This text was written by Eneko Urizar a week after he sat in the corner watching me teach a workshop in Brussels at the Grand studios February 4-5, 2017.
I cannot believe it’s already been a week.
Today we are doing ear, yesterday we did eye. Ear is so much fun. Welcome. Can I get you something? Do you want to eat? A coffee? Are you sure? Alright, it’s all good then. We will start in ten minutes or so. You can sit where you want.
Welcome, she repeats.
And she goes away, the same way she came. That was Katie, Katie Duck. She is giving a workshop on real time performance that started yesterday in the Grand Studio, in Molenbeek. Yes, now everybody knows Molenbeek Saint Jean… Like it was with Belfast before, or Beirut, Stalingrad, Gernika… Always for the wrong reasons… Those are the things newspapers publish and polish in their neat covers, radios talk about ad nauseam, and, the ultimate cool and very engaged activity… Capture it with your fucking smartphone, do a documentary. That is what documentaries are funded for. Ask Al Gore, Matt Damon, Di Caprio, Morgan Freeman or even Jeremy Irons. Those are the things we seemed to be remembered for. The bad, the ugly… Fear is the ultimate memory booster, the most efficient, it has long lasting effects, whether you realize or not. Maybe Alzheimer’s research is all wrong… Looking for pro-cognitive mechanisms to be hijacked and exploited, when Neuroscience should be looking for terror and its therapeutic opportunities.
I remember, from my days as a psychopharmacologist (what a fancy thing to be), how interested people from the military were on fear; fear management, fear conditioning, fear feeding… Fearlessness.
But leave the outside world just where it is… Out. Yes, out. Since I have climbed the wooden steep stairs of this building and entered a new world, the outside seems very far away. A new world, yes… At least it is for me. I love new. I love being in. Considering what is out, generally speaking, one must be totally crazy to want to stay for long. Go to work… To war. Go get groceries… So gross. To school… never cool. Wash and iron your underwear… Iron it, really? Underwear? Why?
What the fuck!
I have chosen my corner, both, figuratively and not. The room is huge, is like those places where dancers rehearsal. You’ve seen it in movies; you’ve read it in books. Here, however, there are no mirrors. Lots of big windows, with thick black or white curtains knotted in the middle, but no mirrors. White brick walls and few columns here and there, except in the main space, the big stage.
I am sitting on the floor, trying to forget and start from scratch. I’ve left my backpack, my jacket, my memories, my desire. Being open and watch; be a total voyeur. That’s why I came for; a fantasy… It is so close to fantastic.
The floor is a very comfortable kind of cork. In what I will call the stage, the cork has been covered by pieces of a thick black kind-of-plastic that are taped together, making a huge flat surface. Like a black flat sea… A matt mat.
Enough with the bullshit, Katie is coming towards me.
Towards us… Because Boris, my dear Boris, was sitting next to me, barefoot and smiling. Boris is almost always barefoot, and always (with no almost) smiling. I am here because of him. He talked to me into this. Not that he did not have to insist or anything.
Katie talks fast, but clearly. She means what she says. She does not joke around. Her eyes are surrounded by black, like she put some eyeliner or color, a very long time ago. She has this haircut, dyed shinning blonde, short on one side and a little long on the other half. She is the first person that I’ve ever met who is beautiful with this kind of haircut. Beautiful and attractive at the same time… Desirable. In both ways: you want her, and you want to be her. Immediately after she talks to you, you cannot think about anything else. You’ve lost your will. And you don’t care. You want her to never give it back… A will… What a burden to have sometimes. Free? Who the fuck wants to be free… Freedom is boring, is lonely, and is the ultimate carrot for us donkeys.
Bach, Stravinsky… Do you think they wanted ballet? She asks looking directly into my eyes. Do you think they were thinking about tutus and leotards and tights and pink silk and shoes and chignons and make up?
I am not moving… All of a sudden I picture all those tiny girls, with no breasts, I can just see fixed and empty smiles. Waxed gazes lost in the black. Gone and never returned. What happened to the fun? Emotion my ass.
But Katie does not give you time to think stupid crap. You can’t hide.
Ballet? What kind of shit is that? That’s a lot of bollocks…
Ballocks, I think.
That’s what it is, she says… Bollocks and fetish. I don’t get it. I just don’t get how we still have ballet. Stravinsky was about rage… and Bach? Oh please… Ballet and Bach? Why? Why?
She is like a machine gun. Merciless and quick.
What is with the feet? Please… A fetish… Almost pedophile. Yeah. Pedophile.
I think I will never forget this words she is saying. I don’t care if they may sound pretentious, or fake, or untrue… She doesn’t either. She just doesn’t. She believe every single one of them, and so do I.
… And in the meantime, musicians in the pit. There… Down… In the basement, in the dark, in a prison… Do you think that Bach would like that?
I agree, the cello player to be underneath a narcissistic girl addicted to cocaine and laxatives, who stumps her feet almost on him, for like two hours; what kind of crap is that… But I don’t say a word. I did not come here to listen to my thoughts.
And she goes away, the same way she came. Like when you wake up in the middle of a dream, like when you open a book of poems and read only one. She did not ask for permission, she didn’t explain, she did not say where she was going, or why; or from where she came. She is not shy. She shines.
I think we should start? Don’t you? She does not talk loudly, although half of the people –dancers, actors, performers– are talking to each other, scattered in small groups. She doesn’t need to talk loudly. They want to hear all what she says. She will not repeat any of it… And it works, everybody gathers around her. Will? Who needs will when you have Katie?
They are going to start.
She talks. They listen, they nod, they move, they respond… They react.
She empowers, they enact.
You are waiting too long! Inspiration? Is that it? Are you waiting for inspiration? Oh well, good… luck.
She scatters the last two words, adding that capital silence in between.
You have to listen to the room. Were you listening? And she looks at every single one of them. They must be around twenty now that I realize.
You were listening, she repeats, and listening is attention. Attention controls you. And then, if you go and stop listening, then you get lost.
Now she is talking to a young woman that had started walking and dancing. Because that is what they are doing, there are all lined up at the edge of what I am calling the stage, with Katie in the middle, and they are supposed to listen to the room and start when they are ready. Start what? Good question. They all seem to know.
Katie seems to know a bit more, though. But she does not care. She is not patronizing, she is not teaching, she is not showing off. She is sharing. She is waiting. She talks to the group, but I can tell that she is like me (or I am like her), she is all for the individual. Maybe not for the same reasons, getting close, enjoying the intimacy, being authentic, telling the truth… There is nothing more erotic than telling the truth.
Katie speaks the truth. And she does it truly.
For real, and in real time. Like there is no after, let alone tomorrow. Before? I am sure that she thinks that before is worse than ballet.
Now she is talking to Boris, who happened to be the other person who dared to go on the stage, while the rest waited on the edge. He was very theatrical, like a dancing mime. He reminded me of that moment in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” when Dick Van Dyke dances as a wooden toy in front of the bad king of Vulgaria.
Vulgaria… Fucking genius!
Katie is shorter than Boris, but seems two meters taller… She is giving clues, not humiliating. But she talks straight. She is dry and can come across like harsh… You were being democratic, she goes on, you were not being kind. You were voting.
She goes back to the middle, to the center of the line… You don’t have to vote, she says. Don’t go for diplomacy… Diplomacy comes from not being sure… Well. You must know that you are right. There is only you as an artist and you are right. You must remember that, even when you are wrong.
Fucking hell… She is gonna break my head.
I love it. It is easier than to say I love her. Although now, that is exactly what is going on, I am liking her, admiring her, listening to her, trying to understand her, collecting part of her, taking her with me…
Loving her. Yes, loving her.
But I love it is less binding.
Art works totally with or without inspiration, she says… Don’t rush it.
She comes back to Boris. You saw the big spot… the center of the stage. And you went for it. You may think that it is brave… but it is just the opposite. The center is what you are supposed to do, where you feel safe. You wanted to feel safe. And then, on top of that, you went to the floor… Please! The floor… Really?
And she laughs.
For few seconds you were waiting for one and other… You were not being kind. You were being diplomatic. Diplomatic is boring, isn’t it? For you as a performer, and for the public as well.
The most dangerous place is where you need to go.
This is not about you, or not you… It is about the work.
And she goes back to the center of the line, at the beginning of the stage.
It may sound pretentious when you read it here. Believe me, it is all but that. I am not going to say she’s humble, because she’s not… But she is not pedant. Our insecurities and premises may make us react like that with respect to what she is saying. But the performers are not reacting like that. They all nodded satisfied. It was beautiful to see.
You have to avoid conning, she says… We were not watching you, we were conning. Conning like examining carefully, studying… She realizes that her French speaking class needs some explanation here and there. Honestly, I thought she meant conning like a con artist does… like being fraudulent, cheating. Like the performer was somehow tricking them into something.
It is not composition –she keeps going– there is only negotiation, not composition. Let’s just keep trying. Just listen… listen to the room… I can tell that at least half of you are not here; you are not listening to the room… Do you understand what I am saying? Do you understand?
She insists. She sounds firm but not upset or tired of them. She is having fun, you can tell.
They are having fun as well.
Me too… But this is not about me, or not me. This is about the work.
We will keep trying… A couple of times… Listen… Listen… Wait… Go!
No one moves, until two girls, almost simultaneously, start walking.
And Katie goes on… But now only in my head… Things that she’s said before, and I have not had the time to write down: listen to the buzzer, listening is key, listen to the windows, to the walls… Listen to the room. Don’t stop listening.
And the two dancers stop. Dancers or whatever, but they stop.
I do too.
I think that even the rain would stop if Katie will ask for it. Even in Belgium. Even the first weekend of February. She is strong and nice in ways that are really rarely seen. She makes you feel comfortable with your ghosts, with your little voices, with your inner demons… She knows them well and she treats them nicely.
She looks at me like she knows I am writing about her. How could I not?
I am surrounded by young dancers, actors, performers… Most of them young women, with big eyes, expressive mouths, long hairs in many different shapes… and all the rest of the women’s charm just in place… thin when it needs to, generous when it can, straight or round. But in the middle of that, Katie knows I am writing about her. And it’s not arrogance. She has deciphered me the second she is offered me the coffee.
She does not for sure why I am here, but I can tell that she is happy about it. Maybe happy is too much. She is not indifferent. Yeah, that’s right.
Neither am I.
Katie is back at the center of the line, at the edge, the beginning of the tide. This looks like it will be the last time. One can feel that something is about to happen. She drinks water from a bottle, as if nothing. Then, all of a sudden, in the midst of the silence of the talking room, the youngest man of all walks diagonally. Something is different. He is getting closer to me; he is coming in my direction. He walks, but he is intense about it. He is there. He is not just walking, passing by. He stops and does not move for a couple of seconds, then, he starts moving his right arm.
A girl I had not noticed –how the fuck did she get there– is sitting on a chair, along the same wall as me. Further away from the performer… She is simply looking at him. Posing, one could tell… pretending, very theatrically, with her legs crossed and one hand under her chin… like Rodin’s thinker, but straight.
No one is looking at her.
You’ve got my attention as a viewer, Katie says. And I was still hearing, together with you, the room. When you came in –she had noticed the posing viewer/thinker– I stopped hearing and I conned.
Katie looks back to the young man and keeps going; where was that going? I don’t know… What was the future of that? I have no idea… But it was not a happy one.
Now that they know what she was looking for, there is no point in insisting. If I have been able to feel something different, whatever that is, they must have sensed it ten times stronger. After all it is my first time here… doing this, whatever this is.
But this is not about me.
They are now more like in a circle, where Katie is a moving epicenter. You can tell that the energy is piling up and things are about to start happening. Not that they haven’t already happened. But more will happen. You can tell.
From the center I can still hear her. It is harder, because the human body does not conduct sound very well. Self-conscious, she starts; you are self-conscious because you are sane, mentally sane… Whatever that means. You are sane and you do something about that, simply because of survival. You are not going to pretend anything, because every time you go out there, you have to survive.
She makes it so simple, so meaningful; essential almost. Like two points, the shortest distance. That’s it. End of the story.
Every time you go out you have to survive, she repeats. Every time you go out, it is not about it, it is always about something else, something the choreographer said, or the director, or the writer, or a fellow dancer, it is no longer about how you’re walking, not as yourself… but about the work.
Don’t be safe. It is all about not feeling safe. Don’t wait; you start right from the beginning. No, you started yesterday… And she laughs.
It is time for the Game, she says excited. They all follow her to the center. She asks them to be listening, to be their bodies, rather than mental processes. More or less it is what she says. They’ve gone further apart from me and it is harder and harder to hear, plus her voice is low, deep, like a chant, easily quenched by the noise of the moving bodies and the big room talking.
Her voice is also special, the tone of her voice, its musicality. It is like is being perfected, equalized by the same sound tech that did Depeche Mode’s ‘Violator’, the first edition, not the remasterization. She talks fast like a brave young lawyer and is precise as the doctor that explains you a very complex disease, the prognosis and the medical procedure, and the treatment you will have to follow. No matter how difficult it is, she is going to be make it easier for you… It is like a good poet.
Now she is explaining the rules of the game, but I cannot hear them. Something in the body language of the dancers (I am going to call them that, although I can tell they are not all dancers) tells me that it is not being easy to follow. It is not the language. If I knew her better I could maybe tell that she is explaining it the difficult way. Like she thinks this group is good, somehow advanced. Or maybe she wants to confuse them on purpose.
You walk, and you set up the , like you will be facing the public, and decide it, you it up. Everybody else follows , taking into account how and you have set up the stage.
I loose few words; I have probably made some up too, but she does not know that, although she seems to be paying attention to me once in a while, looking at me too when she is explaining, she is aware I am here, and she is letting me know she is. When she looks at me, I nod, and I feel happy. Go figure…
She moves away from the group, she turns, she opens her arms, extend her neck, change her facial expression, and stops. Everybody else follows and arrives to her stage…
Now, she says, you do that individually, and set your own front. Everybody can set their own front, individually… But within the group, you take the group into consideration, reference points. There is a flow, and you are responsible for the flow. The flow is fed by curiosity.
And she goes away again.
After a while, the rest of the dancers have started to move erratically. For the moment, they look a bit lost, hesitant. I would say that apart from few of the attractive ones, the rest seem dull, they look almost ugly, amorphous, slow learners… Seem. I meant seem, let’s be clear on this. I instantly remember that sarcastic song by Los Toreros Muertos (The Dead Bullfighters)… Que se mueran los feos… That the ugly ones die. Que no quede ninguno… That there is none left.
Pause, walk, exit. That’s all, says Katie while she keeps setting what she’s called –I think– the front; her own front. Choice, she keeps going with instructions, it is all based on choice. As soon as somebody is at the exit, the flow changes, as soon as they return, the piece is over, the piece stops.
Katie is finished talking and now is starting to interact with the group. Within the group, but I can tell she is going for the individual. One by one, she checks on everyone, she makes sure they get a piece of attention, some direction, and, ultimately, part of the fun. She makes sure every single one of them is alright. She is like a shaman. Shawoman… [It is interesting to take a look at shaman’s etymology].
I am not sure I get the instructions and the game at all, but I can anticipate an interesting outcome.
I don’t get it, but I trust Katie. She will make it easier when she thinks it’s the time. She is tough, sure of herself, blonde. Dyed blonde. She has her eyes circled by black make-up, as if she has done them twenty years ago. She is stunning, though.
No one else had understood the rules, and now it seems to be the time to set the record straight and move this to where she knows it belongs. She is patient. She is generous.
Katie could be thirty four, but she just said she is over sixty. Maybe she is lying, although that seems impossible. Do you know those people that don’t need to lie? She is one of them.
By the time I finish writing that and look back at the stage, she has stopped everybody and, laughing, she’s told them that they haven’t understood shit. Next time, don’t wait, she says like a patient aunt. She is a perfect mix of sweet and spicy.
I decide that it is a good moment to stop listening and to only watch. I stop paying attention to what she’s saying. That’s what everybody else in the room is doing, and that is not fun, is not interesting. In fact, I realize that I had understood the game from the beginning. I am not saying I am smarter or anything… This is not about me.
I like watching. I’ve always liked watching. If I ever get a proposition for group sex, even in the simplest case scenario, the so Frenchy ménage a trois, I am sure I will end up (start up as well) sitting down in a corner, watching and writing. Maybe I became a poet because I am like that. Maybe I became like that because I wanted so much becoming a poet. Touching, licking, dancing, doing, making, fore playing, caressing, kissing, spanking… Overrated. Watching though… you never get tired of watching, if feeds you. It gets you going. It keeps things fascinating.
The work… The work. [I still have more than forty pages of notes to go through. I am not complaining, just fantasizing.]
There are four men. No, wait… Five; two young and three older, older than forty. The rest are women, quite a few are attractive, spanning few decades.
Attractive. Here is the thing, I realize that before I have seemed a bit harsh with the dull, the unattractive, in all its meanings. Seemed… That’s right. That’s the key… I have seen it progress… Now, they almost all look attractive, gorgeous even.
I have always thought that gorgeous sounds a lot like orgeous, orgyeous… Not that there are words or anything.
But yes, they look more and more beautiful. Katie does that. Her suggestions, her intensity, the importance she gives to her work, to theirs, the respect she shows…
They all seem gorgeous now. I want all them now, I want to be all of them.
They all seem.
She knows that music will be the last bit this needs to take off. After all she said that today was about ear. Alfredo… When she was trying to understand how ballet has been able to resist the ruthless power of time, she has briefly mentioned his named. Alfredo something… an Italian name… I got it! Alfredo Genovesi. She was telling Boris, who was sitting next to me, barefoot and smiling, that Alfredo is very generous, like all truly gifted people. She was telling him that most of the music she’s played is Alfredo’s.
“Really outrageous stuff… The range of Alfredo’s work is awesome”. That is not me, neither Katie… is John Zorn… John fucking Zorn.
The outrageous stuff starts filing the room… Dancers start moving again.
Katie is not happy; she wants to start with a clean slate.
I knew it.
Stop… Forget yourselves. It is not about you… it is about the work. You have a responsibility with the flow, with the room. You are not playing the game… as a group. You have all the time in the world to work on presence, on acting, on defining… use the opportunity, listen to the room…
And she looks at them… one by one… A few of them dare to look at each other, but generally they keep looking at her.
She looks at me. She walks towards a tall dancer with long hair… All this fucking movement, this minuscule space… As a result you are not showing me the room anymore. Free your neck and see, listen to what is going on in the room… Otherwise, you are out.
She caresses her elbow, her back.
She stops talking. Some of them start moving again.
It keeps going. They smile. They are smiling. Present and continuous. They smile because they are nervous, they are afraid. They smile because they are shy, because of the opportunity, because it is fun, because they’ve finally understood, because, after all, here they are, because they are moving, because they can dance, because they are close, because they can touch… for whatever the reason…
But they smile.
Katie smiles the most. She laughs. Heartily. Like if she was more alive or something… I think it is the satisfaction, a short of accomplishment… maybe because she feels, in this very moment, that she has transmitted something, she has transcended… she has transfected them with something… Maybe not. But it is magnetic, that smile of hers is fucking magnetic. It captivates you, it allures you… It is irresistible.
Her satisfaction is almost like pleasure, even when she does not smile. She does not need to smile in order to smile.
One could not get tired of this.
[I cannot believe it’s already been a week].
You get tired when you start questioning yourself, when you start thinking about before, or after. When you start considering precedence… Seeking for transcendence… Then you are out. You chose exit. You are gone.
By the time I realize I am smiling too.
I am sure I will keep smiling when she’s gone. She does that too. Even when I don’t smile, I am smiling. I don’t need to smile in order to smile.
It is like the room… that she’s completed with life.
Half an hour is gone… It could have been three days… All of a sudden she says something again.
She almost shouts it.
No one had said a word for a long time. She’s ready for more: Stop posing… Choose… That’s it. Are you choosing?
The music is like this slow and deep heartbeat in a piano that is out of tune on purpose.
Choose, choose… she sounds like she’s coughing. Choose, choose.
It seems that almost all the dancers have chosen exit a while ago. Although I couldn’t tell… I couldn’t write about it… I was mesmerized by the ones remaining on the stage.
Only two girls are left. Girls, women… You know what I mean.
It is like those good endings. One of the two is one that I knew would be there, standing at the end, when things would elevate. Not because I am good at this or whatever… I don’t know why, not that it matters… I just knew she would be there.
The music ends, Katie has ended it… It looks that she only wanted to change it. And she does; now there is also singing. A man sings… “All I want is to get you free”, that’s the third sentence I hear. I swear. Maybe I am making this up.
“I can always love you” Katie is singing along, very theatrically. She is back at the edge of the stage, where it all started, with the group. Almost all of it, with the exception of the two dancers performing at the opposite end of the stage, a good fifteen meters away.
“I can always love you”. Katie is like twelve… She is at that age, at that edge, when you still celebrate everything. She went back to there, or maybe she never left. She puts her glasses on to choose the music. That is the only moment when she does not look atemporal. Her glasses are the only rope to that dimension. The day she dies it won’t be broken. She makes you know that. She makes you say things that otherwise will sound pompous or even ridiculous, or meaningless.
As far as I know, she does not dance… She is more a performer, an actor, a choreographer, a composer, a writer, a researcher… Fuck me if that is not dancing. Because yes, Katie has taken off the sweatshirt that she has been wearing up to know, and she is on the stage, with the two last standing dancers. The last two… The ones physically fit, the ones that were really willing and wanted more, the ones that were less afraid… The ones that had still something to say. There is no way to know.
It is true, she does not dance… She does more than that. When she occupies the space, and she moves, things start to happen. But she is generous, she keeps the flow on, she does it with the other two dancers.
There is no way to know… And it doesn’t matter. And I feel great about it… Fascinating.
Music is over. Only music.
Enjoy the silence…
You can hear the breathing now, calming down… The feet again, moving, the bodies, the joints, the bones, when they crack. The floor when it cracks too, just as someone jumps or does something acrobatic. All the noises that are back… the light, the buzzers, the voices in an empty street, the car when the light turns green, the motorbike, the truck, the sirens, the airplanes…
Katie puts some birds now. She takes off her glasses and crosses her arms, underlying her breasts. She could be thirty four. I turn my head and look at the two girls that are supporting the flow… (In Spanish it could have had double meaning, since bra is the same word as support… I love verbal innuendo). But it is true, the two dancers are giving it all for the flow, they are the ones keeping the piece alive (again… in Spanish, piece and room share the same word).
It looks like Katie searches for me with her eyes, but I no longer exist. I am invisible. I am just gaze… This is not about me. I am not even a witness. I am the one that is telling you all this, but I am not. It does not matter who I am, I don’t matter. She does. They do. The room.
I am all you want me to be… All you are thinking now… All you are seeing. Nothing more. Now I am a bit you. With those eyes that are mine, like mine are now yours. It is the only way you’ll know what happened after.
She will convince you of what she wants. She will convince you of what you want.
Almost like me.
One of the two last standing heroines has just left. They were no longer dancers, they are heroines… Plus they make you feel like you did a bit of tar… The one that is gone has been there like for ten years, giving it all, like if it was a matter of life and death. She’s left the stage, and walks out at the opposite edge. Just before she becomes invisible and hits the exit, Katie gets to her and they merge in a hug. I cannot take my eyes from them. It is one of those hugs, an important one. Like if her satisfaction could be transmitted by touch too. It is not a banal gesture; Katie doesn’t do banal… She does not do anything just for doing it.
She is moved. I can tell. She changes the music again, when nobody is watching. Like magic… She does it like a resident DJ who knows her crew. She puts one guitar… a raining guitar. It sounds like the rain. I bet it’s Alfredo’s. Like the rain… Of course… We are in Brussels.
Although we could be in Mars.
And the rain stops. The one outside, of course. And you cannot believe it. But I am here. I am seeing it. Now you can only listen to the rain. After all, Katie said it was about ear.
There is one girl left. The one that had something left to tell. She is doing a solo. A big one. No one can take their eyes out of her. She has long hair, almost yellow, like in fairy tales. She could be Katie… A projection of her. Nothing would surprise me now. I am ready for anything, and so are you. You want to dance… Like they do. You know you do.
Wait… One of the five men, the one almost bold with a three day beard, has taken a huge broom and has gone to the starting edge, where the lane of dancers are staring at the last piece of hope. And he starts sweeping. He makes a new noise… Not a nice one, at least not at the beginning. He is very systematic, he takes his time, he goes, and he comes back, and there he goes again… From the left, aaaaaall the way to the right, going away from the edge of the dancers and getting slowly closer to the opposite corner, where the last hope innocently dances…
The sweeper’s cadence (is not just rhythm) is calming, almost like a painkiller… White Horse again. He has never done drugs. Not heroine at least. He is strong and handsome, and dances supremely well. I have noticed him plenty of times before. He is also very athletic in the way he moves, but has flexible hips.
He is about to wipe out hope. No one breathes… But he doesn’t do it. The dancer has finished before he catches her. Katie changes the music… Take me home, sings the first woman that has been singing this afternoon, and instantly, the room is filled with femininity. The sweeper keeps doing his job like nothing happened. I am sure he will get till the end of the stage. Think about love… sings the song… You need love.
The sweeper finishes.
Think about love.
You need love.
There is no one left on stage.
I could not have made that up. Only Katie can.
Two of the dancers are crying in the exit zone, at the edge, lined up with the rest. Some are sitting down, with their legs crossed. Some are laying down, sideways, face down, or not. Some are sitting on tables or chairs. Some are talking to each other, probably commenting what has happened, what they have witnessed, what they have done, what they have been involved in. They do this all the time; probably. Nevertheless, some of them looked transformed, different, like this was not another workshop, another rehearsal, another performance, another experience… I cannot tell for sure. This has been my first time. First times are always memorable.
And after, nothing seems the same again.
Katie walks towards the last dancer and hugs her. When she frees her, she walks back towards the group and says loudly: you think about it… As long as is love.
And everybody smiles.
And now, she says, I propose a ten minute brake. And she goes to the kitchen. You guys are awesome, she shouts happy while she walks away from them. In two days! Two days! Wow! You guys are really awesome… If you could see what I’ve seen.
I am thinking the same fucking thing.
Ten minutes later, they’ve sat down in a circle, like Indians having a tribal gathering.
How do I deal with distraction from others?
I guess it is time for questions…
It was profound, says the dancer that has just asked the question. But there was a conflict, and then one choice was to exit, or to put my thing next to, or on top of the other thing that, in my opinion, did not belong there. I am being critical about my work, and the work of others. I realize we are composing…
Fucking hell. And I thought only Katie could say shit.
Maybe not. Maybe it’s just me. But this is not about me.
One can choose: tell what’s going on, or tell what is witnessing… transcribe it or interpret. Both options are valid, both are equally challenging, both are incomplete.
One could mix, merge them. But still… You had to be here.
Katie has started to talk again, and she carries me with her. I cannot keep developing what I was about to say. I don’t know why, but it does not matter. I am not sure if it is the lucid option or simply a pathetic and servile one, almost like idolatry. Idolatry is so close to fanaticism.
All what she says seems important; I am not saying it is, but does what it seems. Maybe is just her attitude, how sure she is, or maybe not, maybe it is truly important.
Choreography, composition, rehearsal, directing, election, practice, work, homework… She says all that in less than two minutes. In sentences that make sense. And she does not stop…
Misunderstandings, abandonment, boundaries…
And that is when she is only responding to questions. Imagine what she can do when she is not answering. Answering is always harder than simply talking.
I am always surprised; she goes on and rescues me from my dysfunctional thinking again. It’s all about being objective, she says. You stopped searching what you thought you were supposed to do… I could tell; it was just wonderful to watch you. You weren’t trying to compose, and that was… wow! The group is powerful. Your colleagues helped. It was not weak. You took a risk. You have to take that risk. Jump the wall.
It is not you… Because we know, in fact, that… it is fiction.
The dancer that she was talking to is half proud half lost. I can tell. Katie can tell too. The group can tell as well.
People like Katie have that impact on you… They make you feel part of something bigger, important… something that matters. Useful or not. And we know how obsessed humans are with feeling useful. We should be unashamed when we don’t get anything done. But we are not. We have been brainwashed… Educated… Polished. Formatted.
People like Katie free you from that perpetual sensation, from that frustration. For a while at least, they do. I once worked for a crazy Nobel Laureate in Medicine and Physiology, the one who discovered –with others– the cellular and molecular mechanisms of memory. He had that effect on people too. He had that effect on me. You would get out of a meeting with him with a pile of experiments to do that’ll keep you busy for two decades and still be happy, feel powerful, knowledgeable, part of something important… Proud. One of those rare moments when you don’t walk, you don’t touch the floor.
Katie does that to you too.
Dropping the tension, she says. When you do that, and you are on stage, you scare the hell out of the spectator, because they think that you don’t know what you are doing. By doing that, dropping the tension, you show them that you are not afraid; that you are not afraid of anything. And by doing that, you do something with the space, something fresh. You have a clean start.
Her voice is like if Tom Waits knew that everything would be alright. That he does not have to struggle anymore. It is comforting. She sings a lullaby to you, telling you stories. They say that when we are at sleep we fix things.
You believe in everything she says.
Maybe I should get back to my punk days, she suggests, laughing. Get messy… Real time performance asks that question… Why are you doing that? No matter what, no matter why… But you have to do it with confidence and devotion. That is if we are to take choreography somewhere else, to change it maybe. It needs to be figured it out.
I thought she was going to destroy ballet again, but she does not. You have to bring it to the public view, she says instead. I am moving my body for what? I am hanging out with a bunch of actors, musicians, dancers… Why? What is that you are saying? What is that you want to say?
She sounds so fresh, so true, so calm. It is a humbling experience.
And she drops the bomb; how many people here feel like they haven’t come out yet?
Fucking shit. I was about to raise my hand… I was expecting everybody to do the same, but nobody does. Maybe it was a rhetoric observation.
How many? She repeats, while she stares at the dancer that remained the last on stage. The fairy.
It does not sound so rhetoric to me anymore.
What do you need for that? She says nicely. That is also the question you have to ask to yourself.
Then a bunch of them start talking… Not all at once, but they speak few sentences and try to make sense, to improvise with words, to talk about what they are thinking in real time. They are less articulate; they make much more sense dancing… so much more. Dancers should dance… I am not saying they cannot talk, just that it seems harder for them to conceptualize.
One of them has just finished and Katie is wrapping up on the topic: Narcissism. We all are narcissists –she says– and here, on stage, we should be even more. It is a good thing. It is a quality. Like for her –she is talking about the fairy, again–, she came out, she finally came out. She finally is more narcissistic about it. About the work.
Congratulations. You should be happy, feel proud. It was fantastic… you were.
Another round of questions… I can’t hear them. Students speak less confidently, therefore less loud than Katie. They don’t fill the room with their voices, they are shy, although they are not used to it. I can tell. Not that they are divas, but they’ve been doing it for quite some time now, and it is all they want to do. Few things count for them as much as this does.
You communicate with them through a fantasy. Katie is now addressing another comment, reflecting on someone else’s thoughts on the performer and the public, and the support of the fantasy. If not, she keeps going looking straight in the eye, if there is no support, then, there is no fantasy… If it’s only fantasy, then… It’s only fantasy.
I get lost in that thought, not really lost… But I try to make it mine, to have a hold on to it, to make it transcend on me, include it as part of my thinking process. I try to seize it.
By the time I get back to her voice again, she says: I call it real time; I’m not calling it special. I’m interested in a total different state of mind, the one the world is nowadays. I don’t want to look at artists as tools, and that is exactly what is going on.
And she keeps going: Taking responsibility is where everything starts, there is no chance otherwise, and it doesn’t matter if it’s set or not.
She is talking about improvisation (impro as they call it here) versus designing, planning, setting or devising…
It doesn’t matter if it’s set or not. I repeat it in my head. It may seem futile when you look at all this. I don’t think so, but I could see myself thinking about this, staring at my kids playing in the living room and thinking that this –what has just happened– is not so transcendent, that is not such a big deal… I don’t think so, though. This shit resonates in me. I am not a big deal… But this is not about me.
It doesn’t matter if it’s set or not, she says it again, it moves you in the same way.
The last of the five men that has not talked up to now, has just started to speak. He is very eloquent, very clear, he makes sense… I had considered before –by the way he was moving during the game– that he might not be a dancer, not the same kind of dancer as the rest of the group, at least. He says he is an actor.
He had to be.
Katie engages in a fast and fruitful conversation with the actor. I can tell Katie is thrilled.
As soon as they finish, one of the most senior dancers says that what she really likes from the work they’ve done is that it belongs to them. Wow, I think. So damned true… Nobody can judge it, nobody will ruin it, interpreting and stuff. On the other hand, nobody can enjoy it either, nobody can make it grow, transform it, understand it, build on it.
Katie, satisfied, nods. You are making something out of nothing, she says smiling. I like that, you make work.
All of a sudden, they start talking about a piece. But I don’t get it; it does not seem they are still analyzing what has happened, looking back again. No, on the contrary, it seems that they are talking about making something.
Making something out of nothing, Katie’s still resonate.
Making it now.
The desires of some people that have not come out yet, she says looking at every single one of them individually. We cannot make sure they happen… Please do that, make sure they happen.
Make me a piece.