Getting myself into situations where I don’t know what or to what degree of extremity I am getting into, is quite common. The Pilobolus workshop, Level II, mind you, was exactly that. I knew of Pilobolus. I had a friend who toured and performed with them. He told me his body was put on a grill and squished to push out all the fat from the meat. Daily. My words, not his. I don’t actually remember how he described it, but that’s how I envisioned it.
I had seen some of their work. And as all professionals, they make their work look effortless. I was preparing myself to cry, daily, after each workshop. I prepared myself to feel old, subjugated, dismissed, under-whelming, uncreative, and every other self-criticizing word I could come up with.
I arrived in Connecticut after driving two, eleven hour days. I was exhausted and spacey. Luckily my couchsurfing host, Adam, understood my need to sleep and let me crash immediately. The next morning, I found a breakfast spot, had some coffee and a burrito and made my way to Pilobolus Level II, which will now be known as PLII Workshop.
One thing I am working on is being more inclusive of others. I have been on the outside of the group more times than I would like to remember. When I arrived at PLII, I introduced myself to all the dancers I saw stretching on the floor. I smiled and asked them their names. We all shook hands. The people who arrived later I found it more difficult to introduce myself to, but I did and we all moved forward with our workshop.
Our teachers, the two confident dancers with glorious feet and perfect posture, introduced themselves and we were off. Flocking, frolicking, formulating, creating! PLII was to become the workshop that allowed the group to lead, rather than the teachers. I loved this. This would keep me from crying daily for not being able to keep up with strict choreography. This was my kind of thing!
Every night I returned to Adam’s house, exhausted. Every night I couldn’t fall asleep because of all the inspiration swirling in my head. I wanted to do well, so I thought about what I could have done differently the day before, and how I could go with more conceptual ideas the following day. All of my anxious planning would never make it through the night’s sleep, and every morning I would start again.
Day Two I was deemed the strong girl when I was able to carry a male partner effortlessly (seemingly) Yes! Then I tried a small man and small woman. Yes! I am strong! I did so much on Tuesday, that I expended my energy for Wednesday’s partnering. Damn! I was exhausted and strained from Tuesday, and Adam had lowered his the climbing rope at the house, so after my strong lifting day, I also proceeded to practice aerial feats. Pure fumes fueled my body up the rope, the muscle memory of my performance art for the last six years. My hip flexors said, “Watch it!” and strained. I came down and limped up the stairs to bed.
By Wednesday afternoon, we were all carpooling and heading into the city, you know, THE CITY, New York. We missed the first train, which meant we needed to rush to get dinner before the show began. We ran from train to train, all the while my hip flexor screaming at me, and finally we arrived at the restaurant just across the street from the Joyce Theater. Here, we were able to relax for 45 minutes, while shoving food and drink into our mouths. Evan and Darian decided to do a spiraling walk across the street to the Pilobolus show. Gregor filmed it. I stopped the traffic. We arrived just in time, watched the show, Q&A with the dancers and then we were off again to Grand Central to board the 11pm train back to CT, arriving back around 2am. No sleep for the weary!
By day 5, our Pilobolus vocabularies had grown so much that we needed more constraint from our teachers. We all struggled in the morning to access the spirit of play and discovery, but as time went ticking on, we gripped tightly at the need to choreograph our final piece where the company directors and an open audience would be in attendance.
My partner and I created a very physical piece where we stomped on each others feet, pushed on each others shoulders, and faked crying. By the end of the day, the crying was real, but on the inside. I was crying because I felt a gentle pop in my hip flexor during my final performance. I was crying because this would be the last time I could play safely in these surroundings with this group of people. I was crying because I knew it would be difficult for me to maintain this level of experimental play out in the world, without active partners…or would it?
Now, I am finding myself wanting to play, wanting to experiment in everyday situations, but I am still working on releasing the ego. Allowing the movements, the experimentation, to be what it is meant to be and to convey a message to the audience, the general public, verses a need to display that I am a dancer and artist creating these pieces. This is where my joy lies, and I am so grateful to have isolated it within this experience. Thank you Pilobolus and thank you to everyone who was in PLII!