We went in on Monday, the others enjoying a day off, to work on some rope stuff. Dasniya wanted to do some improvisation tasks to come up with ideas for, or go a bit further into the Klingsor and Blumenmädchens roles. We started with a brushing, moving touch, of any kind, with any body part, no ropes, just playing. The second was pressure, light or hard, fingertips, limbs, torso or teeth, or any any other way another body could be compressed. I find she teaches this stuff very well, in a manner that avoids the often clinical seriousness of improvisation in contemporary dance – you’d never bite someone normally, but with her it seems part of the game.
From there into ropes. I really didn’t want to be suspended or even inside ropes on Monday. My skin took a battering last week – the irritation of having skin that is quite fragile – and while mostly healed, I had a bit of an emotional aversion to being subjected to this. So, Gala and Jorgos in ropes and me playing with them, and then Jorgos playing with Dasniya while Gala and I watched.
Dasniya wanted to work with three ideas, words from Parsifal, that of humiliation – the most obvious, then lingering illness (relating to the effect of the grail on the kingdom in which it resided), and rapture. We don’t have either much time on stage, nor within that much time to do things, as a calmness and measured pace – almost neutrality – could easily be shot by becoming frantic. Still, we came up with some good stuff and Jorgos made his way through a couple of rounds of trying ideas which were quite fruitful.
(I took off to Antwerpen to see my beautiful Anna, who was in town for a couple of days – falling asleep on the train there and back.)
This week the singers are back, a great horde descending on the theatre. The feeling is immediately different. The last week it has been quite focused on the second act and now again the first and third take priority. (As well as the filming about which I know nothing, except somethingsomethingKundry, somethingsomethingParsifal…)
Yesterday and today we mainly worked with Tomas, who is playing Klingsor. He is quite a wonder to work with, very practical and adept at picking stuff up and getting it to work. He said one of the first operas he ever did was with Trisha Brown. Dasniya and I talked about what we thought was important for him to get familiar with, but after one quick blocking decided to just let him do it his way as it fitted so well and there was no need for much embellishment.
It’s a slightly peculiar feeling for us, being dancers, yet not The Dancers, who are off doing other things while we menace ourselves with ropes. This is especially so, I think, because of both a generalised and vague perception of what bondage is (we are called the Bondage Artistes), as well as the obvious endurance of pain we go through as part of it. It’s something I feel is perhaps intellectually understood, as in, ‘Oh that hurts them a bit”, but subjectively it a strange, maybe unapproachable thing: “Why do they do that to themselves? And they seem to like it too!”
Yes, the pain is part of the fun. It’s a game of carefully bearing it, physically and emotionally. It’s pain, yes, but we try and avoid pain, the other pain, the pain that injures. The pain that marks is somehow ok, it’s a matter-of-fact thing, like the frayed fingers you get from gardening without gloves. I certainly like it, especially when the rope leaves patterns across my skin, where the blood has broken beneath. The other pain, mmm… that’s where it’s very easy to get hurt.
In the evening, sitting around after all this, Gala, Dasniya and I talking about the process so far, we become a little stupid – perhaps the chocolate I bought. Gala and I embark on the aforementioned stupidity. The images from Dasniya don’t really capture the strangeness of it, yelping and screeching and growling, while a group of technicians got on with some very practical lighting work.