I love airports…especially layovers.
Restricted moments where nobody owns my time and nobody can say I’m not where I should be. For a few careless hours I feel 100% absolved and blameless. It’s the airline’s responsibility where I sit and when and where I’ll go next. The law is immutable here. The minimest security prison. Enjoying the peace of one of the rare certainties in life is a plunge into sublime powerlessness. I give in.
I missed my connection from Columbus to New Orleans so I’ve had an extra 6 hours to myself. So far, I’ve designed a new logo.
I like to wander the airport. All these people converging from different yet the same cities, each with an urgent agenda, crisscrossing and weaving. It’s easy to imagine and see why filmmakers portray this in fast motion. Details are unimportant in the shadow of its mass. Walking through the airport when you have time is like flying. Walking through the airport is like standing under a waterfall. Walking through the airport is like a certain dream: a dream where you are present and active, but unseen.
Airports are a place to practice love in the face of anger. Even on a clear skied day, someone is yelling. Someone is unloading their most ancient feelings of loneliness and despair onto a beleaguered gate agent. That anger is infectious. If someone else is fighting for their importance, it is hard not to meet them with one’s own reserves of pain or arrogance. Somehow, many years ago, seeing the consistency of mania that is so focused in this place, I learned to let go. I found out It is truly out of my control. Even if the gate agent really does not care about her job or anything that I want or need, it is out of my control. Surrendering to this in the face of concentrated heat is bolstering to the spirit. It can simply be like watching a tv show. It can be like stepping into the waterfall.
And besides…I get to fly. I never want to become immune, no matter how many times I fasten my seatbelt, to the giddy impossibility that I am shooting through space with no ground under my feet. Maybe if the windows were bigger it would be harder to forget. Maybe if the planes were made of glass.
So I’ve just finished the first leg of a four city week, landing in Columbus to begin. Cincinnati Ballet is performing my Wild Sweet Love on a program they are sharing with BalletMET. I originally made the work in 2007 for Sacramento Ballet. I was living in San Francisco at the time and was driving back and forth to rehearsals. Somehow I had procrastinated drastically on this piece and had no idea what I would do. I drove to Sacramento on that first day without an idea in my head. I listened to a mix of songs that I liked, playing in the car with the windows down. Roberta Flack, Felix Mendelssohn, The Partridge Family, Lou Reed, Jose Alfredo Jimenez, and Queen. It was a little bit like what you would hear late at a wedding reception. I just said fuck it and made that the score for the work. These songs were all showing up at the same time for some reason; I would figure out in the studio what that reason was.
What became of it was a poetic narrative about a bride, or someone’s fantasy of a bride and all of the projections that we fill into romantic love and the grand delusion in our culture around the notion. The piece became more performative than I wanted it to be. But somehow the story called for that in a way that overrode my personal aesthetic. It gives a juicy, emotional role to an un-partnered leading female. I created that role originally on Ilana Goldman, a dancer who would later join Trey McIntyre Project. Ilana is a giant like me and a partner for her was hard to come by. The role here in Columbus is being occupied by Sarah Hairston. This is her retirement season as a dancer and it’s a honor for me that this will be one of the last roles she dances.
While I was in town, I worked on a photo essay with Cincinnati Ballet dancer Daniel Wagner. Coming up with a location in Columbus proved to be challenging. I wanted to find a place that could represent the city but could also be appropriate for the presence of someone who was naked. It was cold in Columbus so I also had to find a place indoors. I tried to make plans work with the Art Museum, a hair salon, an abandoned insane asylum, old trolley garages, but nothing worked in the end and I was down to the wire. At the very last minute, a very cool artist warehouse returned my emails and we had a tremendous space.
We arrived early in the misty morning and the guy that was supposed to meet us to let us in, didn’t. So we filmed an interview then waited by a running, empty car until one of the artists came out and let us sneak in. Daniel and I didn’t know exactly where we were allowed to shoot, so we just shot everywhere. First in a gallery full of mannequins, then on an old chair by a window, until finally the guy came and took us into this wonderful space that was surrounded by windows on two sides. Daniel was a great collaborator: super present, creative and helpful, regal and gentle. An all-around nice guy to boot. I’m so happy with the images.
The opening of Wild Sweet Love went beautifully. The dancers were inspired and full of life. Sarah found a wonderful character in the lead female. It can be difficult to help a dancer find their voice in certain roles. This one is tough. She is our narrator in the piece and it is important for her experience to ring true. It can easily be overly dramatic and a caricature. It’s interesting that what did it for Sarah was to help her find her own anger. So much of this piece is about sadness and longing, but Sarah’s power didn’t arrive until she could feel permission to be mad. And even more interesting is that I wouldn’t say that the performance read angry. You wouldn’t have thought “that is an angry character”. Once she felt the freedom to let that feeling exist and to be with it, her sadness could come in surprising and beautiful ways. Anger is an emotion that is really difficult to make room for. It is very easy to shove it away as a bad thing to experience and/or express. It immediately connotes responsibility for our situation lying with someone else and that we have been wronged. But it is something that comes to all of us. It is much like sitting in the airport and letting all of that anger swirl around me. Not butting up against it, complaining about it, or fantasizing that I can stop it…but rather giving it its place in the world.