Monday, July 4, 2016

Wreck Beach Butoh Boot Camp 2016: Sunday Performance

Bronwyn was right. I was actually awakened by the sound of the wind, which at first I mistook for pouring rain. By the time Dana and I gathered at Molly's, the sun was shining and it was pleasantly warm--but definitely very breezy. And by the time the three of us plus Irene got to the top of the stairs at Trail 4 we could hear not just the wind, but the crashing waves. Half-way down we saw the whitecaps, which were pretty high and moving fast--so fast that they propelled an adventurous (and presumably well wet-suited) windsurfer back and forth across the horizon multiple times as we stared out at the waters, mouths agape. Meanwhile, a kayaker had apparently had enough, depositing his boat just at the mouth of the pathway on the beach we use to descend toward the water (where it remained throughout our performance--at the very least I hoped he stayed to watch given the visual interruption his vessel caused). One benefit of the powerful surf was that our pathway had been more or less swept clean of rocks; but also laying across it there was now a massive log, washed ashore by the waves, and forming a natural proscenium arch for our performance.

We were the first to arrive on the beach and as more and more people gathered there was one question: would we still be going in the water to swim at the beginning? When Barbara and Jay arrived they very generously confirmed that we would not start in the water, simply running instead to where we begin the dragging and rolling sequence at the south end of the beach, crawling to our respective positions once we neared the spot. A sigh of relief went through the ensemble when we heard this news, as to have begun the piece wet and shivery would have been distinctly unpleasant. Instead, having the sun shine on us while we were moving about the sand was actually quite pleasant, and during Sunday's performance I felt I could finally let go of the mechanics of the movement and really get into the experience of my body merging with the beach, so much so that I really let things rip during the super-fast rolls back and forth. Likewise, with the teeter-totter step that moves (quite literally) from the end of Jay's section into the beginning of Barbara's, I stopped counting and overthinking the steps leading into the leg swing and just went with the momentum generated by my off-axis body--and I think what resulted was perhaps the best I've ever done that move.

Not that everything was perfect. Just before this, Barbara forgot the eight fast pivoting hand claps between partners following the "picking-up-a-seed-and-putting-it-back-on-the-tree" sequence. I wasn't going to remind her about this, and so we were way ahead of everyone in motoring down the beach. And our interior circle went in the wrong direction with our rooster walk, which I'm sure caused the outer circle more than a little confusion as they reoriented themselves for our cross on the backwards crab walk. But I'm sure the audience, which was a lot bigger than Saturday's, didn't notice.

We did still go in the water at the end of the piece, but by that time I was ready for some cooling-off, and some help in washing the sand off my body, and just generally being buffeted by the waves.

Then it was time for a group picnic and reflective decompressing after two weeks of extremely intense work. Brie and Michael and Yvonne, who were doing WBB for the first time, all said it was an amazing experience and that, time permitting, they would definitely consider coming back next year. For me, partly as a result of the choreography this year and partly because of the storehouse of embodied and environmental knowledge I had retained from last year, I felt more than ever how truly unique WBB is as a work of site-specific dance: because of its sustained investigation of a singular but ever-changing site; because of the reciprocal material exchange between performers and site embedded into each iteration; and because of how much kinetic awareness (and locomotive energy) it also demands of its audience.

Then, too, Barbara and Jay, in their own inimitable tough-love way, give us through this process a lesson in what it means to come together as an ensemble. So, after all the hours of rehearsal, all the stairs descended and climbed, all the white paint applied and (imperfectly) removed, all the sweaty clothes and wet towels washed and dried (none of which I will miss any time soon), here's to us in before and after shots:

Left to right: Yvonne; Peter; Keith; Brie; Jay, Dana; Bronwyn; Molly; Irene; Michael; Tuan; Henry; with Barbara kneeling in front.

Look, even Barbara is smiling this time!


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