvisation. The more experienced Capoeristas had the forward slopped shoulders that develop from years of practice, very different from the typical Japanese posture where the shoulders are more balanced from front to back.

Beka and I were worried because her whole family had a stomach bug. We ate Korean bbq at the party, but were concerned that we might start vomiting at any moment. Beka kept saying "don't think about it, don't think about it". One of the Capoeristas is studying acupressure and traditional Chinese medicine. He gave Beka a strange tincture that he said contained bull's testicles and sheep's uterus. She drank the whole thing and said it tasted like umeboshi plum. It's supposed to give you energy. She was revved up for the rest of the night and the next day too.

The Korean bbq was amazing, all different parts of the cow grilled and wrapped in a huge lettuce leaf with rice and kimchi. They complimented me on my use of chopsticks, then later, once they were more comfortable with me, admitted my performance was only so-so. I asked them what their struggles are, since everyone seems so affluent and comfortable here, employed, housed, feed and well dressed. They told me that there are homeless people, but they stay in the parks and by the river, invisible to the foreigner who stays in the bustling neighborhoods. They also told me that the Japanese struggle with suicide, that 5 x's more people kill themselves than are killed in car accidents.

I couldn't get a clear answer as to why the suicide rates are so high. It's puzzling.

The Glamour
Our performance was not the culmination of my work here. This writing is. Our venue was changed last minute due to double booking at SuperDelux, through no fault of Corrie's. The curator, who had messed up the scheduling found us a spot at restaurant. After all this site-specific work I was open to the idea, but the space was too challenging, too many variables, so I decided not to dance. The other performers went for it and there were some truly amazing moments, like watching the waitstaff contend with the dancers in their space. Corrie is brilliant at picking up on the movement that's already happening in a space and enlivening it. She's a masterful improviser. The other two dancers were less facile in this environment. They resorted to typical dance moves that looked trite in this environment. Corrie and I discussed the evening afterwards. She was incredibly understanding of my decision not to dance. We made plans to meet again in Seattle and Philadelphia and decided that this evening was not the culmination of our work together, but just one awkward evening.

Misc Japan:
I'm Beka's first American friend to see her home. She is extremely graceful at flowing between cultures. She grew up here, but has lived in the states since she was 14. She seems totally at home here even though everyone assumes she's a foreigner and marvels at her perfect Japanese.

Beka's neighborhood is very peaceful, trees, quiet, tiny specialty shops. Just a few blocks away is lights, cars, chaos. It seems that tradition and modernity live side by side here.

If it weren't for Corrie and Beka helping me find my way, I would not have been able to accomplish so much in 2 weeks. Left on my own, it would have taken me months to find my way.

Old world/New world. In Europe and Asia there's a sense of of cultural history everywhere. In the Americas everything still feels young and ripe with possibility. The new world feels clumsy, like it's still finding it's legs. The old world is rooted, has integrity and depth, but change happens slowly.

I loath to admit that I've been frequenting starbucks. The Japanese have the best tea in the world, but they don't know how to make coffee.

I met a guy named Michael Barron who is in the cast of Worman. Coincidentally, he was in Argentina when I was there and I met him at my BsAs performance.

Everyone warned me about the expensive food. I've found tons of cheap, healthy food, full meals for $5-$10. What's expensive is dance classes: $20-$30, performances: $40 and the trains: $15-$20/day.

Vending machines sell cans of hot corn or bean soup.

There are free eyeglass cleaning stations outside of eyewear shops.

People shout into bullhorns and microphones outside of stores.

People stand with advertisement signs at intersections for hours.

People hand out free tissues with advertisements on them.

There are no garbage cans anywhere, but everything is clean. Where do people put the garbage?

People wear costumes to work. In restaurants and stores all the salespeople have matching hats and jackets.

Women wear shorts and high heeled boots in winter w/out tights.

Pachinko is an addictive game where men sit in smoky halls, paying to move tiny balls around in this machine and if they do a good job they win prizes like a rice cooker or shampoo.

There are people pushers on the morning trains, wearing white gloves. They direct people and push them on the train to pack them in.

My Ailments:
head cold
fall allergies
fatigue from pollution/nosebleed
stomach bug
sprained finger
mystery swollen knee

My Merch:
kewpie doll
an individual cup with a lid and screen that you can brew tea in
belly warmer
toe socks
t-shirts with nonsensical strangely lewd English
extremely fine tipped pens
business card holder (they love business cards here)
thin bungy cord for my bike basket (every bike here has a basket)
reflective gear for my bike spokes