All the ways to start slow
one year later
It has been one year since I started this newsletter. Can you believe it? Last year, my life changed in a way I deeply needed, even though the change was rocky, sad, and left me feeling volatile. The change sprayed gas on a special fire: the process of learning to believe that what I think and how I articulate it is worth reading. It led me to create this letter on dance and devotion, and, thanks to you, dear reader, this has been one of the most rewarding artistic endeavors I have ever undertaken. As always, if you like “5, 6, 7, 8”, please share it. It is also possible to reply to this email. I love to hear from you.
When does “the start” of something end? Early last year I wrote the title of this post, and never wrote it. The plan was to expose a trend I have noticed in many, many dance pieces made by graduates of Berlin’s contemporary dance school, Hochschule für Zeitgenossischen Tanz (HZT), which I did not attend. There is a correlation between a degree from HZT and the likelihood that a dance piece begins with a slow and perhaps repetitive sequence. The dramaturgical decision is so ubiquitous among HZT alumnae that, while the opening sequence of a piece unfolds, I imagine teachers at HZT telling students, as they gyrate, shift, and sense their way through a somatic journey, “I could watch this for hours.”
While my theory makes for an amusing cocktail party joke, it felt weak as a proposal for a full letter and a little bit mean. I actually think HZT offers an exciting curriculum and has supported the growth of many intelligent artists. But Jesus, they sure do love to complain about this free university! Try getting $200,000.00 in debt after attending NYU TISCH School of the Arts! TISCH graduates don’t make work that starts slow because there is no time to spare. If you want to pay back your loans in your lifetime, working as a PERFORMER, you don’t start slow. Each economy creates different kinds of deliveries. Both have their qualities and idiosyncrasies.
Banter, banter, banter — I digress. My point is that there is a difference between deep and thorough choreographic research and a performance that values the audience’s time and attention. Both are great, and they are not the same thing.
Speaking of valuing your attention, I am sorry that I missed last month’s newsletter. I was busy dancing with my old pal Nikima Jagudajev at Wiels in Brussels, for their piece “Basically.” I also got a visa for permanent residence in Germany, and I moved into a new apartment. It’s been jumping from one high-stakes-high-reward lily pad to the next, and I lost my ability to multitask. To make matters more complicated, it is spring: a notoriously underestimated season. Raise your hand if you have heard me rant about how much I hate spring (60% of you raise your hands).
Why I hate spring, in bullet points:
patriarchy: it’s easy to think that (re)birth is this wonderful pastel-colored thing of joy and excitement, but usually it’s screaming pain, blunt emergence, tears, hyperventilation, and long long hours of waiting in fear and agony. Spring is similar. Down with patriarchal inflation of expectations for warmth and happiness! Spring is not summer!
temperature regulation: in November, my body huddles around the memory of heat, building resolve at the inevitability of colder, shorter days. It knows what is going to happen. In April, my body knows that it is going to get warmer but the arrival of warmth takes. so. long. Do you enjoy running a bath of tepid water, submerging your goosebumpy body into it, and then turning the hot water on at a trickle? Oh, you’ve never tried that?
death/patriarchy again: spring, like birth, is a reminder of certain miracles. Everything from the miracle of Christ’s resurrection to the miracle of compost. When it comes to miracles, it is common that the positive outcome gets all the attention. It’s binary. There was nothing, and then, SOMETHING HAPPENED. But what really makes a miracle exciting is the lack that came before. Why don’t death and despair get some of the credit?
Next spring, we would do well to anticipate, maybe even celebrate, despair. I promise to give everyone fair warning come March of 2024. The hard part is over though, and there have been a few pleasant and sunny days in Berlin recently. I impulsively turned my heating off, and then back on again, and then off, and then on, and soon I’ll be ready to turn it off for the next six months. Endings make for great beginnings.
So is this the end of the beginning of 5, 6, 7, 8? I think so. It will continue to change, but now it can change from a more solid place. I’m happy with how it’s going. Are you? How do you want to see 5, 6, 7, 8 grow? Do you want more pictures of my dog? Do you want more dance reviews? More Christian stuff? More personal? More lesbian? More responsive to current events? Would you like to be a guest editor sometime? Do you have feedback about the content? Why do you read this? Why have you come this far?
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being with me this year. It has been an incredible journey. I can’t wait to share the coming year with you.
Colin Self had a show at Callie’s and I wrote about it for Berlin Art Link. We ended up having a beautiful conversation that preceded an even more beautiful show. You can read my piece here and learn about Colin’s practice, which includes tulpamancy and speaking Polari. Colin also writes a substack, called “Note to Self.”
If you are in New York City, you are in luck, because I will be part of the River 2 River festival at OCD Chinatown on June 10th and 11th hosting Lotto Royale with my pals Ivanka Ekemark, Layton Lachman, and Camila Malenchini. Thanks to John Hoobyar and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council for supporting this series of one-on-one performances.
This Tuesday the 9th, Coyote Pretty Ugly is happening at Möbel Olfe…