“Zürich is boring because I am not there and your unbuggered arse is missing me somethin’ rotten”

Oh beautiful darling Nigel, what can I say? I think you’d hate all the grief (but be secretly fucking smug at it all, or maybe want to know why you didn’t knock the Olympics off the front page), and I’ve got you in my guts like a plague so you’ll have to hear it from me also. If you’re not too busy rotting, that is.

I’ve been reading your emails. God, but I was vacuous. I probably should have been a little more attentive when you bought a glass of orange juice in a heart-shaped glass in the morning after all those weeks of chaos, and why the fuck I didn’t jump on a plane to Helsinki and miss some days of rehearsing?

It was the last day of teaching in ImPulsTanz (I wonder what you’d say about that? Probably that I had become a sell-out reactionary of the bourgeoisie, and did I think I was better than you? Something unprintably and laughably offensive anyway), and lunch was being assembled when I heard the quiet, excited clamour of a death. “Who?” I asked, when the huddle had turned itself outward, and the person behind me said your name.

Was it you who unzipped my top that first day, when we were rolled and pulled around the (now also gone) loft studio in Tanzhaus Wasserwerk? After a mere 10 days you’d teased out not a small amount of my life, secrets, loves, desires … and yes, all that we spoke of over rosehip tea on the Sunday Zürichsee ferry you gleefully announced I would make theatre out of on the Wednesday. It became all the people… and probably the best 15 minutes of performance I’ve ever made.

I don’t think anyone has had such an effect on me and my messing around in dance, personally, as you, and you are responsible for so much of my work since those weeks in Zürich — I even thought voice work was rubbish until you came along. I’m embarrassing you now, aren’t I?

Or maybe … I hadn’t really thought of you that much since the last time I was in Vienna, and saw a work of yours, hoped you might be in town also. Or rather, I’d thought of you often, talked about you and how you’d inspired me and pulled out absolutely the best work I’ve done, talked about how various things I might be working on came from you in one way or another; but really thinking about you … I just expected you’d be around until you were old and crapulous.

Your emails, god they are eye-wateringly, obscenely hilarious. And not enough. Fuck, Nigel, way too soon. Who’s going to save dance from the endless, turgid, dull hippy hell now that you’ve sodded off? You were a step into a bigger world for me, and I never want that to end.

I’m poor and unemployed and unemployable. Loving it.
Fuck me when I’m ninety?

all the people i can remember sleeping with … day 7

After my opening up during the last rehearsal, today’s three-hour endurance spectacle, resting on many pages of preparatory notes and too many hours in Cibo and staring at walls – and chocolate – was one of those fortuitous ones where everything seemed to flow along like an afternoon of eating and playing in the park. I was though, completely empty from two weeks of grant writing and other emotionally fraught things, and was very determined to get quite smashed on Saturday night, so I’m writing this at the other end of Sunday in-between preparing more pages for tomorrow’s rehearsal and the coming weeks … trying to accept I only have eight minutes, too few rehearsals, and that I don’t need to act like I’m making a full-evening performance.

Although, if I act like it’s all these things, I’m liable to be blasé and when it’s the first thing I’ve made in almost a year, slipping into the land of doing what I know and have done before is the last thing I want to have happen.

The Rape of the Sabine Women part has started to resemble what it will eventually become, yet when we spend only less than two hours with it … I was sitting on the bus this evening wondering what I’d do if I had say, three months full-time to make a performance. How much more would I develop something beyond the familiar ‘get it to where it’s looking ok and working and get started on the next thing’. In making dance, writing, almost everything, I’ve become so used to regarding the first appearance of something as more-or-less being what it will be, no major edits, no complete or partial revisions, maybe some minor amendments, but that’s all.

Despite these qualms, this scene has managed to become something that I really like, and continues to evolve into itself without the dread need for setting steps and counts. That in itself is secretly very useful for what I have planned in monadologie, and here in the studio has been often an hilarious tangle of limbs and teeth, and bite-shaped bruises.

With that part mostly coherent, the attention was really directed at what The Rape of Lucretia would become. So many notes pulled from two years of thinking of this work, and stuff that never made it into crush, stuff that might not make it in here, another tangle of little things, most no more than a line ore two. Some though, are things that have already been something.

Judith Butler talked about gender being the repeated stylisation of the body, “That congeal over time to produce the appearance of substance, of a natural sort of being”, to which Nietzsche posthumously added, “There is no ‘being’ behind doing, effecting, becoming; ‘the doer’ is merely a fiction added to the deed – the deed is everything”, and within this, identity only exists through language. So of course Wittgenstein turned up and said, “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent”, or at least Derek Jarman made him say that. And so again I find myself back in Zürich with Nigel doing bad things to me.

This was a scene with Jens during SiWiC, that really does belong here, and unlike say, all the 春宫图 Chungongtu stuff that started off as my infatuation with Agoraphobic Nosebleed and ended up in hell, or even the biting stuff now that I imagined as belonging in pestilence … this piece over the years seems like a playground where things get stolen by other works with less scruples.

Paea can act the Austrian Contessa like a charm, and Daniel never once has missed a chance to get all his clothes far away from his body (or burp loudly and at great length, or fart, come to think of it).

The Rape of Lucretia has become a very short almost formal tableau based on five paintings of the story, and nothing like what it began as. Similarly the very first thing we worked on, from photos of Deborah Paauwe’s works I’d taken during 42a, and the memory and amnesia in a body, reemerged through one of Paea’s tasks for me, “Frisking and saying it’s OK”.

I also found I have to teach them all how to do proper Black Metal head-banging, or hand-banging actually. So far I describe it as, “seize the sacrificed goat’s still-beating heart, shake it and squeeze the warm blood from its severed arteries, raise it high to the beast”. I awoke from my catalepsy last night to find them surrounding me preparing to do all that. Plus video camera.

Oh, and then there was John Jasperse. I’m really entering new territories of embarrassment here. The title of the work originally was a list called, “Everyone I have ever slept with”. The doubt insinuated itself and the name changed when I realised firstly I couldn’t remember people’s names and far worse, the longer I dwelled on this, the more people, tenuous ghosts, returned to me. Tonight I found the original Zürich list, also the list from crush last year. These, and my memory of both are so incoherent as to bring even the notion of faithfully recorded memory into disrepute. There is a third version also, that Anna recited, perhaps in existence on video still, most likely lost.

From the beginning of this, I thought also of people I had crushes on, and what the consequences such a public airing of my daydream world would be. Tara’s task was “Describe in words, while reflecting in movement, one of your fantasies”. I spent Thursday night on the internet trying to find video of John dancing. I settled for photos. There is a text also accompanying my memory of how he moves. Perhaps to save this for later.

Daniel’s task, that we didn’t quite make it to was, “Explain your greatest fear in regard to gender studies of any context”. My response to this, and the text that finishes this scene is, “That it’s all in my head and I have to be male”.

ignition – all the people i can remember sleeping with …

A morning back at ADT, really for the first time in about a month, and I forgot how astounding they all are, yes they kinda terrify me just how phenomenal a dancer can be. I bumped into Gary Stewart a while ago and he said, “Frances! I didn’t know you’re in town, are you staying? You know we’ve just decided the choreographers for ignition, but I think you’d be really good to have in. The theme this year is Gender Studies”. Today then is something like day zero of ignition. I’ll be hanging around ADT for the next two months making … something …

When I was in Zürich at SiWiC … to tell this story is only to recount my memory of so many retellings, and I was thinking of what I would find when I returned to my diary of those weeks, and that particular day, SiWiC day 11 – all the people i can remember sleeping with and the drugs i took. I made something so personal, humiliating, embarrassing, unlike anything I’d done before, despite all my work being in some way very personal though at a remove, hidden by the surface, the presentation of the performance.

So I have some dancers now, and a coffee at lunch to talk. The sublime Daniel who really has made moving to Adelaide special, Paea whom we shared a email trail from here to Berlin, Xiao-Xuan and Tara, and – a big hope – Gala. And some dance. And Judith Butler.

Saint Jude. I’d been thinking about what text would be the foundation for this for a while, and it’s obvious no? Gender Trouble – Feminism and the Subversion of Identity is one of only a few books that I can unequivocally say changed my life. Then to return to it again and find it’s still as fresh, uncompromising, funny, radical in its imagination of identity after almost twenty years, that every possibly easy way out to a reductionist, essentialist conception of bodies and gender is relentlessly dispatched, and she name-drops Divine in the first few pages. It is coming home.

I have also her, I suppose reflections on all this, Undoing Gender on order, and really feel a big reading binge of all my old favourites … Zizek especially.

What am I trying to do here? I’ve come to think of this performance that started in Zürich as an accumulation that recurs and is constantly remade. A lot of it appeared in Crush, though the focus there was more on shared places between me and Amanda, the cities we’d both been in and the circumstances that mirrored and shadowed each other, never at the same time.

Now I suppose the attention is somewhat on myself again, or the having-a-body the uncomfortable, confronting, upsetting, so personal it hurts, the fear of opening self. I didn’t realise Tracey Emin had made a work Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995, though it’s the kind of thing that would have circulated around my consciousness so I doubt I would have not known. Her willingness to make art from what in the context of performance is embarrassingly personal has appealed to me for a while.

So, Judith Butler, Angela Carter and pornography, Henri Michaux “…leaves a trace, leaves a wound”, Divine and Female Trouble, late night rehearsals, talking about things maybe I wouldn’t even write here, something dark and useless and empty.

siwic 2006

If you’ve been reading this blog for more than six months, you’ll know in June last year I did the slightly lunatic thing of jumping on a plane to Europe with the last of my money, money intended for a ticket from Hong Kong to Melbourne, and arrived in a city famed for its incomprehension of not being rich, all so I could spend three weeks in a workshop called SiWiC – Swiss International Coaching Project for Choregraphers. My daily excesses and slaying of dancers, and nightly promenades along the Limmat in my new-found home, all lovingly documented here were also the moment when my blogging became public knowledge by the people around me, and the subject of endless self-referential conversational loops.

So, of course I would do it all again. Except I can’t, because other choreographers deserve the chance I got, and the time is now for that. SiWiC 2006 is directed by Ginette Lauren of Montreal’s O Vertigo, and applications are open now. I’m as envious as all fuck.

siwic – provokant und ausdrucksstark

For the media whores who like to see their own name in the press again and again and again, or just for everyone at SiWiC who wants to know what has been said about our games, here’s another article. This one’s from Der Bund, which originally appeared on July 18th here. Or you can just scavenge it from me and help me choke my bandwidth… Thanks again to Nina Scheu for sending this to me.

Provokant und ausdrucksstark – Der internationale Weiterbildungskurs in Choreografie (SiWiC) brachte Grenzerfahrungen auf die Bühne – Isabell Steinböck Der Bund 18.07.2005

siwic – are we famous yet?

There were some people with cameras and others asking questions and taking notes who weren’t considering charging us with several offenses which would have left us picking up bars of soap for fat, hairy bikers and going for a ride in the covered wagon. I think they all had very complimentary things to say about SiWiC, but I don’t read German, so the thrill of the unknown remains. Alternately, I could provide my own translation, but you might not believe it.

Nina Scheu, who writes for Tages-Anzeiger and seemed to be having a good time very kindly sent me three articles which appeared in local papers. For any of you who are interested and can read German, I’ve included links to these.

Wer lernt was im Choreografiekurs? – Die 9. Ausgabe des SiWiC – Christina Thurner Neue Zürcher Zeitung 13.07.2005

Ein Raum Für Wache Sinne – Eva Bucher Züritipp (Tages-Anzeiger) 14.07.2005

Hundert Choreografien in zwei Wochen – Nina Scheu Tages-Anzeiger 14.07.2005

siwic day 16 – how to win friends and influence people

After a most refreshing dawn swim by mostly naked, mostly quite trashed dancers in a river with a moderately swift current, it was really time to go home and go to bed. Goodbyes were said, last minute attempts to score failed, and I, not wanting to face a 45 minute walk home decided breakfast was in order. Not just any breakfast but chocolate croissants and coffee. It ended up being cold croissants and average coffee at the hauptbahnhoff where I was on the nod like a smacked-up junkie with Tom and Cornelia. Goodbyes were said again, I slept for an hour, had a post-performance I’m-pathetic attack, then dragged my very sorry ass into Tanzhaus and proceeded to level it like a good carpet-bombing of a defenseless city.

It’s possible the time to ask my opinion of two weeks of SiWiC is not when I am hysterical from lack of sleep, still pretty out of it, and certain to confuse honesty with belligerence. It’s possible it was all a set-up and in fact a moment of genius in reality-tv, and everyone present was in on the joke and professional actors. Either way, when I opened my mouth and said, “choreographers should be paid”, all of Zurich trembled like a little dog with it’s head on the chopping block, pinned down by a vast meaty hand, cleaver whisking the air. Smack. A voice in my head with each of those four words uttered wheezed, “you’re. never. going. to. work. in. this. town. again…”. This was nothing a few swiss-triple-air-kisses was going to fix. oops.

Later, before the choreographers dinner which was initially as cheerful as a morgue party, I sat in some park near junkie street doing a fine impersonation of a smacked-out, on-the-nod needle freak, dreaming over and over of running all the sound cues of the show. By the time I made it to dinner, I’d done the whole bloody thing another three times.

Dinner though was a dream, once Nigel awoke, Veronika, Marlee, Fillipe and fashionable-late Martin arrived, and with Denise and Teresa plying us with beer, wine, endless pasta and ice-cream, then coffee, sedating us all lounging on the red velvet sofa. It was a beautiful finish to 17 magical days. As was the orange juice in the love-heart glass bought to me, barely semi-conscious at eight-thirty in the morning along with an invitation to swill vodka in Helsinki …


siwic day 15 – sun exclusive: nigel charnock pashed me

It’s Monday now, and really I haven’t been home since Saturday morning, which is maybe not indicative of an average SiWiC but there was enough gossip and scandal in the last 48 hours to satisfy anyone who likes to live vicariously through the lives of others. But today, having had a really fucking rough twenty-four hours, which I’m sure I will look back on when I am senile and not remember at all, I’m not sure how amusing I can be.

So, we dragged our sorry asses into the studio at 10am for ballet. At least everyone else did. I was asleep. I can’t remember what I did Friday night, but I’m sure it was entertaining for someone, the result being I woke up late, slobbered and drooled into my coffee, then floated to Wasserworks on my private yacht to do a whole lot of nothing. Or so I thought. Someone decided to cut some parts and add new ones, confusing the dancers and depriving me of my leisure time. We were all looking a bit sorry, and rectified this by doing a solidly average matinee. Nothing went wrong, the cues were all fine, everyone was competent, and well, if someone had a bazooka or a suitcase of napalm it’d have livened things up I’m sure.

Off to the park next door for hours of sleeping or desperately trying to seduce in an extremely casual and nonchalant manner whoever had been chosen for the final night’s piece of action. I slept and ate ice-cream, which is just how fucking casual and nonchalant I am when keeping my attentions divided among three … no, four … beautiful dancers. Yes, I was a whore, no I did not get laid. And the ice-cream was frozen solid.

As for the final show, noone got dismembered by flying shoes, but in no particular order Zurich was shocked and mildly titillated by the following occurances: One extended, full-on tongue-pashing kiss between a the coach and a choreograper, one gently swaying erection from a dancer well taped to a chair, a finale that turned into an orgy the beer runnning out before the party started…

The erection. Which was always Martin’s and Tom’s goal in the Marilyn Manson/Pulp Fiction gimp scene, and finally it wasn’t just slightly swollen, but popping up and swaying from side-to-side like haut-couture performance art. We were all impressed with Tom’s professionalism, and if any one thing defines this year’s SiWiC, it’s Tom gaffered to a chair with a boner.

The kiss. Nigel had promised to embarrass me during the last performance since earlier in the week. After introducing us and even getting our names more or less correct, he pulled me up again asked me to get on my knees, did the same, then shoved his tongue and several teeth into my mouth while tossling my unwashed hair. No, it wasn’t embarrasing, but I was expecting a job offer.

People died, had sex, took their clothes off, shook their legs, said, “thith ith my space”, danced a bit more, lights went on and off, sound came and went, people clapped a bit, beer arrived and was drunk, we all sat outside, said too many goodbyes as dancer after dancer fled the scene, and when it was obvious it was time to leave, we all schlepped off to Labrynth.

Where e-ed up, steroid-pumped muscle queens with stick-on tatoos and fake tans checked each other out to god-awful bangin techno and tried to simultaneously dance, clap, and go “woooo!!!!”. Tried and failed. We ate chocolate, Willem bounced off the cushions and walls, and ran around like a kid on red cordial, then around 430 am decided to go for a swim. Naked, drunk, stoned, and jumping into the cool, deep river as the sky shifted from black to pale blue along the horizon.

It’s over. Two weeks of finely uncontrolled mayhem, I had a blast.


siwic day 14 – hope i die because of it

Yes, I am hungover. What is more important than any performance is what you do after, which usually involves stripping the bar of anything worth drinking like vultures with their heads stuck in the still-warm carcass of their dead host.

And the host was almost dead, or at least partially comatose from a wildly flying shoe while Patti Smith ripped up ‘My Generation’. Additionally, there was one walkout – the excuse was it was too loud, we flatter ourselves by believing the naked body of Tom, gaffered to a Chair and well enjoying himself was the straw which broke the camels back. Speaking of acres of glistening, shimmering, finely muscled bare and naked flesh, the body count was a paltry four, but there was nothing like watching Anna struggle for life, lips turning blue when Erik started channeling Marlon Brando doing Streetcar Named Desire. Yes, we all felt very guilty at the potential loss of life, but my what a fetching shade of blue, and what a perfect corpse.

Somehow I ended up operating sound for the show, which allowed my truly despotic and megalomaniacal self to emerge avenging and murderous, eyes dripping with madness, and damn straight I will go straight for the exposed throat of anyone who comes too close to my space, because “Thith ith my space” (and it’s really embarrassing me).

Besides the occasional, easy-to-avoid “I’m professional but do not handle stress well (and where’s my valium, bitch)” moments, a pointless rehearsal – where I gave a gig to Nigel as my rehearsal director (I am nothing if not magnanimous), the sunlit hours were spent again beside the river, eating icecream, sleeping, laughing talking and generally doing very bloody little. “I like warm grass under a shaded tree in summer. I like the feel of new grass and the smell of dry earth…”

But the secret is out, and now all these pesky dancers, choreographers, and other desperate hangers-on are coming here and reading this then quoting it to me in self-referential, post-modern chunks at unexpected moments. “Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich”, as John Malkovich would say.

So, here is a photo of two of your beautiful selves. Yes, I have horrible ones full of compromising positions, and will endeavour to blackmail you for something in the coming weeks when you are far away, but for today, the sun is again shining, the coffee blanketing me in a soft, warm stupid haze, I didn’t get my sad ass either to breakfast with Hans, or to ballet and it’s all almost over.