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.