the one about the man who climbed a thousand fathoms down the rabbit hole, who trapped and released outside the house a hundred dragons just to get to the girl who lay there in an elaborate coffin pretending wakefulness? He pulled at her heartstrings and she giggled and appreciated all the same art and liked all the same coffee places, but her heart kept spilling out cotton in great wads, stuffed with old receipts and other miscellany- nothing of substance. He traversed all the Ntrails within her, leaping from one slippery blood cell to another looking for some surface or substance to hang his haberdashery on. Peeking through her femur, rummaging through the large intestine, circumnavigating her big toe. As he crept through the thickets of her body hair, stopping to rest in the webbed hammock space between her thumb and pointer finger, he shivered and realized everything was freezing, already frozen over. Underneath her on-trend oversized sweater, a thousand sweaters deep, was an ice block he would have to chip and chip. The princess is in another castle, of her own making, a web woven over and hardened into resin, this cocoon of safety a coffin. There is only room for one, and anyway, we only destroy what isn’t ours to love.
City of angels and collapsible steeples with ghosts folded in the laundromat on every corner, drunks stirring in the streets with a look of vague contrition, their faces so used to the arrangement of some sweet apology they’re too numb or sleepy to remember.
Strangers become friends become lovers without ever having stopped being strangers.
Billboards are as high as steeples and it is difficult to know which to worship. Don’t mistake loneliness as emptiness, the void is not outside, waiting to be filled like a new plot on the Hollywood Walk of Fame- it is inside waiting to be punctured.
The overdrawn eyebrows, fake moles, and real tans gleaming in all directions like false gods make your heart wobble and dive, skip a beat, 1-2-2-check, and you do a little dance to the snare of his cutting up coke on the board, watching his eyes roll into the back of his head as his shopping cart rolls backward down the street, creaking.
City of angels, of ghosts, learn not to be afraid of the unfamiliar. The familiar is what is scary, the familiar is compulsion, is the need to overdraw brows and lips everyday, the need to conceal the same purple hues patterns on the body, the need to keep shoveling small amounts of diamond dust into the nostrils.
I walk the streets and see perpetual thirst, the plants and people grow quietly deranged with thirst, consumed by deficiency. I walk the streets and see a city of Angels, stripping their wings, peeling off goose flesh and plucking feather by feather, the feelings of unworthiness caused by this star-searching city resulting in an epidemic of inflated breasts, augmented dreams, and deflated souls
And I just remembered overhearing that girl in the restaurant who folded her napkin over her folded legs, pushing back her straight black hair, her chopsticks poised over a piece of teriyaki salmon with the precision of Krasznahorkai’s crane-
She said, “all these years I thought I loved sushi but I love soy sauce”
I guess it depends
if you want to be lonely
with many others
squeezed so tight in this
fist of a city
spread out so far in this barren
womb of a city
in this place where children come
to be adults,
restless from pure
mushroom pumped into veins
the color of a smog-dusted areola
the palm trees here
made of steel, blooming
into rooftop gardens
the buildings here hollow
memorials to other lives
how are bodies shaped
by their cities
what cramped haggard
structures erected where
there is no room
what augmentations, swells
from too much room
either is a growth with disfigurement
and both are so rich
in poverty, in sexiness
which presses in on all sides
in the form of people
or lack of people
rubbing up against you
on the 1
or so far away your voice
dissipates in the distance
it takes to carry yourself to them
I think the first time you grow up
is when you get sick and there is no one
to take care of you, no one to force
slippery rice congee down your throat
they are too far geographically
or emotionally because of all
you have withheld out of fear
I think the first time you grow up
is when no one is there to cool you
with rags dripping in cold water
and instead you must drag
your aching body to the shower
and sit on the floor
in huddled darkness
your hands clutching your face
as the hot water flames your body
in New York where the walls are so close
so thin, that even in the shower
with the fan on
you have to cry silently
and now I know that I have to
bear children, even with no man,
just to know what it is
to feed a child while their hand
is pushing yours away
to love that which is repulsed by your love
or at least has decided it doesn’t need it
perpetuation of mistakes
which is all the same one
of not knowing which love is needed
and that perpetuation of love
which is all the same one
of knowing that no matter the magnitude of mistakes,
the lack or excess,
the mode of delivery,
it is needed
I have loved Pina Bausch’s work since I first encountered it through the Wim Wenders documentary on her. In the 5 years since I first saw it, I’ve come back to this documentary whenever I’m feeling artistically uninspired, stagnant, or lost and its wordless beauty always reminds me how influential art can be. I’ve stayed up many a night watching it only to see the sun rise after and on one of those nights- I wrote this-
The fact that I wrote such a lengthy analytical breakdown of a scene that is less than 2 minutes doesn’t show how obsessive I can be as much as it shows how thoughtful and emotional every movement in Pina’s choreography is.
I never dreamed of seeing Pina’s company, the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch in person and I can’t believe I happened to be in the same city and that I was able to get a ticket. I’m still partially in shock from tonight’s performances of Café Müller and The Rite of Spring and this is kind of a public journal entry about the most meaningful things (to me) that I observed, especially in Café Müller, and at the end of Rite.
What I love most about a lot of Pina’s choreography is that it is so tangibly emotional. Her choreography is some of the sickest, saddest, and beautifully expressive stuff I’ve ever seen. It’s incredible to see a stranger’s body move and to feel a strong response in your own- there is a directness of translation that accesses a more primitive communication between performer and audience- what they are feeling creates feeling in us. It’s also the closest I’ve seen to dance as social commentary. So many of her narratives seem to explore gender roles, power dynamics, societal structures and influences, and the destructiveness of patterns and habits, among other things. And I love her ability to use simpler ideas such as repetition to express our dependency on the habitual, the childish fear and desperation still in every adult which causes us to be easily manipulated and at the mercy of outside influences. A question I think of often when I watch her choreography is… what is habitual, what is learned, and what is fate? Tonight’s Café Müller in particular moved me to tears with its different portrayals of love. It starts in total silence and darkness. There are random chairs and tables all over the stage and as the first woman dancer starts moving, we hear her bump into a chair, making a horrible dragging sound on the floor. She has her eyes closed. For all the music I’ve heard in halls, one of the most effective at making me feel was tonight’s first chair-bump. Something about how unintentional and ugly it was tore a fabric of some kind in my consciousness, allowed me to feel fear at the randomness of the stage and the darkness. The lights gradually come on, and she is joined by another girl in white with closed eyes, but they are unaware of each other in their blindness. They slightly limp as they walk, bumping into walls occasionally with their arms outstretched. There is so much vulnerability in their exposed wrists. Their vulnerable wrists, the helplessness of their inability to see, and their slight limp all cohere into a commentary about how all humans are born. Maybe in this case “all the world is a stage” but one littered with the unknown, and in which we are vulnerable, helplessly blind and alone, and crippled- impaired by nature. Already I have such sympathy for the women onstage in their false predicament, and more importantly, sympathy for all of us offstage together in the world, in our real predicament.
One of the first men comes onstage with his eyes open. He watches one of the girls who’s eyes are closed and clears a path for her as she stumbles in all directions, noisily knocking chairs and tables out of her way. To me this is one of the most interesting representations of love I’ve ever seen. Someone who is almost as helpless, who, just by seeing, has more control, but someone who is so incredibly attentive and attuned to the loved one’s steps and is focused on creating a clear path for them. Because he doesn’t know where she will go, he still lacks control in a way, and for me this is a fascinating representation of fate and free will. In my interpretation of this man, I love to think of him as God. It’s beautiful for me to think, what if (the christian) God is not as powerful as we have always thought- what if he is only a little more sentient than we are, but loves us as much as it’s always been said? A human God. That’s what I would imagine this looks like.
All the while, the other woman in white is in the back, occasionally dancing upright, and other times laying very still. So still that you forget about her until she collapses to the ground… making you realize that what you thought was a stable structure could still erode, fall.
The woman in white who is dancing with God bumps into another man and they cling to each other. This is fascinating because they didn’t choose or seek each other, they just bump into each other. In this case, my question is, do soulmates exist? Were they meant to be and that is why they found each other in the dark, or is all love an accident? I love that this small thoughtful movement can be either of these opposing ideas, as well as so many others. Another man comes out (I call him the Enforcer) and he puts the couple through a series of stereotypical “love” actions…a kiss, a hug, and a carrying. But since it isn’t natural, the woman slips out of the man’s arms as the Enforcer is walking away, and the couple clings to each other again the way they first did when they found each other. The Enforcer once again puts them through the love actions. For me, the Enforcer could be a representation of the societal pressure for us to love a certain way, for us to follow some kind of rule book. This entire ordeal is repeated probably 7 or 8 times. The woman falls out of his arms everytime and they cling to each other with more and more desperation in their natural hug. Their return to the natural state of their love could also represent the ways we can’t give up love, even if it’s unhealthy for us. This whole bit is hard to watch for me, because even though the Enforcer is forcing them to do typical love things, it is tearing them apart from the movement that seems so natural for them and they start sighing in relief when they hug each other like that. (One thing I love about the Enforcer and the God types- you can’t really tell if they are on any side or have any ulterior motive or objective…for the couple or the woman, for themselves, or for someone else.) But the last time, the Enforcer walks away and they do the stereotypical love actions by themselves repeatedly, aggressively, fast. For me, their learned love is either the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever seen by virtue of the destruction of their natural state, or the most liberating thing in that it shows we can defeat our natures and love differently.
In another part, a man carries another man’s feet in his palms. When they disengage, the man who was carried immediately clings to the legs of the one who carried to him. Something about seeing grown men act so typically “childish” made me think of how childish we all are in our needs, in our dependence on others to carry us in some way. Another deceptively simple and devastating movement is when he stretched his arms upward to be carried or hugged. In the context of the narrative, it made us forcefully realize how alone and desperate we can all be at times.
The couple return to each other at different times throughout the piece. The second time, when they find each other again is such a beautiful moment. She has taken off her dress and sits naked at a table with her head down and back to us. This sign of failure or rest or resignation is disturbed when the man walks to her- this time on purpose! This time of his own free will! And waits for her to put on her dress, and smooth her hair and when she stands up, they do the typical love gestures, and she falls gently to the floor. It was so sad to see that their love was still not sustainable, but they find each other again after that and start doing these repetitive dance movements that are beautiful until they are against a wall. But it is habitual, so they keep doing these beautiful gestures, but they’re banging against the wall and it shows the violence that habits can have on ourselves and our relationships. The last time they find each other (and this for me, argues in favor of the existence of soulmates in this instance, or at least accidents that we can’t seem to quit) they fall to the ground together instead of just her. It is so beautiful to see that shared act.
The last thing that really struck me, was the end of the Rite of Spring. It was so incredible to see this live as well, after seeing so much of it onscreen. It is even more visceral, raw, and primitive as one would expect. There is a kind of ritualistic sexual power that is constantly in conversation onstage that is fascinating to observe. The solo choreography by the virgin at the end is incredible… the man is laying down and has his arms outstretched the entire time and she is dancing wildly. She is not only dancing out of control, but choreographed to seem like she is dancing in the control of someone else. Pina is exceptional at choreography which makes absence more presence- shows someone being influenced, manipulated by invisible forces- in this case, manipulated by desire, greed, the patriarchy, and betrayal, among others. The piece ends with the man closing his arms, and even though he is so far away, she collapses immediately, showing the control he had all the while, even though he seemed to be doing nothing.
Ok, really the last thing that struck me- (also the dirt stage for Rite of Spring deserves a mention, because it was a joy not only to see dancers dancing together so beautifully and in sync, but also to see the dirt dancing in response to their dancing- flying up in the same gestures or being left with the same patterns) the team bows at the end. Something seemed so emotionally exhausted, so shaken, maybe sad, maybe even ashamed. But it seemed like they were all very affected, or at least in character for the first couple of bows. It moves me to think of what kind of a journey this must be for them.
What is habitual, what is learned, and what is fate?
#PinaBausch #TanztheaterWuppertal #WimWenders #dance #BrooklynAcademyofMusic #BAM
I remember the day I returned your name to you, it flew from my mouth to yours and simultaneously, our bodies were thrown back in time, kisses that once flew from my mouth to yours compressing backwards, by the tens and hundreds. I fall through time, recoiling from the impact of my own love. Something in the fabric of the universe is torn and I see the denim couch unfraying, my hair redacting itself, an opposite erasure, coloring in the gray, regaining fullness.
There’s something about the way we say a name that belongs in part to us. Hundreds of others have the same name, but I mean you even when I’m talking to them, and even now, my voice still catches. There’s an intimacy, an implication in the tone of love, or blame, or some combination of both. Those two always seem to be in cahoots together, inseparable, unlike humans, so easily yoked or unstitched with a signature, a name. You shrugged out of our ill-fitting relationship, a marriage that shrunk or became bloated, too oversized. I’m not sure which. I’m too tired for this shit. It’s getting late in life, and I can’t keep recoiling from our impact, falling backwards. I sit on the frayed denim couch, redacting and editing our past, trying to allot blame without love. My life has bloated with nostalgia, shrunk to an aerial view of our relationship, and I’m still trying on a new old name, trying to figure out how to color in the gray, regain fullness.