Wednesday, December 31, 2008

looking into the abyss

Once, when walking Junhong back from school, we encountered a particularly brazen, desperate couple on the sidewalk, shooting up in broad daylight. Junhong said, I wish we didn't live here. (Here, being close to the downtown eastside, where people come to get washed up)
I said, somewhat righteously, just because we don't see it doesn't mean it won't happen. Living here forces us to see and be conscious.

Presently, I force myself to look up from my bliss. To read the news and be conscious of people killing other people in the Gaza strip.

I see, but I am not sure what to do about it.

Monday, December 29, 2008

frolicking






savage beauty


The Coquihalla highway connects the rainforests of coastal British Columbia to the drier desert-like climate of the interior. It is a road where there should be no road. You look to the left and right of you and you see the magnificent Coast mountains threatening to squish you. Even in the summer, lit by the bright sun, it is terrifying to me because every few minutes you are reminded of the viciousness of nature, the hubris of humanity, by signs that say, "Do not stop, avalanche area", "Winter tires and chains beyond this point" or, even in the rest areas, "Danger, falling ice". They might as well say, "Turn back now, if you value your life".

Today, as the red truck we were in hit a patch of ice and as Jason said, "Oh fuck, I have lost control" (or something like that), the car behind us REALLY lost control and careened helplessly around the highway (I waited, somewhat calmly, oddly, for it to crash into us) before spinning off the road and into the ditch. As it turned out, they were OK, we were OK.

At Hope (oddly or aptly named, depending on the circumstances) the blizzard and icy roads turned into torrential rains and savage winds that threatened to blow the red truck off the roads.

Finally, as we approached Vancouver, the last few rays of the sun peaking out from behind the clouds, I marvelled at the unlikeliness of this city. That it exists at all is a wonder.

Friday, December 26, 2008

a bird, a mouse, a frog and five arrows

David is reading Herodotus. He told me about a story in it of Darius and the Scythians. I asked him to show me the chapter so that I could tell it on this blog. But he has stolen my idea and put it on his blog. Go read it.

the body of longing

Recently, in a conversation with Tim Wheeler, of Mind The Gap, a UK-based company that works with the "aesthetic of disability", I mentioned that I did not find the body of longing very interesting to watch, whether it was with or without disabilities.
I do not find interesting, either the disabled body longing to be whole or the abled body longing to be loved.

To perform from this body of longing is to ask for the void in it to be filled by the sympathy of the audience. This is an unsatisfying proposition for me, as performer and as an audience member. It locks me into a binary codependent relationship that trades on victimhood and false charity.

But the aesthetic of disability supposes that the void - and there is a void, a stillness, an emptiness that one strives for rather than fears - can be filled with offerings for the audience.

The first suggests the artist as mendicant. The other proposes the artist as gift-giver.

Monday, December 15, 2008

excursion into unknown regions


Yesterday I went for a walk in the forest with Jason. I watched, riveted, the dance of two salmon, horny and dying. I walked down a trail made by bears. I was quietly terrified of slippery rocks and logs.

On the drive back, (was it before or after Jason pointed out the red-tailed hawk flying over the suburban highway?), I felt overcome by joy, wordless and unadulterated.

desire and time

ML met the old man again, the old man whose eyelids were so ancient they were translucent and veined and dusty, but in whom she had seen the young man flitting in and out. A few months ago, she had wanted to go home with him to his apartment overlooking the Butte Chaumont.
This time, when she met him and said how are you? , he said, “Very good when I look at you, such beauty”
They flirt, my friend and this old man who is almost half a century older than her.
She asks if his wife is beautiful. He says yes, but she left me 12 years ago.
Do you miss her?
No, it is better this way. But he misses having a woman lying next to him, misses caressing a woman.
They talk about French policier books.
She says she reads like an ass in French.
He suggests that perhaps they can read together in cafés and he could help her.
And he wistfully mumbles that perhaps one day she would allow him to caress her?
She gets embarrassed, hesitates.
He then adds sadly, it’s because I am much, much older than you, isn’t it?
No, no, she explains, if I were not with another person right now, I would go with you.
But it is too late. The young man disappears from the old man. His breath withdraws into the wisp of his 87 years lived.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

terrorism

I LOVE saying the words white people and brown people and watching the people in the room cringe and become nervous.

But later, I sit on the bus, shaking slightly, exhausted.

in art and sex

You have to be dirty to get to the sacred.

Monday, December 1, 2008

adventures of a talisman

I commissioned a talisman for Jason from ML. To protect him from bears and weird people while out in the wilderness. Recently he came back with these pictures. Belleville meets la belle natur via a couple of dislocated Malaysians.





Monday, November 24, 2008

first love

The other day, while telling stories from my childhood, over breakfast with my love, I was reminded that my first love was a Maori hula dancer from Guam. She was a beautiful woman with long straight hair down to her bum and she danced in a lounge act that packaged all of the Pacific into an improbable evening to be enjoyed with colourful cocktails in a restaurant called The Paddock, on the rooftop of the Hilton Hotel in Kuala Lumpur circa 1974.

I went to The Paddock often with my father during this period, his date while he was in between girlfriends. I would wear my "going-out" clothes, which at this time was a red t-shirt and a yellow long skirt. I cannot remember the name of my hula dancer now, but the love was mutual. She too fell in love with me. I went to see the show a number of times (either my father was quite supportive of my love life or he was lusting after the nubile young dancers himself). It all culminated in a lunch date with said hula dancer. She sat next to me in my dad's car, an orchid in her hair. I was in awe of her skin, her scent and her beauty. She joked about packing me into her suitcase and taking me with her. Long after she had left, I wished it had been possible.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

paris

Paris, well, I just have way too much fun in Paris these days.





Monday, November 17, 2008

liquid state

Recently I realised that I could write from my heart but could only speak from my intellect. I attribute this to the fact that the two languages in which my intellectual life is expressed - English and French - are adopted, colonial languages.

In Body-Scan, Benoît and I speak, attempting to find a language that comes out of the liquid state, the energetic state of the body. Once Benoît gave me a note that my words were too "hard", too intellectual. I don't know if I have been able to surmount this.

I marvel at the ability in other people for sound and words to form out of the beating of the heart, the rushing of blood.

In close proximity with the beloved, I find myself often mute, the pressure of my heart pumping relieved simply by the efficient passing of information through skin, through the meeting of fluids, the opening of chakras.

No need for words.

I speak merely to remind myself that I can.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

zurich

On the plane descending into Zurich I encountered, in Primo Levi’s The Periodic Table, in the chapter on Phosphorous, a dismissal of Swiss precision as "a collection of witless impediments bordering on persecution mania"

Thomas Bernhard, the Austrian writer who found the Swiss even more loathsome than his fellow Austrians, said of both them, that they suffered from "sub-alpine cretinism".

As the plane landed, I remembered that when I was a young woman, I had had sex with one member of the Swiss modern pentathlon team while desiring yet another member (pun completely unintended).

Based on all this, I thought Zurich would be an unsatisfying experience filled with uptight, anal, navel-gazing inbred cretins.

Instead, in the midst of a performance from Compagnie l’Alakran, that, in its play on geeky sub-alpine cretinism that made me laugh from the bottom of my belly, I had an encounter with silence, stillness and beauty. I even wrote a poem on command.

Here is the poem:

Le poisson est
shok1ng
La cigarette,
mon désir
L'homme,
l'escargot
écrit
le temps
walks slowly

I also had memorable warm potato salad in a restaurant by the river.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

expansion

Last night, I said to Junhong, "Now that I have a boyfriend, I know that it takes time away from you and that is a bummer.", to which he nodded vigorously in agreement. "But you should know that it does not take any of my heart away from you". He hugged me and whispered in my ear, "I know". Then he said, "Your heart just gets bigger and bigger. The more people you love the bigger it gets!"

Monday, October 27, 2008

transitions

Yesterday I turned 44. I made a chocolate cake with coconut buttercream. I also made little finger sandwiches. A paean to my tropical post-colonial upbringing. I served this to my loved ones - old and new - and felt giddy with excitement.

But I am realising that while my heart can expand, the days and weeks cannot.

Last night as I lay curled up in the beloved's lap, relieved to be in the dark, quiet, happy to be enveloped in love, I also felt a tinge of sadness that there is not enough time and space to be with everyone. Goodbyes must be said and endured. Absences must be tolerated.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

autumn

The wind has dropped out of my sails somewhat. Inevitably, there is the fall after the flight.

I notice the garden needs cleaning up.

I can't even keep my imagery straight at the moment.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

lung fish!

At the risk of this blog turning into a fishblog, here is another offering from Jason (not the man in the picture).



My defense is that fish is, um, perishable.

Monday, October 13, 2008

lung fiction

Of course, fish don't have lungs!!! (I should have known this)
It is not a slice of lung that Jason gave me but a slice of pyloric caeca. (I wouldn't have known this)

Jason has just confessed that he had forgotten the word for this organ when he gave it to me and had simply said, lung. Apparently, the pyloric caeca assists primarily in absorbing nutrients, but it also absorbs oxygen into the blood stream.

I am glad to know of this scientific fact.
However, I like the poetry of fish lung.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday of the year. Because it is about food and love. About taking a moment to reflect on all you that you have.




Sunday, October 12, 2008

gifts

From Jason, my fish-bird man, on closing night of The Whole Beast:


The heart, a slice of lung and the liver of a chinook salmon.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

preparing #2

In preparation for the closing night of The Whole Beast, I just cooked myself a lunch of rib eye steak, rare, topped with a sauté of wild mushrooms, accompanied by steamed brocollini. I am eating it now, washing it down with a glass of Chilean malbec.

After this, I am going to make cornbread stuffing for tomorrow's Thanksgiving dinner.
David is cooking Cornish hens on the rotisserie.
We will eat all this with our loved ones and give thanks for the existence of love and food.

Friday, October 10, 2008

meat

I had a good show. Possibly the best show I've had. The trick is to eat meat all day. Yeah that works..

preparing

Yesterday, I overdid it. I did 2 hours of bagua in the morning. Then a monastic lunch of chicken broth with vegetables. Then an ashtanga practice BEFORE opening night of a 60-minute solo. WAS I OUT OF MY FUCKING MIND????

Today, I woke up in the arms of my beloved.
I came home and went to bed for a few hours.
Then I ate left over fatty charcuterie.
David has just returned from The British Butcher Shoppe with a couple of meatpies and a scotch egg and I am going to eat those too.

While waiting for them to heat up, over a glass of spanish tempranillo-cabernet sauvignon blend, I am watching the nailbiting final episode of Master Chef: The Professionals wherein 3 young men from the British Isles duke it out with their culinary skills to win the title of the next big culinary star of the UK. (The young men - ernest, sporting incomprehensible accents and very prone to blushing when happy and when disappointed - make compelling watching. Plus I have a HUGE boner for Michel Roux Jr., one of the judges and apparently a culinary legend)

Tonight, Yang Shifu is coming to the show.

AM I OUT OF MY FUCKING MIND????

me in my wilderness

Last night was opening night for The Whole Beast in Vancouver.
This picture is from Brest (you can tell from the very beautiful cyclorama that took many obsessive-compulsive french technicians and many days to achieve), sent by James from across the continent yesterday morning to wish me well on this journey.


I did not eat enough proteins during the day yesterday and felt shaky during the show. I am making up for it today by eating left over Rabbit Rillette and Pâté de Campagne made by Paul Findlay for last night's reception.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

death

More offerings from Jason, who gazes at death with me.


words, time, river

When Junhong has something important to say, he usually writes it down in a note to give to me. He says of the intensity of his emotions, "Sometimes I can't speak".

I know what he means.

Easier to write.
Time slows down between the heart beat and the word.

Pipo once described the first time he went white-water kayaking. The first time he went down the river it was over before he knew what was happening. But as he repeated the ride, over and over, he began to see the eddies and the rocks and the falls along the way, and what had felt like half a second before, now felt like a lifetime.

wordless

Here are pictures of me in rehearsal, taken by Amy Pelletier for a photo essay to be found in this month's Dance Current.




Saturday, October 4, 2008

what women like



One day, I gave girl advice to Junhong.
I said, "Junhong, a woman loves a man who dances."
And I said, "And a woman loves a man who plays fiddle. Remember that."
Then I added,
"Oh, and a woman loves a man who can catch fish with his bare hands"

To which he replied, "I think that's what YOU like, mama"

Friday, September 26, 2008

art

Zab Maboungou says, if you don't dance, how can you properly think?
I say, if you don't love, how can you properly make art?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

fish-bird man

An offering from Jason. A story from Chuangzi.


In the Northern Ocean there is a fish called Kun which is many thousand li in size. It changes into a bird named Peng whose back is many thousand li in breadth. When it rises and flies, its wings are like clouds filling the sky.

It is said “When Peng is heading toward the Southern Ocean it splashes along the water for three thousand li. It rises with the wind and wings its way up to ninety thousand li; it flies for six months, and then it rests.”

Heat shimmers in the air like galloping horses,
dust floats like the morning mist,
and living creatures are blown about in the sky.

love

Sometimes you use a word, and even as you say it, you know it is inadequate, imprecise. But you say it anyway because the word is a valve to release the pressure of an alchemical reaction in your body that is like a great big river, running from your perineum to the crown of your head, that dissolves your eyeballs and threatens to blow out your heart.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

gift

Among many gifts from Jason, here is one of the great Canadian wilderness. Traces of bear and deer, going in opposite directions, to be appreciated from the warm comfort of your computer screen.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

age

Recently it occurred to me that in the past, when I have fallen in love with young men, I have actually fallen in love with their potential. Hence, I have fallen in love with what I project onto them. This can never be lived up to of course, and inevitably, I am disappointed.

ML has just offered a story of falling in love with a very very old man - a man whose eyelids are "so ancient they are translucent and veined and dusty. His gait is lopped and slow like a sloth. His voice almost a wisp". But she sees the young man within him flitting in and out, and wants to go home with him to his apartment in the butte chaumont, where it is very agréable.

When you are young, your age is a thought, sometimes held in fear, sometimes awaited for with taut anticipation and excitement.
When you are older, your youth lives within you - held by the fine lines in the skin, shining out of your, maybe rheumy, eyes.
Nothing is lost, unless you want to lose it.

a manly menu

Ron and Jason (they are not a couple) are coming over for dinner tonight. I asked Junhong what I should cook and he said, "Something manly".

So tonight the menu will be

Baked mushrooms
Braised beef shortribs on mashed potatoes
Steamed broccolini
Rhubarb and strawberry crumble.

Monday, September 22, 2008

gazing upon the homeland #2 - food and drink

char kway teow

chicken rice

ais kacang

wonton mee, siew yook

air limau in a plastic bag

air kelapa in a kelapa

how to give without asking for anything in return #5

Here is a recipe for giving without asking for anything in return:

1. Give to someone who can receive without suspicion
2. Give from a place of structural integrity: your throat soft, the crown of your head open to the sky, your heart chakra open, your perineum connected to your heart, your feet connecting you to the earth, your orifices open.
3. The receiver receives from a place of structural integrity. Ditto ditto, ditto, ditto.
4. Let go once you have given so that tension does not mask sensation, so that your body can find the earth, so that energy fills you up again and there is more to give. You are rich! No need to hang on!
5. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Friday, September 19, 2008

gazing upon the homeland - juxtapositions



my young man and me


Last weekend, I came home in the morning with a new acquisition on my skin. A brand. Scarification to seal in a moment that counts.

I showed it to Junhong.
He was not impressed. He went into the bathroom and talked to himself for an hour before coming out with his water uzi and pointed it at me. He said it was ugly and stupid. Would it come off with soap? With bleach? With scrubbing? There were tears. Despite his announcement that he would not leave the house until the brand was healed, and only after he had made me change my clothes, we went out and bonded over junk food, ice-cream and the ogling of ipods. Afterwards, he conceded that it would have been better if the arrow had been neater and I should take more time next time.

Today I walked Junhong to school. I forgot to leave him at the corner two blocks away and walked with him all the way to school, closer to the possible gaze of his peers. Instead of a kiss, we high-fived each other.

And so, we each take a step towards our own autonomous bodies.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

la vie est belle #2

It is the last few days of summer. I walk fast, with a bounce in my step, a silly grin on my face. I am so happy that I listen to Mr Tambourine Man on repeat and think it is a happy song. David and Adrienne assure me that it is not.

A few days ago, I dropped by Mandula's to leave a stack of postcards for my show and to say hi to Ziyian. She got me drunk with wine from Jules next door and proceeded to sell me a very expensive turtle neck.

Today the turtle neck is imbued with the scent of the beloved.
I shall wear it to rehearsal this afternoon and dance like a motherfucker.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

la rentrée

At the beginning of the week, Junhong, all excited about being in Grade 5 and having the teacher he wished for, said, as we were walking down the street, "I am a man!". Last night, overwhelmed by his own expectations of himself, he lay in a fetal position in my lap, crying repeatedly, "I can't do it, I can't do it, I can't do it!"

Today, faced with an impending deadline and stupid questions about "diversity", overwhelmed by my own expectations, I too feel like curling up in a fetal position in someone's lap and crying, "I can't do it, I can't do it, I can't do it!"

Thursday, September 4, 2008

joy

I went back into the studio for the first time in six months and danced for three hours like I had been
fucked
kissed
caressed
licked
sniffed
loved.

Yeah!!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

the language of my heart


People often ask me if I speak to Junhong in Chinese or Malay. I say, no, because I've lost these languages. I do not speak them from my heart.
What do you speak from your heart then, someone asked me recently.
Well, I'm not sure if my heart is capable of speaking coherently in any language - it is a mute, confused, irrational organ, capable of emotional acrobatics of incredible virtuosity and high risk, capable of superhuman long-distance travel, capable of breaking and healing repeatedly (all that scar tissue...).
But completely stupid in the face of language and logic.

Monday, September 1, 2008

dreamblog #1

Last night I dreamed I followed death
I was performing A Character, the solo that I performed for almost 15 years before retiring it in Yellowknife. This was a surefire solo - impossible not to love. In this dream, however, I had not rehearsed, and my hubris was being rewarded by the fact that I was completely bombing. I had no idea what I was saying. I was forgetting all my lines. I lost my shoes, tried on many different wrong pairs while the audience waited. I forgot all the right places for the wrong gestures and paint. The audience left in droves. There was a party afterwards but I hid in the dressing room, which was full of beds. I went into one to hide under the blanket.
Then I was on the bus, talking in French to the Tibetan techie to convince him that the piece is actually not as crappy as he thinks. It will be better tomorrow, je te promis. He wants to go away and take on a gig with a Filipino dance company.
(Him: what will you be doing in September, still planning on having a baby?
Me: what do you mean what do you mean? I am never going to have another baby!)
Then the Tibetan techie turned into a Tibetan woman who was taking me to eat a special Tibetan meal. The best one was further along, where they didn’t have too many onions.

I woke up as if from a nightmare. Then I realised that I was alive and life is good. I went to my computer to write down the dream and found a message that made me smile.

gazing

I see you
seeing me
see me
seeing you
see me
naked

Sunday, August 31, 2008

need & desire

We were working on finding the touch you never want to leave.
I asked, while thinking about structural integrity, is it in fact the touch that you never need to leave?
No, said the teacher, it must be a touch that can also support all your desires.

Monday, August 25, 2008

my non-lecture

While in Malaysia, I gave a non-lecture - a performance/non-performance under the gaze of the homeland.

Read about it here:
Link

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

true north #3

This time, true north is coming home to a dark, empty apartment because Junhong and David are camping somewhere in the wilds of British columbia. It is raining. I shall get into bed and lie in the dark and listen to the rain.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

real thievery and violence

This old man walked on the bus with really extreme bow legs. So bowed he could barely walk and needed a cane. He sat down on a seat by the door. Later, at a stop, a group of young men from the back of the bus got up to get off the bus. Suddenly, there was a commotion around the old man, around the exit. All eyes were focused downward, towards his legs, towards the floor. My first thought was that he had fallen or fainted and the young men were trying to help him. Then I saw a guy reach into the old man's back pocket and take his wallet. I said, hey! and grabbed the guy by his shirt. Nobody else said or did anything. I felt a moment of doubt. I let go of his shirt. I was trapped in my window seat by an old lady in the aisle seat next to me - I could not get out to be a very effective crimestopper; although I don't know if I was thinking of getting out. He slipped out of my grasp. I stared at him as he walked off the bus nonchalantly. I'm not sure what I was thinking. I had been thinking the old man was in trouble and the men in front were helping him but the story changed midway and I hadn't caught up. My reflexes were slow. Suddenly, all the guys were off the bus and the old man was sitting with his bow legs, humiliated and bereft of his wallet. What happened, what happened, the old ladies around us said. Now, the bus was united as we tried to reconstruct what was happening. But everyone was also looking for reasons why they could not be held responsible. "Oh you shouldn't carry so much money on you" "Were those guys Filipino?" "I didn't see anything, I didn't see anything" I wanted to scream and weep with frustration. I saw everything and couldn't do anything. Didn't do enough.

Once, David, responding to a woman screaming that her handbag had been snatched, dropped everything without stopping to think and chased after the robber down the dark alleys of the Vancouver Downtown East Side. I wanted to to be like David. Heroic. Fearless. Instead I was only me.

As I got off the bus, I gave the old man $100 ringgit to get himself home safely. But it felt like I was merely buying off my own guilt.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

categories

The other day I bought a mobile phone for my stay in Malaysia. While the clerk was filling out a form on the computer, I noticed that under "race", I was no longer either orang Cina, Melayu or India. I was now in the "lain-lain" category - "other".

My skin is still the same colour though.

rain

This morning Junhong and I woke up to the sound of the wind whipping through the trees, torrents of water falling from the sky. I wept with a joy tinged with some vague sadness.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

sacrifice

This is an article I wrote a few years ago for Transmissions. As I currently find myself in a drought of any interesting thought I am cannibalising my past for the hunger of the present.


Two naked people face each other under harsh bright light in a chalk circle. They are surrounded by a number of people dressed in various degrees of formality. They in turn are surrounded by spectators (clothed, of course) on 4 sides. There is a little ritualistic dance of gesture and sound from the "referee" who then yells "Fight!". After a moment of heavy silence and stillness, there is a strike. One of the naked people falls to the ground and collapses on his or her knees, face to the floor, bum in the air. They are exposed, vulnerable, almost ridiculous, in a posture of death that is devoid of any heroism or romanticism, more animal than human.

A king is surrounded and watched by his people as he goes through a rite of passage that requires that he has sexual intercourse with a horse. He fucks the horse, he cuts it up, places the meat AND himself in a simmering cauldron and has to eat this soup while sitting in it, presumably before he himself gets cooked.

The first scene comes from our work Spektator which explores, amongst other things, the play of power between people in the context of bloodsport; while the second scene comes from our work Cyclops which explores man and his relationship to the ocean. The horse-fucking ritual comes from an ancient celtic ritual, references of which can be found in The White Goddess and The Mabinogi (contrary to what some people might think, we don't think up these things ourselves).

In Spektator, there is a notion that, underneath our veneer of civilisation, there runs a primal need to "rut and cull" - to fuck and kill. The text appeals to the need for bloodsport as a vehicle to express our primal need. If not, the text argues, we will inevitably express that need in true plunder and destruction. Better to have this theatre, better to sacrifice this one life to appease our thirst for blood than to lose many more human lives in the real thing. In Spektator, this ritual of violence forms the framework for an exploration of the relationship between individual and the mob, our animal self and our human self, the power shifts between audience and performer, choreographer and dancer, between the slave and master.

In Cyclops, the story of the horse-fucking king is one of the many stories in a work that explores man's savage history with the ocean, where cannibalism, metaphorical and otherwise, is a theme that repeats itself. This scene of the king fucking a horse alludes to the horse as an image related to the sea, to cannibalistic rituals, to the offering of the individual up to the masses. When I hear this story I am struck by the loneliness of the king amidst his people. The sacrifice of his humanity in order for his people to have a king. While researching material for Cyclops, we were most moved by instances of cannibalism when it was carried out methodically: when sailors had to draw lots and the victim often submitted to death calmly. It seemed that to offer yourself up as food to your fellow men was preferable to dying alone in the vastness of the ocean. We are interested in cannibalism as an offering rather than as an act of savage hunger.

When I think of sacrifice, I always think of ritual. When I think of ritual I think of transformation. This is also what I think of when I consider art and performance. I like to think that every work I make is an attempt at creating a ritual in which the space, time and the mind, body and spirit of the audience is transformed from one state to another with the performers presiding as priests/shamans/mediums.

Maybe because, growing up in Malaysia, I saw my share of mediums in trances, experienced rituals from the many cultures and religions co-existing side by side. Maybe because I was moved and surrounded by South-east Asian dance and theatre when I came of age as an artist. Or, maybe because I am an ex-Catholic.

I love ritual. I loved, when I was Catholic, taking part in the esoteric moves and gestures of Mass: the kneeling here, the standing there, the taking of the host (eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ - that's pretty cannibalistic) the singing of songs. I love the salutation - the "sembah" that a South East Asian dancer makes to the powers that be or the audience just before the dance or at the beginning of a dance. I love the the skate and the anthem before the hockey game. I love warming up and putting on make-up before I perform.

But what about sacrifice? Does the performer have to offer something up as a sacrifice in order to fulfil her task as high priestess of this ceremony that is theatre? Does the artist have to make some kind of a sacrifice in order to be an artist in society? As a performer, I can admit to and even insist that it is crucial in the warmup ritual that we leave our everyday bodies and egos behind to become "empty" in order to serve the work. As an artist, as an individual, it's hard for me to admit that sacrifice has anything to do with my life. Maybe to admit that I have sacrificed something to be where I am, I must admit that I have to sacrifice something to get where I want to be. I want to have my cake and eat it. Yet I recognise that there is a cost to everything. When I became a mother I no longer had room in my life to be a martial arts student. I still practised martial arts but I could no longer be in a relationship with my martial arts teacher: that is, pledge the loyalty, responsibility and commitment that comes with having a teacher. All that emotional commitment went to my son instead. I never saw this as a "sacrifice". I thought of it as the cost having a child. That I chose to give up my martial arts teacher instead of dance-making was just cost-management. After all, my career as an artist was, shall we say, in a dynamic phase and my martial arts teacher's best teaching days were over, due to the onset of Alzheimer's. But last week my teacher died. The last time I saw him was more than a year ago. At his funeral, struggling with complicated emotions, I wondered what I had lost really. And I wonder, as I write now, what the difference is between sacrifice and cost.

Maybe it's just semantics. Cost makes you feel like an able, organised person exercising free will, sacrifice makes you feel like a martyr, a hero. One is about the day to day cost of living, the other is an archetype that comes with a ritual and gives us strength to go through with daily losses.

Friday, June 20, 2008

crying

Adrienne turned to me after a "modern dance" piece last night and seeing tears streaming down my face, thought that I had been moved by the combination of Beatles music, the Isadora Duncan-like sarongs and adolescent ernestness.

No.

I was crying from grief. The kind of grief one feels as a relationship comes to an end. The feeling of something dying in you, something no amount of love can save.

why do women dance like they have no vaginas?

I went to see Junhong's tap recital last night. Every year I am struck at how differently the boys are taught from the girls. And every year I am filled with relief that I do not have a daughter who might want to be a dancer. The boys dance from the pelvis. The girls dance with their upper bodies. Is this necessary? No. Is this structurally sound? No. Because the centre of your body is your pelvis. One might argue that when you are a full-grown woman and have breasts, it might be a physical necessity to dance with the awareness of their mass, weight and erotic possibilties. But a 6 year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy do not differ very much in their upper bodies. They both, however, have pelvises. And their pelvises contain their sexual organs.

It is disturbing that a girl's sexuality gets distorted at such a young age when her vagina gets taken away from her.

And then she grows up to become a dance object longing for our approval as we fall asleep in our seats.

Dance is an action, not an object.
You cannot act if you do not know how to dance from your cunt.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

me (again)



This is from the photoshoot with Didier Olivre at Le Quartz. He is creating an exhibit of his portraits of the artists at Les Antipodes 2008.