Monday, December 24, 2007

hunkering #2

Is that joy you are feeling, says Linda Putnam, or just gleeful rage?

Too tired to hold up the grin, I find only sorrow.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


I wonder if my body is changing.

Today, my eyeballs turned to liquid and became the same body of water as my sexual fluids, just as I tell people to do in my class.

There is something about feeling the adoration of students that brings up my fears of cronehood and questions about where my sexuality sits in the midst of my being an artist, being a teacher.


Apparently, Florence Nightingale, after nursing the crippled and wounded in the Crimean War, came home to her cottage in England and one morning decided never to get out of bed ever again.

I am back in Vancouver and am having a Florence Nightingale moment.

Friday, December 21, 2007


Today is the last day of our residency in Victoria. We have accomplished a great deal here but I am so tired. This last week, I have been on the verge of tears all the time from fatigue. I think everyone is feeling the same. There is a feeling of vulnerability and fragility in the air.

Time for the solstice hunker.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

dancing/not dancing

Extrapolating on Lisa's exercise I taught a class today that was an experiment on whether we could dance by not doing anything.

I gave a painfully difficult exercise of imagining the touch of our minds on 2 points on our body and a third point in space. Then, just observing the field as defined by these three points and being available to the exit from this field.

Miraculously, after almost two hours of people lying around in heaps on the floor (and a little nervousness on my part), they got to their feet and a most incredible dance occurred in the room.

I am excited by this.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

holding space

Today Lisa, the massage therapist joined us in our rehearsal and she taught us how to touch without wanting to affect. To touch in order to be. One just has to be available to the opening for touch and then to hold the space, to hold the field and be available for the exit.

Part of the artistic quest in Body-Scan for Benoît and me is how to insert the art action into the art object. How to affect people's bodies through the framework of a proscenium experience. The epiphany for me today is that in fact, in order to insert the action, one must relinquish one's desire to act. The force of action only creates calcification and hardening of the mind and body. In order for motion to be released, one only has to observe and listen to the field, as defined by more than one point in space.

I think I am beginning to understand this in terms of la vie as well as l'art.

Monday, December 17, 2007


Yesterday, I went for a walk through Beacon Hill Park...

and then spent an hour looking at the sea..

Saturday, December 15, 2007

touch and transmission

Two weeks ago, just before I left for Victoria, we went to the hospital to visit Yang Shifu, recovering from open heart surgery - a quadruple bypass at the age of 80. Slightly delirious from the drugs, he still managed to give us a lesson in theory. He said he had been using his time in hospital "researching 24-7".

I held his hand which was cold.

He joked that it was usually the other way around - my hands cold and his hands warm with qi, sending me energy. This time, my hands were warm. He held on, stroking them, accepting energy from me.

I rubbed his cold swollen feet on my lap and remembered him rubbing my aching ankle on his lap a few months ago.

Love given, love received, love moving in a circle.

Friday, December 7, 2007

dancing together

I am in Victoria, in residency - the second - for the creation of Body-Scan. This week, Benoît and I have been working on finding a way to dance together. It occurs to me that this whole piece is about us trying to find a dance together: how do we arrange these dancers around us, between us, so that we can find a dance that satisfies. How do we arrange our ideas, politics, aesthetics in and amongst ourselves so that we can dance together honestly and intimately.

On New Year's Eve, I shall be in Paris with Sébastien, just being. Aah, I said, ce serait comme un laboratoire. Researching what it means to be. Non, he said, pour ça il y a l'art, je te parle de la vie. I realise I have no idea what that means.

Today I taught a class about observing our failures and yielding to them without feeling the need to fix them. It was a good class. Then, in rehearsal, Benoît and I had a dance that was was unlike any dance I have had with anyone. Everyone said it looked great. Benoît said it felt delicious to him. It was so unknown to me I did not even know if it felt good to me.

My edges dissolve and I become formless.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


My mother has a blog! ( In her entry, On Eastern and Western Story Arcs, she responds to the notion that there are different story arcs in Eastern and Western narratives (way to go, mom).

This got me thinking about narratives as revealed by different records. For instance, if you read all the text messages you have saved to and from any one person, a certain story is told. But is the same story revealed when you look through the emails exchanged with that same person? Or letters, if there were letters? Extrapolating from this, I wondered what kind of narrative would emerge if I recorded as scientifically as I could, in chronological order, my visual memory of this person. After spending a large part of this afternoon doing this, my little green book ran out of pages before I could get to the end of my exercise. Thus, the story that got recorded read like a little tragedy due merely to the random fact that the little notebook I bought had only 100 pages instead of say, 120. Or that my handwriting today was not smaller.

Apparently, Jean-Paul Sartre, as a young man in Hamburg or somewhere, wandered into a pub and spent an evening chatting and drinking to a woman. At some point, she excused herself to go to the bathroom. In her absence, he imagined the evening unfolding towards the inevitable sexual encounter. He imagined the farewell the morning after, followed by the exchanges of letters that might come afterwards. Suddenly, he had an existential epiphany that life need not be made up of narratives such as he was imagining, but was in fact, just random moments strung together. He then got up and left and never saw this woman again.

(I told this story to David, who said, he was just chicken)

Are the stories real, people ask of [storm] or of my solo. They are all stories. Linda Putnam says we are paid to lie but in order to lie we must live as truthfully as possible.

I told Sébastien that I wanted to love him without a story. Is this possible? Or is the quest to find a lie that is closest to the truth, which is always formless and in motion?

Monday, November 26, 2007

letting go

I might have to cut a section of the writing for the solo that I am quite attached to. I see the logic of it. But it pains me.


In a few hours I will be doing a run of the solo, trying out a new order. Kugler and Jesse will be there. My body suddenly feels incapable of doing anything except lying in bed all day. I look ahead at all that I have to do in the solo and feel crippled by it. The solo feels like a long journey across difficult terrain and I don't know if I can make it.

But I know this place, of course. It is the familiar place that comes before every performance, every dance. This place of unpreparedness despite the weeks, months, years of preparing. The feeling that you might actually die before you make it to the end of this self-inflicted rite of passage.

And I know, also, of course, that I will make it. That somehow, the dance gets danced.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

embracing neurosis

Over lunch with Caroline Liffman the other day, we talked about the parts of ourselves we present, embrace and the parts we judge, hide. I said that I judge neurosis in people and had cultivated a persona for myself that was as far from that as was possible: calm, grounded, organised. But really, I can be completely neurotic. Caroline said she had no problem embracing her neurosis.

Well, I am trying out this neurotic thing.

So on Friday, after my 10th attempt at my knitting project started to unravel just as I almost got to the end, I hurled myself into a fit of anxiety about ridiculous things. Such as, how was I going to pack for two months in France in winter/spring and then a month in the equator in Malaysia, take my cameras, my computer, my hard-drive, my costumes, my props, my knives, my corkscrew, my wine glasses, my sword...AND travel light??? What if French people HATE my solo? What if I can't even make it through my solo (because suddenly, 70 minutes seems like an eternity), never mind perform it AND Body-Scan in the same night for a week. What MADNESS made me to agree to TWO world premieres in one week???

David rolled his eyes and told me to shut up.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


After a week of putting up with the rest of world and all their needs - grant deadlines, panels, roundtables, insecure presenters, never mind performing (imagine that! performing!) - I went back into the studio today.

Aahh..the joy of being alone. Free to indulge in my own beauty. Free to strive for beauty without worrying about other people's bourgeois fears.

the artist and the audience

Sometimes (more often than you wish, actually) you sit in the audience and see them go crazy over something you, well, hate. And you think, why would I want to make work for them? Because you want to give your gift to someone you love. How then to love an audience that you think is stupid?

Conversely, sometimes (more often than you wish) while sitting in an audience you think the artist is stupid. How then to receive a gift from someone you think is stupid?

Thus we discover the myriad ways in which our bodies harden, our minds harden. If we do not use our values - what we like, what don't like, what we think clever, what we think stupid - as markers of our identity who are we? Who is this fluid self? How do we avoid being annihilated by other people's rigidity, how do we avoid being annihilated by our own rigidity?

Monday, November 19, 2007


I am mistrustful of beauty. It can wake you up but it can also anesthesize you. Our longing for beauty - is it to wake us up to the myriad possibilities and power in the world; or is it a desire to go to sleep - avoid the pain and ugliness around us.

How can dance - an artform that is intrinsically connected to beauty - wake us up?

Sunday, November 18, 2007


I wonder if there is a relationship between saya and sayang.

I, slave, beloved.


Thursday, November 15, 2007


Today I felt the loneliness of the solo space that I had anticipated last year.

The ritual of preparation. The journey alone out there on stage. And afterward: the lonely hunker in the dressing room.

Even though I had David and James before-hand to support me with sound and lights. Even though I had David afterwards to listen to me rage and sob.

saya, me, moi

whoa! I just discovered, via fellow-blogger, writer and film-maker Amir Muhammad (, that "saya" - I, in Malay - comes from "sahaya" - slave. (in Arabic? Sanskrit?)

Very cool.

For some strange reason, that has cheered me up considerably.


The day after opening night of Dance In Vancouver. I danced a 30-minute excerpt from my solo to the dancerati.

I am in a rage.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

lovers and teachers

I don't know how to love without hurling myself off a cliff over and over again. So, as I find myself here at the bottom, crawling about amidst the debris of my pride (never mind the bits of organs), I ask myself what I am supposed to learn from all this.

Or is it all just fodder for the art machine?

Monday, November 12, 2007

how to give without expecting anything in return #4

I am having a bit of crisis in my faith that this is possible. A snag in my quest.

The other day, in class, we were working on giving. Making sure the gift had been received before you move on to the next thing (of taking nourishment from the earth and the sky, and creating more gifts to give away). I noticed in myself a tendency to take back the gift. Not really give it away. Someone in class said that sometimes when the gift came back to you it was a shock to the system.

I said, that the flip side of giving was to receive. It seems that it is hard to truly receive. Without judgement. Without mistrust.

Is it possible to love if one is not loved back?
Or is it enough that the gift is received?
But to receive seems to be such a difficult thing, how then to give so that the gift is light?

It all seems impossible.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

pig skin

I love hu pe. Pig skin. Stewed with lobak and fishballs. Mmmm. It reminds me of grandma even if I don't remember ever eating hu pe that she cooked. Did she even cook it? Probably. She cooked pig brains, pig kidneys, pig liver, pig stomach, pig intestines (filled with egg), pig trotters...she must have cooked pig skin.

the fucking long tassel #3

Today my long-tassel sword went very well. I almost got to the very end feeling quite connected. And the goose-landing move of the big palm actually is flowing very well.

Thank god it's possible to learn things despite oneself.

I realised that last year I was full of resistance about the long-tassel sword. No, it's not possible. I can't. No, that can't be right.

But this fall, I have felt myself submitting to it. And the tassel is obeying me more and more. Or maybe I am obeying the tassel.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


I have been thinking about Ghent: sometimes you think you are opening yourself up, when really, you are just showing off. You think you are revealing yourself but really you are presenting yourself. When the you that is being presented is ignored you think you are not being seen. But really, maybe your beloved, the Other sees the you that is closer to the truth and that throws into question all you think you are.

Sébastien said that I have a hard time relinquishing control (and at that time, I thought he was full of shit and my body and mind hardened without my realising it)

David said this morning, why don't you just try being vulnerable.

Adrienne said last night, sometimes you put yourself into situations and relationships in which you are forced to unlearn old habits and learn new ones.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


ok. no. I think I'm ok.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Sometimes I am full of shit. I talk too much and it's not even charming.

I fear I have lost my beloved.

Monday, October 29, 2007


OK maybe the muse hasn't left me. Maybe I can allow myself the hope that I still have a beloved to whom I can offer all my efforts, and the months ahead of work will not be as lonely as I thought.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

ablutions and humiliations

I wake up in the mornings much too early. At 5:30, sometimes earlier, no matter what time zone I am in, no matter if I am jetlagged, no matter what time I went to bed the night before.

In the past, this has been a blessing, allowing me to spend some time by myself before the day gets going, before the child wakes up, before meetings have to be attended, classes taught, rehearsal to be run. But presently, this space by myself just offers me too much opportunity to fall into an obsessive-compulsive ritual of 1) a hopeful checking of emails, followed by 2) a dashing of hopes, then 3) weeping (is today's cry a little shorter than yesterday's?).

Then, after the coffee, after the child has been taken to school, after the other daily ablutions, I do a practice. And miraculously, at the end of it, I feel more able to take on the day.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Tony Leung

After watching Wen Wei's new piece (so much beauty I was anaestheticized), I went with Kugler to see Ang Lee's latest film, Lust, Caution. The film - pff - while not quite nul, was unsatisfying. But Tony Leung is HOT.

He also reminded me of Sébastien.

Friday, October 19, 2007

chicken with mama sauce

This is what I cook for Junhong as comfort food for both of us. The comfort comes in both the cooking and the eating. It is a chicken recipe that is inspired by my grandmother's chicken dish. She would put tons of shitake mushrooms in it when she cooked it for me because she knew I liked them. Before the rest of the family arrived for dinner, she would fish the mushrooms out for me especially, to make sure I got my fill of them.

I make my version with or without shitake mushrooms because Junhong is his own man and does not love shitake mushrooms like I do.

This dish says remember, I love you. You are my best beloved.

Chicken braised with Ginger
A good hunk of fresh ginger - say, the size of 2 thumbs - sliced.
8 chicken thighs
dried shitake mushrooms - soaked in hot water till soft.
oyster sauce
rice wine or vermouth or sherry

brown chicken thighs in pan, skin side down. Turn over. Once the underside is brown, throw in ginger and toss around. After a minute, pour in a splash or two or wine/vermouth/sherry. When the alcohol has evaporated, add enough water to barely cover the chicken. Stir in a couple tablespoons of oyster sauce. Place shitake mushrooms around chicken. Cover and simmer for 30 - 45 minutes, until chicken and mushrooms are tender. Season with salt and white pepper to taste.

Green onion and Ginger sauce
1 bunch of green onions
a hunk of fresh ginger - 1 or 2 thumbs, depending on how gingery you like it.
1/4 cup vegetable oil (canola or peanut)
dash of sesame oil

chop green onions finely.
grate ginger.
Mix both with a pinch of salt and half a teaspoon of sugar (or to taste) in small heatproof bowl.
Heat vegetable oil till almost smoking.
Pour hot oil into green onion mixture. Hear the sizzle. Inhale the aroma. Mix well.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

citizenship #2

A few weeks ago I received a summons from the sherrif's office to report for jury duty. This is the second time I have been so summoned in my 7 years as citizen of this country. Despite my pride (indeed!) at being asked to partake in this duty of citizenry, this is also the second time I have asked to be excused, each time writing long eloquent letters about how it would cause not only financial hardship but would disrupt the programming of many organizations around me.

Today I received a letter from the sherrif (I can't help but picture a guy with a cowboy hat, a star on his breast, a gun and pointy boots...)saying

Dear Su-Feh Lee,
You have requested to be excused from jury duty.
You are excused.

Aah..such simplicity of words.

Monday, October 15, 2007


my body is my temple
my body is my lab
my body is my nation

How to be open to new experiences and new definitions without being lacerated?
In opening up oneself to new experiences, one inevitably opens up to disease and mortality. Yet to close the doors and shutters is to create dis-ease and to eventually die of hunger.
How then to let go of control as a way of defining oneself - how to respond to change by subtly adjusting and re-organising instead of setting up impermeable borders and armours.

How to live freely, transforming the embrace of Eros and Thanatos into a fearless dance with the cosmos?


Benoît said that sometimes you have a right to take, and not always be giving, as a performer.

I am reminded that the whole obsession about giving without asking for something in return had a second part, which I seem to have forgotten lately:

How to steal without incurring a sense of loss in the one you have stolen from?

Friday, October 12, 2007

the pork recipe

If I can no longer dance or make art, I can always become famous for my slow-roasted pork shoulder:

2 tbs coriander seeds
1 tbs fennel seeds
1 tbs peppercorns
12 cloves
1 tbs seasalt
2 bay leaves
2 tbs coarse chop fresh rosemary
6 cloves garlic thinly sliced

grind above
score pork fat (skinless unrolled untied shoulder- 4 or 5 lbs)
cover in rub. leave in fridge overnight.
pat off excess rub. cook fat side up at 225° C. for 15 minutes. Turn oven
down to 125°C. and bake for 6-8 hours. let stand 15 minutes before

letting go

This morning as I said to Benoît that I was feeling a sudden lack of confidence in my ability to dance, I felt the sudden prick of tears in my eyes. Tears of fear and loss. If the new sensation of dancing as if in the arms of your beloved is not to be trusted, how to know where to dance from?

Benoît suggested that old tools had their place if there was alignment.

David said last night, sometimes you think you are giving when really you are asking.

I want my fluid self to be part of a great river, not a mushy puddle.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

pleasure is delusional

This summer, while working on my solo, I was thrilled at the discovery of dancing as if in the arms of your beloved. So pleasurable, so easy, I thought I had discovered the wheel or something: a response to the usual framework it seemed to me that dance operated from - dancing in longing for the beloved. I thought I had discovered a new value system to change the world with.

Well, this morning, I looked for the first time at the video of my solo showing at the end of July. Well, holy crap, fuck that shit. What a namby pamby body. Dancing as if in the arms of your beloved makes for crap art.

Same thing when Benoît and I were looking at videos of the Body-Scan process the other night. Parts that we remembered as particularly pleasurable to be in were horrendous to watch.

So, if pleasure is delusional, does that mean pain is the alternative? No. Because pain is equally delusional.

Curiosity is my proposition.


This morning, in Benoît's living room, I did a yoga practice and then sat and meditated for 20 minutes. Om shanti shanti shanti. Afterwards, I marvelled, rather unyogically, at my AWESOME ability to centre myself amidst the clutter of somebody else's life, amidst the obsessive-compulsive chatter of my brain, and despite the ache of a bruised heart. I AM SO THE CENTRE OF THE UNIVERSE!

Then Benoît and I sat together over coffee and made each other feel better about life.
I told him the story of my midwives during Junhong's birth and was comforted myself:

During the transition between the labour and the active pushing - that very difficult place called The Transition, I remember being in the bath crying and feeling panic-stricken that I was going to be stuck in this place for the rest of my life. That I wasn't going to transition. In the midst of this fear, I heard the sound of cards being laid on the table in a game of patience by the very calm midwives. I remember thinking, what the fuck..? What the hell do they think they're doing playing cards when I am in crisis here? Then one of them came over and said, don't worry, the baby always comes out in the end.

Well, she was right.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

the beloved

Can you love someone who cannot receive it? Can you send a message if there is no receiver? Can you touch someone who does not want to be touched?


I am in Montréal, getting what I didn't get in Ghent:

A good meal. Quite a few good meals in fact. I am sitting in a restaurant called Romeo on Mont-Royal drinking my second glass of primitivo with a very good salad of yellow and red beets.

And today, while in a fetal position in Tonja's arms, crying - being held.

scanning for an orgasm

In Body-Scan, we are proposing a body that is in constant re-organisation so that it can receive and transmit without lacerating itself. This requires a practice of listening intently and responding to EVERYTHING, being ready to let go of desire, of goals, being open to change. So that your perception of yourself can change and be fluid. So that YOU can change and be fluid.

Today, while working with Benoît and Tonja, I wondered, only half-jokingly, if this meant that I would not be able to have an orgasm while working on this project. Because to have an orgasm is often to close off certain sensations while concentrating on following one or a few to the end.

Benoît suggested that it was a whole bunch of little pleasures. A tantric experience.
All well and good, but as someone has said, sometimes life is too short for tantric sex.

Friday, September 28, 2007


Often I am reminded that to love someone is to have the ability to hurt them deeply.

Or maybe to be loved by someone is to have the ability to hurt them deeply.

How then to love so that the love is not a burden?

Monday, September 24, 2007

the spaces between languages

At the end of the first day of the conversazione, in response to Alain Gagnon's lecture on Québec identity, I noted, as if it were a problem, that the fact that the marker of identity for the Québécois being language and the marker of identity for Anglophones being institutions already presented a décalage of common ground. Two frameworks by-passing each other.

But by the end of the second day, this bypassing of the two languages, seemed to be the very thing that made the Canadian experiment work, albeit irritatingly. As Alain said to me in our conversation after dinner, On se parle, quand même.

And in the spaces between languages, while we listen and wait patiently to understand the other, we allow for the possibility of multiple voices and languages to enter our consciousness.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

the fucking long-tassel #2

Yang Shifu, his arteries threatening to explode with every brief walk, his wife Shimu dying of cancer in the bedroom, is alert to the approach of death. In response, he has decided to make me the keeper of the long-tassel sword form, insisting on working on the details with me - "Make proficient". All this would be well and good except that he keeps forgetting stuff. We end up yelling at each other. Well, I yell at him (I am so disrespectful..) and he laughs at my irreverance.

Still, he manages to give me notes that solve three-year old mysteries even as he sheepishly admits, after looking at his notes, that I am right after all about a sequence of moves.

Thus, I fall into the embrace of study, into the embrace of this relationship with an old man. But I too am alert to the inevitability of loss.


During dinner, after spending a weekend hearing words like "loyalty", "duty", "sacrifice" spoken in relation to citizensip and national identity, it occurred to me that it was possible to think of your nation as the beloved to whom you offer all your efforts.

And the state of which one became citizen, was the state that would accept the offerings.

It is enough that the beloved accepts.

But I did not say this to anyone. Because I could tell that I was already on the verge of being dismissed as the raving lunatic artist in the room (I swear, the things I said were very tame. Really.)


hobey-dobey is the word that Junhong coined for the people who bought million-dollar townhouses overlooking the courthyard where the children's playground is and who now yell at the kids to shut up.

On Friday I left in the morning to the Oxford-Boston-Melbourne-Vancouver conversazione full of vigour and enthusiasm - eager to be stimulated by international intellectuals. David, in his usual cynicism about academia, said, "Good luck with the intellectual hobey-dobeys".

It turned out I really needed that luck.

By mid-afternoon Saturday I found myself crying in the washroom: exhausted from the effort of not leaving my fork in the eye of an Australian white supremacist over lunch, disoriented at the overwhelming conservatism permeating the intelligentsia; and depressed, depressed beyond belief at the stupendous lack of imagination in the world. Also fatigued: fatigued and burdened by having to bear the responsibility of speaking on behalf of the multicultural hordes in this anachronistic anglo-centric bubble of myopia and fear.

It is not so easy to do as Naipaul says, to take it on the chin and move on.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


I feel like crap.

Last night, after cooking and eating a fantastic dinner of grilled sirloin on baby arugula from the garden, fettucine tossed with pesto (made by Adrienne and David from basil from the garden), sautéed green beans (also from the garden) accompanied by the baux de provence I brought back, and finishing it all with the macaroons from Ladurée (ah..the squeals of delight from all. I felt like Prometheus bringing light!) ...I threw up everything.

My neck, which felt perfect all these weeks in France, had seized up earlier in the day.

The body, after 4 weeks in ascendance, open to stimulation in all aspects, can only go so far.

But there is a certain pleasure in giving in to the fall. Especially when I can fall into the embrace of my child, when I can fall into the quiet refuge of having coffee in bed with David, talking about everything from love to politics in Ancient Greece...

Friday, September 14, 2007

true north #2

That first whiff of Vancouver air when one steps out of the airport ...aahh..Pacific ocean, rainforest.

The first meal home: eggy rice noodles with shrimp, which David got especially for me from the Congee Noodle House..aah..comfort food.

Accompanied by world wine, so bold and forward..even if it did not go with the Hor Fun.

First snuggle with sleepy Junhong...he's grown.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

long-lost love #2

Today I went on a date with Paris. Without nostalgia for an old relationship. Just a curiosity about the present.

So I wandered through Le Marais, a quartier I have never really known, looking at snooty galleries with Laetitia, wrinkling our noses at cold art. Then, while looking at a couple of clothing stores, I was seduced by a dress. Later, after Laetitia left, I found a small "bar à vins d'auteurs" and let the owner bring me recommendations while I ate a dinner of salade des lentilles and foie de veau aux girolles. The salad was very good. The calf's liver, though very good, did not really go with the chanterelles nor the figs that garnished the plate, à mon avis, but the wines were delicious. I drank a bordeaux, then a côtes du rhone, then a fancy thing from the provence. The owner made a drawing of me and gave it to me. I think I charmed him. (I am very aware of how charming I am at the moment..)

On the way to the metro, I had to pick my way through an army of drunk Scottish rugby fans in kilts. I was both amused and afeart for my life..

Monday, September 10, 2007


Being back in the city that played a huge part in the formation of my identity and politics - alone without family this time and miraculously seeing both Kathy and Laetitia together again - it should be a really intense experience. But I am strangely at ease. I feel ready to kick this city's ass.

lari leong/traces of one's dancing #2

Yesterday, working on the film about Lari, felt like we were trying to reconstitute the man by articulating all the different bits and pieces he had left within us. I realised, after watching the 12 minutes of archival stuff Marc showed us, that I had forgotten how fluid Lari was. How stunningly beautiful. Christophe mentioned the word non-effort. Later, listening to Marc tell us the story of how Lari got to Paris via London via Hong Kong - a young Asian man in the late sixties, arriving in dance via movies, via fashion - I was struck by how little I knew of Lari. I never knew these things about him. All I knew was what I wanted in him - that fluidity, that effortlessness in the ability to glide through the elements, passing from one matter to another.

And I was amazed at how much we can be marked by someone we have never really known. Someone who, through an accident of timing and history, never managed, despite a certain brilliance, to emerge out of the relative obscurity of having been exoticised.

I feel I must now reconsider my insistence that in order to have an effect on the world, one must find ways to be free of the objectification that comes with being exotic...

Sunday, September 2, 2007


This project, Body-Scan, and being here in France, feels like a meeting of long-lost loves and long-awaited desires. A multi-faceted romance involving 7 people with different histories with each other at its core; then multiple ricochets and connections with the world around us.

We have been working on refining the fundamental score of the piece. How to engage with the world through multiple touches in a way that does not compromise the integrity of our body in this world. A constant re-organisation of the body in its environment giving rise to different relationships and emotions.

Then there is the delicious anticipation of planned "scores" with the beloved. How will the imagined encounter the real? Are we ready to reveal ourselves truly and to see (and smell) truly?

la vie est belle

Yesterday, Éliane took us to the market - me, Stephen and Tonja. We bought rabbit, amongst other things. I bought a Laguiole jack-knife.

At around lunchtime, Jacques Blanc came over for a casual visit. Following a collectively impulse to see the ocean, we then piled into a car and followed him to Conquet, where his house overlooks the body of water that is between the Channel and the Atlantic. We swam in the cold sea. I screamed into the universe as I entered the water. But then it was beautifully green and clear. Looking back at the beach from the water, I felt, for a moment, third beach, pulau perhentian and conquet all become one in my body. An odd sense of being at home.

We spent a few hours on the beach. I sat on a rock and modelled for Yannick's photographic efforts.

Then we went back to Jacques' house where we had tea accompanied by biscuits and ice-cream, all the while starring blissfully out at the ocean.

That night we welcomed Robert, who was arriving from New York, with an epic plate of cheeses and paté from the market. I cooked the rabbit with olives and anchovies, served with roasted vegetables. Stephen steamed the artichokes and served them with herbed butter. As for dessert, Tonja served us, with cream, honey and hazelnuts, the blueberries that she had collected the previous day in Sweden.

Later, as I was going to bed after watching A Chinese Ghost Story (I realised that it could be a metaphor for an intercultural long-distance relationship), I found a text-message from S. that made the day perfect.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


When they said Le Manoir, I thought they were being facetious. But it IS a manoir. With huge grounds. I am staying in the tower adjacent to it. I feel I ought to have long golden braids to throw down to my prince lover.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


On Sunday, we watched the first Harry Potter film and squealed and marveled at how YOUNG everyone had been.

Earlier, Junhong had insisted on bringing out every photo album we had and looking through them. He marveled at himself as a baby. David and I marveled (and were shocked) at how young we had been when we first met.

Today David and I had dinner at Brix(what a fantastic winelist!) and celebrated our 21st anniversary (which is actually two days away but I shall be on a plane..), and marveled that part of the accumulation of a life together was, in fact, the accumulation of loss: the loss of youth, of a certain kind of love and desire. What we gain in its place, however, is the capacity to raise a glass (and two, and three) in celebration of that loss.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

love & pain

Today was my last class with Yang Shifu before I leave for France. My ankle was acting up so he gave me a leisurely massage, my foot on his lap for half an hour while we listen to David and Naman discuss details of the broadsword form. He lectures me on the importance of being still in order to move (I know, I know, already). He is affectionate though and it's not the lesson that's important here. Sometimes his thumb digs into very tender places and I yell and hit things around me in order to cope. He laughs and says, no, this is not pain, what is it? (I don't know what it is. But must reluctantly admit that it is, in fact, not pain. Maybe just fear)

Later, in an abberation from his usual business-minded self, he gives me a short tassel. Refuses any money for it.

He loves me. Despite myself, I love him too.

I am not looking forward to when he dies.


I bought a new sword yesterday. A chinese straight sword - very beautifully crafted. Very well-balanced. I bought it from a sword shop on Cambie. This store carried all kinds of swords, from samurai swords to medieval ones. The store was filled with geeks. A guy who took five minutes to bend over and five minutes to stand up again walked out with a tomahawk. A really chunky guy who did not look like he did any exercise at all bought a very expensive samurai sword. As I walked out with my purchase, the 8th in my collection?, quite turned on actually, I had to admit that I too was a sword-fetish geek.

Friday, August 10, 2007


I am inexplicably happy. I got a good review from Seattle, performing to a bunch of strangers. And my usual cynicism about journalists is merely a faint annoyance. I am tanked. On a cotes du rhône and then a spanish thing.

This morning I practised Bagua in the courtyard and it was transformative. My hard-drive had fallen off the kitchen counter before that and being irritated, feeling like the electronic world was conspiring against me, I didn't think I could make it through a bagua practice. But I actually managed to flow through the small palms and then the big palm set. Afterwards, it didn't matter that I had lost everything on my hard-drive. The practice is so perfect. It gets you COMPLETELY ready for anything, COMPLETELY able to cope with anything.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

punci szag, not putzy sog

Apparently, Eva, when she was dancing with Trisha Brown, was performing "glacial decoy" and had forgotten to bring her underpants, so Vick, the other hungarian dancing in the company, offered her hers. Eva told her that she would be happy to wear them as long as she didn't mind her punci szag on them.

This reminds me of when May Lyn and I were in Teater Kanak-kanak, on tour with Si-Geroda to some small town like Batu Gajah. Arriving at the dormitory-like accomodations, late at night on the bus, one of us (we were 16?) discovered that our period had just arrived. The other one of us was at the tail end of our period. And in an act of girly friendship, we shared a used sanitary pad. I actually no longer have ANY IDEA who lent whom whose bloody sanitary pad...

But I will forever love May Lyn.

Monday, August 6, 2007

true north

I arrived home, late, to find a sign by the door, propped open invitingly by a shoe:

"Wake Junhong up! And snnugle."

Then, on the kitchen counter, next to a glass of Malbec and a bowl of fishballs and porkskin stew from the night market, another sign: "Have a nice snack"

David sat with me as I ate and we exchanged news, got caught up with our lives and loves.

Then, after a long bath, I woke Junhong up and we snuggled..

land of the free #3

It is a good thing that nature abhors symmetry.

My last day in Seattle:

I skipped class with Stephanie Skura and had a long and delicious breakfast by myself at Café Presse (thanks, Brian, for the introduction!) - baked eggs with ham and gruyère.

Later, I had equally delicious dances at the final jam. Goodbye dances with the handsome boy from day one (who turns out to be Blake from Iowa) the mountain woman from Montana (who turns out to be Jen); plus new dances with a whole slew of others. I taught Seattle how to make paper airplanes.

Sitting around in the circle, "harvesting", I was reminded of why I love dancers again. The simple joy of sharing a good dance can make you fall in love with strangers.

The greyhound on the way back to Vancouver was pleasantly uneventful. In a perverse impulse to test the laws of symmetry I HAD to buy a pepperoni stick at the duty-free shop. It did not taste like dogfood. But I did not finish it.

The moon, no longer full, was a wedge of apple (some people say peach, but I insist it was an apple) instead.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

putzy sog

I performed an excerpt of my solo last night at the faculty show. I made people laugh! I was funny! Yes! I found my clown!

I realised later - for some reason it hadn't occurred to me earlier - that this was the first time I was performing the solo to a room full of strangers. (No wonder I had been nervous beforehand) It was exhilarating.

Later, at the very rigorous feedback salon facilitated by Vanessa DeWolf and Kris Wheeler, Eva Karczag taught me how to say smelly cunt in Hungarian.

And then, much later, back at the house, I drank wine and chatted with Teri Carter, Linda Austin and Eva and caught a glimpse of the American lineage back to the Judson Church. I felt honoured.

Friday, August 3, 2007

permeability #2

Yesterday, in Stephanie's class we worked on a Skinner technique of imagining wisps of mists travelling along the skin, following the spiralling tendrils of that mist in order to move while soft and open. Later, we worked in partners on touch, one person touching the other benevolently, yet surprising the partner with sudden changes of rhythm, direction, pressure. As a dancer, you are left in a place of surrender to the nudgings of your benevolent partner, dancing with a new freedom and abandon.

Similarly, you can follow the nudgings of your beloved's imagination, wisps of mists that curl, wrap and graze along your mind, surprising you with sudden changes of rhythm, direction and pressure. Thus, you are rendered soft, open, released and in submission to your benevolent master.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


There is a moment, in class or in rehearsal, when the dancer arrives at a state that is new to her. I see her body soften, her eyes bright and shiny with a new-found pleasure. She submits to me. I feel like Shiva, her dance-god-lover come to serve her, lead her to her bliss.

land of the free #2

I have not found a good meal yet. Yesterday I had dinner with my roommate Linda at a restaurant nearby. I had a strange looking and strange tasting albacore tuna which left my tummy feeling not so good. Way more expensive than the pepperoni stick but not much better.

I have, however, found a very nice café. I am now sitting in it, having a very good soy latté and eating a very nice slice of chocolate orange bread. Yesterday, the owner Brian gave me a sprig of lavender as a gift. Thus charmed, I am going to come here every day till I leave.

I taught a good class yesterday and in the jam last night I had a nice dance with a good-looking boy who had also impressed me in my class. Later I flew about on a mountain woman from Montana.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Oh, apparently you can't swim in the dead sea because it's too salty. So:

I caught a glimpse of the full moon under which Sébastien FLOATED. Half a world away.

taking care, in the land of the free

Yesterday, the greyhound bus: chubby pimply adolescent boy next to me drinking 4 cans of cheap beer between Bellingham and Seattle. To recover from this experience, I risked life and limb doing contact in a massive jam. Danced non-stop for 90 minutes and survived. On the way home, I could find nothing to eat except a pepperoni stick that tasted like dogfood.

But I caught a glimpse of the full moon under which Sébastien swam, half a world away.

Monday, July 30, 2007

two dragons

Going over the long-tasseled sword yesterday, I had a temper tantrum. Yang Shifu, as usual, was driving me CRAZY picking on every single mistake, changing things (and insisting nothing was different). I yelled at him ("But this is what you taught me last week!). He laughed at me (No!). He looks amused when I have a temper tantrum. An old dragon laughing at a younger one. Later on, as if to mollify me, he compliments me on a move by saying "Perfect!"


Charming liar.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


In the dialectic of object and subject, where sits narcissus? He is both object and subject. This seems to be like the taoist no-no of being double-weighted. A kind of cancelling out of energies so that change and flow is no longer possible. Unless, like narcissus, the gods take pity on you and turn you into a flower.

Dancing as object. Dancing as subject. Dancing as the beloved. Dancing to the beloved. All these ways of dancing offer possibilities for giving and taking. But it seems when you dance as Narcissus, imprisoned by your own beauty, all you inspire is pity.


I should be happier. I did a showing of the first draft of my solo yesterday. It went pretty well I think. Some things became clearer. Some things remain fuzzy. People cried. They even laughed. I got wet from tears, sweat and saliva.

But I feel a sense of loss.

Like saying goodbye to something, someone you don't really know very well but that has been a part of your life for the past few weeks.

This is it for the solo for a while. I don't get to work on it again till the fall. It has been a process in which eros has been very present.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

the usefulness of eminem

It is useful, when you are pissed off, such as when you don't get a grant or people dont't text-message you, to listen to eminem really, really loudly.

Suck my cock, Vancouver (yeah I got one!) Kiss my ass, world.

Monday, July 23, 2007


Did not get a text-message before my rehearsal today. I considered just curling up in a foetal position for three hours. But somehow ended up running the rabbit-killing scene a few times and then running the second half of the solo.

It's good to know that when one is not inspired, there's all that discipline and rigour to get you through it all. But oh god, it's hard work. Thank heavens there's wine to be had at the end of the day.

Friday, July 20, 2007

making a girl happy

Yesterday, while waiting to get into the studio (amongst a crowd of parents waiting to pick up their kids from summer dance & theatre camp, sneaking a peek at Noam and Nigel rehearsing to Edith Piaf and a wonky Oh Canada - what must they think??), I received a text-message that turned my body into soft, pliable, molten,

Dancing was so EASY after that!!

Now, if only I could get one before every rehearsal..

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

desire & longing

Maybe that's the key to dancing without lacerating the body. Often it seems as if we dance from a place of longing. The body empty, filled only with longing for that capricious dance-god-lover. We are reduced (or driven) to being that dancer of the Varnam, OCDing about whether the flowers are OK, whether you smell alright, whether the furniture is arranged in the right place. But if we dance from a place of being desired, as if we were already in the arms of the lover-god, the body is soft and open and full. Dance, then, as if you've just been fucked.

No. Because sometimes that leaves you empty and filled with longing also.

Dance as the beloved. Dance to the beloved.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

the beloved #3/desire & longing

The last week or so I have been trying to find the spaces inside my body and dancing from the awareness of those spaces. Yesterday I realised I needed to let that go. Trust that those spaces would be there. Today I danced with the awareness of my senses - seeing, smelling, tasting, feeling, hearing - on the one hand, to be more fully in the present - in this room, in this configuration of dust, tape on floor, marks on mirrors, leaves on trees; on the other hand, to retrieve, from my own body, the memory of the beloved's - his smell, the feel of his skin, his hair.

I discovered the joy of dancing as the desired. Instead of always in longing. I danced with ease. The inflammation in my neck & shoulder disappeared.

A rare moment in which joy was NOT the source of all my pain...

the extended family

Yesterday we went to Adrienne's house to eat a dinner of braised bison shortribs. They were delicious. Then we played with her computer's camera.

I confessed to all, my phobia of all things arts and crafty. And about how stressed I was about accompanying Junhong to Camp Clay tomorrow. Adrienne, who has experience in these things offered to come along and hold my hand. I happily accepted. After Camp Clay we will meet up with David and we will all go and watch Harry Potter together.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Yesterday I swam in the ocean for the first time this year. All the irritation I had felt the previous day got washed away. I love being out there at 3rd beach (though the picture is of me at 2nd beach). In the water, looking in and seeing the green of Stanley Park. The temperatures are different but the colours remind me of swimming at Perhentian.(OK, the water at Perhentian is bluer)

Later I got a massage from Vincent. But it was all for nought because I went to see Transformers with Junhong and by the end of the movie my neck felt all uptight again from having to brace itself against a two-hour onslaught of loud, giant robots.

On the way back on the seawall, we saw a Lamborgini parked outside Urban Fare. Had to take a picture to add to our collection of Junhong in front of Italian cars.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Even the pleasure of watching Shay Kuebler, Amber Funk and a bunch of eager dancers dance with youthful abandon could not assuage the general irritation I feel at the moment for the world..

I am in an addictive place at the moment. In a perpetual hunger. Hunger for certain people. Hunger for words. For a certain touch. Hunger also for being alone in the studio. Couldn't find as much studio space as I wanted this week and so it has been 4 continuous days since I was last in the studio alone. This morning I walked into the studio to do class with Nigel Charnock (THAT was fun) and suddenly that studio seemed so small. But there were only 3 people in there at that time. I had become so used to being in that big room by myself. Taking up all that space with my big giant self...

I need to get out of here.

Saturday, July 7, 2007


The muse is back. My offerings have a beloved to go to.
Summer is here. I will go to the beach with Junhong and smell of sunscreen and sea salt all summer

Friday, July 6, 2007

How to give without expecting anything in return #3

Finding someone to be kind to, however, is not as straightforward as it might seem. Last year some guy decided he wanted to donate part of his liver to a complete stranger. He had to spend months trying to convince doctors and psychologists that he wasn't crazy or with a deathwish. After going through a battery of tests he finally got to donate part of his liver to a child. His liver grew back. See? Like Prometheus. Organs do regenerate. And in the regeneration, you are transformed by the experience. The edges of your being shift. You become fluid.

For some reason this reminds me of Sita going through her trials to prove to Rama that she had been pure during her captivity by Ravana.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

How to give without expecting anything in return #2

It occurs to me that kindness for its own sake is quite a difficult thing to practise. Kindness is often a means to an end. Part of the currency in the exchange of emotions, chemicals, goods. But when all those things are stripped away, kindness actually doesn't cost you anything. You can continue to be kind for its own sake. Because kindness can transform you and teach you things about the edges of your capacity. But it takes practice.

Monday, July 2, 2007


I showed my solo to Junhong today. He said it made him cry.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

obliteration #2

And then there is Bruce Willis in Live Free Die Hard.

Friday, June 29, 2007


Yesterday Yang Shifu, on reading my copy of Chuangzi, talked about formlessness in Baguazhang. About moving to a place of no shape, no shadow. Last night, I spent a night in which my mind and body were almost obliterated (is this a good thing? It was an interesting thing). Today, in rehearsal I worked on the section of killing, eviscerating and butchering rabbits. Afterwards, lying on the floor in Svasana, I felt completely empty.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

long-lost stranger

I've been seeing this guy around for about 15 years, at first around Commercial Drive and then around Strathcona. I think he would have coffee at what used to be the Roma cafe. I don't think I paid too much attention to him other than noting that he was vaguely attractive. But one day, years ago, he appeared in an erotic dream of mine. After this moment, I felt as if I was in a relationship with him and I think I started looking at him differently, maybe shyly, as if we had shared something illicit. I imagined that in response, he looked at me differently too.

Maybe about 5 years ago,after not having seen him for years, while I was teaching Billy taiji in Maclean Park, I saw him walk by. I was struck by a shock of recognition. Like seeing an old lover. Even Billy noticed it. Yet this guy was a complete stranger.

Today, coming out of SOMA, I found myself at the bus stop with him. I finally introduced myself to him, as if to an old friend.


Sometimes the softest touch can permeate the body. The edges of your body dissolve, your eyes soften and everything becomes liquid, fluid. Sometimes the skin seems like an impenetrable armour; and then the only way to touch is to be violent, penetrating through obvious orifices, as well as through openings in the mind.
And then there is the surgical precision of finding a pressure point, useful when encountering a closed body and closed mind, entering with clarity and skill, with little effort.

Monday, June 25, 2007

when in doubt, kick some ass

I went into rehearsal today eager to rediscover the space that I discovered last Friday in the body. I spent 90 minutes preparing, breathing, rocking, mitzvah-ing, looking inward, looking outward and opened up all the orifices I could find in my body. But no dance-god came to fill up those orifices, despite all the mirrors waiting. Not wanting to feel like a dejected lover, I decided to do some wushu kicking drills. Then I fucked that capricious god-lover up his ass. Sometimes you just have to do it dirty.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

the beloved #2

From a review in the TLS of Shadi Bartsch's The Mirror of the Self:

" 'Mirrors were discovered in order that man might know himself', declares Seneca, shortly after he has told us about one Hostius Quadra, a Roman who lined his bedroom walls with magnifying mirrors so that he could watch himself 'shared between a man and a woman and exposed to penetration in his whole body' "

For Plato, the mirror ...... is located in the eyes of the loved one and it reflects not the self as it is seen by others but the divine that has contact with the truth. The lover sees his own ideals mirrored in the eyes of the beloved, who in turn sees his own beauty mirrored in the eyes of his lover; both are spurred on by this vision of the divine in themselves to engage in a quasi-erotic activity of philosophical dialogue and to ascend to a more direct vision of the divine."


Well, performing from 2-5am on summer solstice amongst a bunch of horny people is fun. So is learning the salsa while the sun is coming up from a hot Polish guy...

Friday, June 22, 2007

I eat the universe

On the other hand, I had a great rehearsal. I left the studio feeling like I had swallowed the whole universe.

I scream into the universe

The world is irritating me today. Noone is returning my phonecalls. People are not showing up for meetings. My ipod is dead.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

pressure points

Yang shifu taught us a bunch of pressure points today - points to cause pain, to stop pain, to induce vomiting, to stop vomiting. Not only do you need to find those points on the body but you have to have really strong thumbs (and he only has one!). My right arm, which was closest to him and the focus of his attentions became quite numb after half an hour.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

solo #2

Today I found the dance I had lost: the dance I had in January but have not been able to find these last two weeks. Today I found that space in my pelvis. And managed to connect that space into the space around me. Now I have to figure out how to fly.

the beloved

Linda Putnam, in her lesson on eyes, talks about "searching for your beloved". Now, two years after that lesson, I think I get it. The beloved is the one to whom you offer all your efforts.


I learnt a new word while in Montréal, and see it everywhere now : décalage - discrepancy. Take the long-tasselled sword: one has to pay attention to both the nature of the blade and to the nature of the tassel and be able to move with both so that the discrepancies between them disappear. In order to affect the space around you. In order to act on the world. Otherwise the sword & tassel are just decorative objects we hang up on the wall. I know, from brief moments of success, that it is possible to integrate the blade and the tassel just by thinking and moving with clarity.

Sébastien and I had an exchange about the décalages of various things - of power, time, language. Recently, I have been thinking about the décalage of capacity. I watched Josh work the sword last weekend and was struck by how different his interpretation was. Some of the moves seemed unrecognisable. Partly because Yang Shifu has just taught us different things. But mostly, because Josh is at least 100lbs bigger than me. I like to think of myself as a very big woman. But I'm not. And I don't think I'll ever be as powerful as Josh.

Nevertheless, the trick seems to be, still, to think and move with clarity.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

the fucking long tassel

Yang Shifu is threatening to film me doing the long-tasselled sword form and put it on youtube. Spurred by the threat of abject humiliation, I am trying to retrieve the form from my notes which no longer seem to make any more sense. Never mind that the tassel is just not obeying me. I keep getting tangled up in it. It is impossible.

Monday, June 18, 2007

failure #2

Had a good rehearsal today. It helped to have James watching. The regard of another allows you to clarify your proposal. He even thought I was funny. Maybe I am suceeding at failure.

how to give without expecting anything in return

As soon as the offering leaves your hand, you have to let go. Let gravity take your hand so that it falls. Give in to the fall, so that you're not left in a gesture of outstretched pleading. Because, as Peter says, tension masks sensation.


I have a hangover.
I have cramps.
I am sleep-deprived.
And James is coming to watch my rehearsal today.

But I made a damn fine dinner last night for the board. Here's what I made:

Butterflied leg of lamb, barbecued with secret dry rub from the boys ("ciao") at Columbia meats.
Sauté of green beans.
Fennel baked in butter and vermouth.
Slow-roasted tomatoes.
Baked potatoes with pancetta.

I drank half a bottle of pinot blanc while cooking and then there were copious bottles of wine later. Joyce and Paul stayed till 1:30 am. We talked about food. And how context changes how you taste things. Drinking a brunello in Montalcino is an entirely different experience from drinking one here. One is the alchemy of the present moment. The other is the chemistry of nostalgia.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

investing in loss

Mercury is apparently in retrograde. I spent yesterday weeping. To find a better location than my bedroom for my own private sad movie, I went to English Bay and perseverated on a log while I tried to practise things I have taught in class: invest in loss, let go of hope (and fear), reflect, move on. Came home, put away the opera and listened to happy fiddle music. Then I discovered that I was bleeding. So all that weeping was in fact, really, the sound of my uterus walls doing what it does every month.

Friday, June 15, 2007

child abuse

I just traumatised my child by making him listen to the nuns get their heads chopped off. Counting them one by one, trying to guess when the zing/crash of the guillotine would come down (the brilliance of it is they are completely unpredictable, no matter how often one has listened to the opera). Junhong kept his fingers in his ears after nun #4 or so, waiting for it all to come to a merciful end. I am a bad bad person.

the usefulness of opera

When you are in an existential crisis, such as after an unproductive rehearsal, or in a post-show funk, it is useful to listen to opera really really loudly. Italian is best. Never German, oh god, all that recitative. French is OK. Especially if it is Francis Poulenc's Les Dialogues des Carmelites. Because it is, after all, about an existential crisis. The nuns getting their heads lopped off, one by one, by the guillotine...very cathartic.

solo / la galère/ failure

Did fuck all in the studio today. My neck hurts. Lay in a foetal position for the whole time it seemed like. Gave up after two hours and went to the Marquis to buy a bottle of wine.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

constructing failure

I bought Steven Hill breakfast in order to get information from him. I wanted to know his thoughts about clowns. I wanted to know if the virtuosity of the clown could be compatible with the fluid virtuosity of a dancer. (He agreed that the Pierrot of opera and ballet was pathetic - "a gutted clown" ). A few things that resonate with me:
The clown is the outsider
The clown is political
The clown is about failure
The clown is about shame

As I work on the solo, I wonder what it means to construct failure.

Failure is not so far in concept from loss. And dance is about loss. The attempt to capture that formless space between two concrete points. As the pathways become more known to you, however, through training, through repetition, the eternal question is how do you construct the physical tasks so that you can continually inhabit the unknown.

I thought about the little film in Philippe Decouflé's Solo where he dances with the long ribbons, at first clumsily - we laugh at his failure here, he is clearly in clown body - and then magically this transforms into a fluid virtuosity and we laugh even more. What are we laughing at here? How are we laughing?

loving long distance

A few days ago, two unhappy emails arrived from different parts of the globe, different parts of my heart. Finding no words of comfort, I could only send love in opposite directions. I wondered about the kind of practice one has to develop for the heart so that it has the strength and stamina to cross oceans and continents. For some reason, it made me think to those early days of moving to Canada - the wrenching heartbreak everytime I flew back from Malaysia. Then, I had no such strength and stamina and bits of my broken heart would fall into the Pacific. Luckily, like Prometheus' liver, the organ regenerates.

the good life #2

Yesterday, David and I sat on the balcony, drank two bottles of Côtes du Rhône (the 2003 E. Guigal was particularly delicious) amidst the flowering fecundity of the garden (those rhododendrons!) , and got caught up on our respective love lives. I missed Heather Gray's dance show.


I had a good rehearsal yesterday. I used to think that a 2-hour solo rehearsal was the most productive. Get in, do it, get out with a sense of wanting more. But yesterday I stuck it in for 3 hours. Boredom is the mother of creativity.

Monday, June 11, 2007

why i love dancers

A couple of weeks ago, after class, waiting for the bus with Anne, I asked her how she was doing. She said "not very well" - or was it maybe just a grimace - accompanied by such a flash of heartbreak across her face that I wondered if someone had died, if she had broken up with her boyfriend. But no, she had had a less than satisfactory class. And this little blip in her day was enough to put into question her whole day, her whole week, her life's choices.

I am reminded of the meaning of loving dance. The enslavement to a capricious lover. The little obsessive-compulsive rituals we go through in preparation for a visit that is sometimes late, sometimes non-existent, often unannounced. The distractions we create in order to tolerate the waiting. The waiting, the waiting. But then he arrives, and time stops.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


#LVII (W. Shakespeare):
Being your slave, what should I do but tend
Upon the hours and times of your desire?
I have no precious time at all to spend,
Nor services to do, till you require.
Nor dare I chide the world-without-end hour
Whilst, I, my sovereign, watch the clock for you,
Nor think the bitterness of absence sour
When you have bid your servant once adieu;
Nor dare I question with my jealous thought
Where you may be, or your affairs suppose,
But, like a sad slave, stay and think of nought
Save, where you are how happy you make those.
So true a fool is love that in your will,
Though you do any thing, he thinks no ill.

All it takes
is an email
or text-message
a girl happy

traces of one's dancing

Susan McKenzie's 50th birthday party last night. It was a surprise party. She fell backwards and sat on the floor at the door for quite a while. Junhong turned to me and said, if that happened to me ("that" being a surprise party), I would freak out and run away.

Watching images from her dancing days, I found myself longing to have seen that dancing. (That picture of the amazing arabesque line!!! Holy crap) Yet I have felt the power of that dancing. In the things that have been said by other people. The reverence with which it is spoken. Some weeks ago at the end of contact class, as we sat in a circle, Peter talked about how Susan McK would dance in one place but you would be watching the trace she had left behind in another place. The lesson was about hanging back in time, not anticipating the next moment, in order to leave a trace in space. I watched a group of people who didn't know Susan go, wow, as they imagined the magic of this ability.

And so this is where the legacy of dancing exists. In the transmission of wonder.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

the good life

Junhong said I had to write about our trip to the Okanagan: On the way to the Caravan, we stopped in Kelowna to say hi to Neil Cadger, where we sat on his porch and ate cheese and drank beer while marvelling at the charm of his clothesline and lilacs in the Okanagan (one doesn't notice lilacs in Vancouver, they get upstaged by the tarty forwardness of magnolias and rhododendrons) . We also ate a very fine lunch, accompanied by a beautiful view, at the Mission Hill Estate. I am particularly fond of the Pinot Blanc.

long lost love

Recently Jit Murad and I reconnected after a 9 year blip. Reading and rereading his emails - so witty, so funny, so charming and also so revealing - I have a flashback to sitting in a coffeeshop in Malaysia, watching him and Liza Othman be witty, funny and charming and me feeling stupid and happy.

I feel I have been reunited again with the long lost of love of the homeland, the tanahair, the pays natal.

Friday, June 8, 2007

junhong ou les moments de graces

The other day, after discovering that the supersoaker he had bought with some of his birthday money did not work as he expected, he hurled himself on the couch and screamed out into the universe, 'MY LIFE SUCKS!"

Later that night, while reading a particularly sad part of Harry Potter, we both wept copiously, shamelessly and with pleasure.

This morning, Junhong asked me why there was often an arrow through a heart. I explained about Cupid's arrows. He said, "But doesn't that HURT?"

I had to agree.
Love hurts.

my brain folding and unfolding

I bumped into James at SOMA two days ago and as a bemused (slow-motion) smile passed his face I realised I was speaking really fast. And it was only my second cup of coffee that day.

I loved speaking french all week in Montréal. I love what that does to my brain. It has to go into overdrive. Looking for the right words. Folding itself into different shapes to get into the right state so that I am not translating. And then, even more exhilarating is to fall into the bilingual place. To switch from one language to another is like a folding and unfolding of my brain. Now and then, more often when I'm tired, I fall into a place of no-language. Sébastien helpfully suggests, say it in english (or did he say, dis-le en anglais?) But I lose that too. Then I become aware of the spaces in my body - the spaces between neurons firing, the spaces between joints, between fascia and muscle, between words, between action - and I am reminded of why I am a dancer.

Thursday, June 7, 2007


Yesterday before class, Peter asked me "Are you watching hockey?". And for some strange reason I thought he had said, "Are you in love?"

The Ducks slew the Senators and won the Stanley Cup. But I did not watch it.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


I am in that solo space now. I was afraid of this space, this state, some months ago. I perceived it to be some kind of loneliness. A lonely journey into the forest, battling demons. But now I am here, the loneliness feels more like an aloneness, and it is quiet and calm and frankly, refreshing. Ahh, the joys of countless hours picking one's pimple in the studio as the clock ticks by....

But the aura of that soloness pervades the rest of my day. I particularly enjoy the ritual of warming up in class in the morning, knowing that I am prepapring for my own private journey and feeling somewhat privileged - the hero of my own quest being secretly anointed.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Leaky Heaven Circus

I spent a week with Leaky Heaven Circus at Armstrong on the Caravan Theatre Farm. Or is it Caravan Farm Theatre? Either way, it was the countryside! And I'm not exactly made for the countryside! The dirt, the horse-poo, the mice....hmmm. But it was great. I made good things that I don't usually make. Such as, gadgets and machines. I did things I don't usually do. Such as, run naked in the woods looking for lace ribbons while a bear was at large. I learnt to get through the night with a mouse in my cabin while said bear lurked, possibly, outside. I saw a ghost.

I also thought about the relationship between the dance body and the clown body. The dance body is just not funny. And the clown, well, is sometimes funny as well as creepy. (The romantic Pierrot clown is just pathetic, really). But there is something about the authenticity of action that unites both. More on this after I've talked to the experts.

Here is a link to some picures from the farm courtesy of Lesley.

Friday, May 4, 2007

what the hell...

I made these dances for the street. I wanted to alter people's perception of time, their perception of space and their expectations of the ordinary. I wanted them to think "what the hell..?" I think I succeeded. I was amazed at how many people stopped and watched for a whole hour, sometimes more. I overheard people say, "what do you think is going on?" and staying and watching. And of course, there were crazy people who came up to the dancers and said things like, "Fuckers" (definitely), and "Are you crazy?" (yes, probably) .

Friday, April 13, 2007


Adrienne taught me how to put pictures on my blog. Here are a couple of my favourites from the [storm] tour. David, Max and Junhong in Bill Kimball's house; and Ron and Yannick at the poetry reading at the Gordon Best Theatre.

Monday, April 2, 2007

on being grabbed

While browsing through the Times Literary Supplement (TLS) I found this amusing bit in a review by Eric Griffiths of The Dakh Centre's Macbeth:

In the history of theatre, discourse and gesture, voice and body have long squabbled over which is to be master. After the verbose bingeing of Ibsen and Shaw, many in the early twentieth century had reason to want to cut back on the ruminative cackle, There was also a yearning for a theatre that would be in some sense sacred, where that sacrality rarely had links with any beliefs shared between executants and onlookers, consisting rather of going through some ritualistic motions unrelated to a known or comprehensible rite. Artaud is the name to conjure within this irrational vicinity. It is a name invoked by the Dakh Centre group with their enthussiasm for "the atmosphere of almost a prayer ecstasy" which "involves one into the upper boundless spheres of unconsciousness", and by Pippo Delbono who believes "as Artaud says, that theatre is like the plague; it has to grab you by the eyes, the nose, the mouth, all the senses". Let's not be partisan about the desirability of being grabbed; sometimes one is just not in the mood, not even at the theatre. I feel sure Shakespeare too felt this ambivalenceabout grabbing, for his plays constantly and unpredicatably negotiate between the enthralling and the cooly self-conscious; they know we do not want only to be "involved" in a performance but also now and again to step aside from it. "Stepping aside" is, after all, a root meaning and an integral element of "ecstasy". Withdrawal from the rush of sensation and event is partly what all that poetry is there for in his plays; it offers an experience of aloofness, an aloofness in experience, which is missing from the theatre of relentless stimulus.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

cooking while dancing

It is useful, when you are the choreographer and not dancing, to cook the meal for the closing night party. It allows you to focus on the details of getting the meal ready instead of hovering over the last show and possibly fucking it up. After the show you also have the opportunity to burn off all the nervous energy from sitting in the audience all those nights/weeks, by being in the kitchen fussing over the food. I am developing a repertoire of food that can cook while I am dancing or sitting nervously in the audience on closing night. The menu last night, for the closing night wind-down of [storm], was:

cheese - brie and hunks of parmegianno - and crackers
cannelini soup
slow-roasted pork
chocolate cake

You can put your guests to work setting out the cheese and crackers while you put the finishing touches to the soup. While they are eating soup, you make the pasta - a simple pasta with tomato sauce. I melt some anchovies with onions and garlic, along with a bayleaf, and then I throw in a can of tomatoes let the sauce reduce a little bit while the pasta is cooking. I throw in olives and capers and chili pepper flakes at the end. Toss with pasta. This should not take more than 20 minutes. And allows you to have an excuse to be quiet by yourself, reflecting on the show, while the party picks up around you. You can put someone to work, emptying the ready-to-eat salad mix into a bowl and tossing it in salad dressing that you made earlier in the day. When you bring out the pasta and pork, you can sit down and eat with people. Everyone will be impressed by the meal you made (so they don't have to pretend to like the show if they didn't). When enough has been eaten, you can go whip up the cream for the cake and bring out the dessert. You will feel like a very capable queen.

The Cannelini Soup
Place previously soaked cannelini beans in slow cooker with a head of garlic cut in half, a tomato and a bunch of sage leaves on slow for 8 hours or so. When you get back home, chop up some arugula, sauté some garlic with chilli pepper flakes in good olive oil and throw them into the soup, mushing the beans while you're at it.

The Slow Roasted Pork (from Karen Barnaby via The Vancouver Sun)
The day before, make a dry rub by grinding 2 tablespoons of coriander seeds, 1 tablespoon of black peppercorns, 12 whole cloves. Mix with 1 tablespoon of sea salt, 2 bay leaves, crumbled, 2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary leaves, coarsely chopped, plus 6 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly. Rub all this on a 5 lb of skinless, boneless pork shoulder. Leave overnight in fridge. Before you leave for the theatre, put roast in 450ºF oven for 15 minutes. Turn down oven to 225ºF and leave there for 6-8 hours.

The Chocolate Cake (from Lucy Waverman & James Chatto's A Matter of Taste)
Make day before with:
1 1/2 cups butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup strong coffee
1 lb bittersweet chocolate, chopped
10 eggs, separated
2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Butter a 10-inch springform pan and line base with parchment paper.
Melt butter in heavy pot over medium-low heat. Add 1/2 cup sugar and coffee, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add chocolate and stir until smooth.
Scrape chocolate mixture into large bowl. Stir in egg yolks and flour.
Beat egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in rekaining 1/4 cup sugar. When egg whites are thick, smooth and glossy, stir one quarter of whites into the chocolate mixture. Fold in remaining whites. Spoon batter into prepared pan.
Place pan on a baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until edges puff and crack slightly but center is not completely set.Cake will set as it cools. Cool in pan, cover and refrigerate overnight.
Loosen sides of cake with sharp knife. Release sides of pan.

For topping:
2 cups whipping cream
2 tablespoons granulatedd sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

Whip cream with sugar until cream holds its shape. Spread over top of cake. Transfer cake to a platter and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


according to Linda Putnam:

As you get into the unknown, the rhythm of catharsis will change because you're in a place where you can no longer know anything about yourself.

This seems to be true of making work, watching work, loving, giving. The terror, the terror. The bliss, the bliss. The pain, the pain. But, I'm alive, I'm alive!

Friday, March 16, 2007

words from a cranky old man

I took out my dusty old copy of The White Goddess by Robert Graves this winter and found in it, these passages which give me food for thought:

Indian mystics hold that to think with perfect clarity in a religious sense one must first eliminate all physical desire, even the desire to continue living; but this is not at all the case with poetic thinking, since poetry is rooted in love, and love in desire, and desire in hope of continued existence

.... 'What is the use or function of poetry nowadays?' is a question not the less poignant for being defiantly asked by so many stupid people or apologetically answered by so many silly people. The function of poetry is religious invocation of the Muse; its use is the experience of mixed exaltation and horror that her presence excites. But 'nowadays'? Function and use remain the same; only application has changed. This was once a warning to man that he must keep harmony with the family of living creatures among which he was born, by obedience to the wishes of the lady of the house; it is now a reminder that he has disregarded the warning, turned the house upside down by capricious experiments in philosophy, science and industry, and brought ruin to himself and his family. 'Nowadays' is a civilization in which the prime emblems of poetry are dishonoured. In which serpent, lion and eagle belong to the circus tent; ox, salmon and boar to the cannery; racehorse and greyhound to the betting ring; and the sacred grove to the sawmill. In which the Moon is despised as a burned-out satellite of the Earth and woman reckoned as 'auxiliary State personel'. In which money will buy almost anything but truth, and almost anyone but the truth-possessed poet.