support my work at PatreonThe night before the premiere of Your Flesh Shall be a Great Poem, I was walking home from dinner and found myself in the uncommon realization of my own adult autonomy. I quit from my usual efficiency and saw, truly, where I was. I remembered, again, that I can usually do what I want, if I were to choose so.

I feel hot all the time and the windy, meat-locker temperature of San Francisco at night burned my skin like an ice bath murdering a fever. Market Square was busy and flash-bulb lit up for it being so late, and I could hear the faint wail of bagpipes. These elements were lifting me up and out of my body. The magic of real life was kissing sweetly.

Lonnie Weeks, Steven Morse and dancers of San Francisco Ballet in Your Flesh Shall be a Great Poem.

I walked toward the silhouette of the bagpipe player rising at the other end of the park. He was standing high on top of a marble rectangle as if it were created as a study for his future statue. I walked up and put some money in his biscuit tin (that is not a euphemism) and sat on a close by ledge to listen to the ecstatic sobbing. The wind was treachery and he was fighting it, kilt corybantic. Directly behind was a homeless man pulling out props one by one from his shopping cart and testing their velocity in tempo to the music. The moon was bright and I could make out the milk-stained figures of monuments and skateboarders who were still at it under its light.

As I eventually made my way back to the hotel, the push of the air and the gradually softening bagpipes felt like an important symbol of change. Changing radio stations. Like the friction of life was pop-up booking into a new form that advanced…was more advanced. I was passing from a finished period to a new one and there was poetry.

one of the images I shot of Harrison Luna

The day of the premiere I had arranged to do a photoshoot with my Australian friend Harrison Luna. We met when we shot previously in Melbourne and he just by chance happened to be in San Francisco today. This was an experiment to try feeling a day of experiencing new things leading up to an opening, rather than spending the day anticipating that show.

Harrison is an impressive human. 6’4” and ridiculous handsome. He’s one of the most focused and invested fashion models I have worked with. It’s a really different way of working for me: analyzing each photo and making adjustments as we go, but I welcome the new perspective and what I can learn from it. Continuing to refocus my eyesight, to figure out the ways I was not seeing, to relax into the heartiness of my dumbness, making the most room for experience to pour in…it is delicious.

The afternoon was the final dress rehearsal after not seeing the dancers for 4 days. None of the superstitions were playing out well. We make ourselves feel better by saying a bad dress rehearsal makes for a great performance, but in this case, the dress rehearsal was wonderful. Effortless and meaningful. It was growth for every person participating. Nothing really for me to add, I was just a witness.

The cast and I huddled onstage afterward so I could take my last moment with us as a united group to express my gratitude. This was a special and rare experience that spanned over the course of a year. We had invested part of our precious span of lifetime in this endeavor. And it was worth it. Speaking to them about it didn’t feel like a pep-talk or an obligation; it was a privilege. I left from rehearsal feeling utter trust and confidence in their mastery.

Benjamin Freemantle in Your Flesh Shall be a Great Poem.

The evening of the show was a continuous display of familiar faces: people who were visiting town just for this and people who I had intersected with over many years of coming to San Francisco. I was sweating bullets because I am hot all the time was wearing too many clothes for the indoors like adults do.

This was the time I felt things really had changed. I felt like a clearer and less encumbered version of myself. This space felt wholly comfortable and at home for the first time. I liked seeing people. This wasn’t a rabbit hole, it was life. The performance was even better than the rehearsal. The dancers had such easy mastery. It was free of distracting baggage and full of the helpful kind. There was only the integrity of the work and our unified voice. It was a happy day.

Click here to learn more about Your Flesh Shall be a Great Poem and read reviews. 

all photos in this post ©Erik Tomasson unless otherwise noted.

2 Comments

  1. This post makes me feel as if you’re in my incredibly messy office talking to me, and that’s a very good feeling. I’m sorry I missed this premiere, very, and I congratulate you for its obvious success, and salute the SF critics who clearly understand what you’re about.

    1. Well I’d feel quite well to be in your messy office right now. Thank you very much for the congratulations!

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