The Last Day

When I was first approached to make this dance for San Francisco Ballet, the world had begun to spin on a new axis. With the fallout from the election, I was just beginning to assess what the changes meant to me. At a moment like this there is a very necessary decision for an artist to make in terms of deciding whether to continue on the same path and if that still has the same or any relevance. I’ve barely come to terms with what that outcome means to me so I was stuck in a certain kind of quandary when deciding what piece I would make for the company. So from that place of not knowing, I decided that I wanted to be useful, to consciously contribute something that I could be sure would be meaningful for the audience. The best thing any artist has done for me lately is to remind me of the sources of joy in my life. Surely something that any of us can benefit from is being connected to our base of love.

So I decided to make a duet that would be three short scenes, three expressions of unfettered joy. My puzzle was to reveal the authentic and vulnerable ecstasy of the dancers themselves and I did my best to avoid a self-conscious and overly performative showpiece. I was not seeking an escape from life but rather a revealing and discovery of self.

The first scene, is a sinking into a stew of sense and sensuality. Rocking. Succumbing. Being lost in the smell of another person. Presence in the addictive sensing of a partner. The second, is giddiness, silliness. Clowning on one another. The last is complete and utter expansive abandon.

I went in early to watch class in the theater and do some future casting. I’m not that familiar with the company and there are a lot of dancers to get to know. Luke Ingham (one of the dancers I am working with) came up to me during petite allegro and we had a brief sidebar about the week. He was feeling some remorse about having a slow brain day in rehearsal the day before. He was feeling a lot better today and was excited to rehearse. Luke brought up, without prompting from me, how some days he can get four hours sleep and have the most brilliant rehearsal and then on some days when he feels totally prepared, the day can be shit. This conversation is a coincidence in the sense that it is coinciding with a time where I am wrapping my head around and exploring this concept in a new way, but these poetic consistencies are common, I find. I’m not generally baffled by what we call out as a supernatural coincidence because I know the world weaves a grand painting and if we are listening, it is all coincidence.

I only had about 30 more seconds to choreograph today and it was pure bliss to take as damn long as I wanted to with those minutes. There’s something I want to take away from this feeling. The calm and playfulness from not being so concerned with time is world opening. Being on the front end of all of those minutes to create feels deeply urgent impossible. And here I am at the end and there is time to spare.

dancer Sarah van Patten with Trey McIntyre photo © Erik Tomasson

We spend the rest of our hours reviewing and cleaning. I get to know the other dancer I am working with, Sarah van Patten, on our break. We end with a run-through and although they finish fairly out of breath, it is nothing for a first time through and I am feeling really happy with the work. Helgi Tomasson, the Artistic Director of San Francisco Ballet visits the rehearsal with his wife Marlene and I feel happy and proud to share what we’ve accomplished and I appreciated their visit so much. It made the last day kind of celebratory.

When I left the building, there was a new woman at the front desk. She asked me all about myself and what I was doing. When I told her my music choices, which includes a song by The Zombies, she said, “Oh I love zombies. I used to be a mortician.” It didn’t strike me how fucking funny that was until I was walking away down the street.

photo © Erik Tomasson

As I pack my bags to go home, I can start to feel myself become another version of myself, without the adrenaline of the rehearsal period. There’s a whole new set of things I am protective of writing to you about. For example, now that things have gone so well, instead of walking away celebrating, my mind invents brilliant ways that I could now fuck it all up. I want you to think that I walk away feeling like a Viking warrior.

Writing this blog all week has been an amazing gift. A real inventory of many ways that I did not know I was dishonest. It is tremendous to know that someone is out there reading this. It changed the outcome the fact that you were a witness. Thank you for letting me practice openness.

I chose a self-portrait for the final main image, which is in some ways the best I can sum up the week. Doing so conjures up the same embarrassment as does writing true things. I’ve gotten used to pushing other people into the front and now you are looking at me.

10 Comments

    1. I’m so happy for that Catherine. I certainly regretted it in the process, it was painful to do, but it was a real gift to stick to it and come out the other side. Happy holidays to you as well!

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