When I planned my trip to Melbourne, I didn’t know anything about neighborhoods, nor did I want to tackle any research before I got there. So I closed my eyes and pointed at the AirBnB map and ended up in the area of Prahran. Luck was with me and it’s an excellent place to be, chock full of the kind of wandering I crave with an intensity. Nearby Church Street is shoulder to shoulder with its own cafes and funky little shops.
I set out on foot the first day and one of the first things I found was this bizarrely gorgeous building: a seemingly burned-out, gothic temple, tucked in between the brass band hodgepodge of 70’s store front architecture and half cared for signage. It stands out in its lonely theatricality. A monolith that maintains both prominence and solitude. It is quietly left alone in spite of its specialness, in spite of the shadow it casts over the sidewalk. I spend about fifteen minutes taking photos of it and wonder if I could find a way to get inside of it, a place to explore and take photographs. I decide to guard against any ambitiousness and not devote the time and research, to file it away for another time.
Two weeks before I had been rehearsing in the studio in Brisbane. One day in particular, early on there had been a few visitors in the studio. It was early enough in the process that I could hardly notice anyone in the room. My mind was diagraming best chosen routes to perfect the behemoth detail in Peter Pan. The mind-plates were spinning as I skimmed from character to character, trying to plant seeds that might grow into mastery and an authentic approach.
After the rehearsal, Mary Li, Ballet Mistress and wife of Artistic Director Li Cunxin (I worked extensively with Mary and Li when they were dancers with Houston Ballet and they were both in fact in the first piece I ever choreographed for the company) let me know that among the visitors were the famous Australian artists and partners David and Yuge Bromley. She showed me a catalog of their amazing work. Everyone I spoke to about the Bromleys beamed both in awe of this artistry but also seemed generally proud to know them.
David and Yuge have a house and studio in Melbourne and Li and Mary offered to put me in touch with them for a visit while in the city. We quickly set up a date for October 31st. It seemed like a nice way to assuage my only regret being in Australia: that I was missing Halloween in the US. The Australians go for it a little bit (I did see a rad trio doing the cast of Bob’s Burgers) but it’s not quite there yet.
The Bromleys were, to my surprise, only a few blocks from where I ended up staying, giving the timbre of this originally freeform trip, the sound of purpose and a planning from a higher source. I walked down Church Street and originally passed right by it because I was on the wrong side of the street. As I backtracked, I realized from the vantage point and distance that the place I was heading was in fact the building I had been so fascinated with on my first day. I had to laugh in that ways in which letting go of an outcome can make it all fall into place.
I was greeted at the front door with a warm hug by Yuge. She is an immediate shining light and I felt instantly welcome. If the entire visit had been only ascending the front staircase, I would have considered it a major highlight of this trip. There is a motorcycle at the foot of the stairs that requires navigation to get the the first step and then the most inspiring ascension. The stairs have a steepness of scale that, rather than intimidate, have the distinct feeling of the first slow hill of a rollercoaster. The first floor is revealed as a sunrise, a spreading burst of bright warm light that glistens off what is like endless watch mechanics. There is art and curiosity bursting from every pore. I stopped at the step before the last just to take in this moment and to know this thing for the first time.
Yuge led me down the hall to meet David, yelling ahead first to make sure he was there. This was because embarking this hallway was such an investment. The depth of an entire city block, the end being so far, it disappears into infinity. We journeyed through its narrow gallery, passing through varying experiences of light, both natural and from the repeating metal chandeliers that punctuated it. There were an impossible amount of things to take in along the way. To pause, required choreography in that I would self-arrange to see anything earnestly. I finally gave up.
We reached the very end and David was doing what I imagine he is often doing: spinning the intricacies of so many different projects happening at once. He pauses from giving instructions to an assistant to also make me feel quite welcome and then goes back to finishing his plan so that we can have a tour of the enormous space. We dot in and out of room after room, stacked with canvas upon canvas and it becomes apparent to me that beyond being incredibly talented, this guy is prolific.
The tour ends up back at the front (this is just 1/2 of the u-shaped first level) in an enormous ballroom that looks out the arched windows I had seen from the street.
The three of us sat at a big dining table and ate lunch together and shared our stories.
When I was in my 20’s, living in Houston, the director and artist Robert Wilson (known, probably most notably as the creator of Einstein on the Beach) was in residence in the city, working with several different performing arts organizations. He had seen the first piece I made for Houston Ballet (Skeleton Clock) and wanted to meet and discuss a possible collaboration on a dance work. We met at a dive bar near Allen Parkway and talked and drank beer while drew in a notebook. I was overwhelmed by him. His certainty poured out of every cell and as an insecure 20 year old, I couldn’t see myself as anything but crushed by his force. I have no answer to certainty. I don’t know that I’ve ever been certain about anything because I don’t think its possible. I admire artists who can put that fact aside and believe so fully in their version of the world. I have nothing to say to it because their logic is their own. I ran from that collaboration because I wasn’t ready for it.
I realize sitting here with these accomplished artists that something has changed in that. Maybe its because these particular people operate from fascination rather than surety, but maybe also I have changed in that I can meet these new friends in value of whatever particular perspective as an artist that I have developed in my life. Not surety, but acceptance and confidence.
Yuge comments that each of David’s and my shirts have the word “king” on them.
We continue the tour through the rest of the house and it is a non-stop fascination. They are collectors. Not in the dusty, forgetting way, but in a loving attraction to what they have accumulated either through collection or creation. They touch and discover along the way, remembering what is there and finding new beauty each time. These people operate from a baseline of complete abundance and generosity. As we reach the end of or time, I am festooned with gifts.
The time has passed in a blink and their next appointment is there. I leave with a feeling of infinite possibility, fate, love, and delight in the experience of what life is.