Monday, March 31, 2008


As I prepare to write an application to the government of British Columbia for their few meagre dollars to continue being an artist, please, I frankly feel like I will never make another dance piece ever again.

Have I been here before or is this a familiar new place?

what is real

What is real is my body as I submit to the bondage of a rigourous discipline: the ashtanga practice, the bagua circle, my sword and its tassel.

My progress and failures can be measured clearly.

Everything else is illusion.

failures #2

To show your work, to reveal yourself, is to engage in an exercise of countless humiliations big and small, public and private. As you look out into the audience, no matter how many people like it, love it even, you will always see the one that doesn't - the man with his head in his hands - and that is what stays with you. Even if the impossible happened and EVERYBODY loved you, you would be filled with disgust and self-loathing over the whole thing because you have allowed yourself to want the love of strangers.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

reading and theatre

The irony is, of course, even as I despise much of theatre, I find books on theatre quite enjoyable and useful.

But I cannot read plays. All those colons: they drive me crazy.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

reading and dancing

I am in the middle of maybe 20 or more books, texts. Since the birth of my child, I rarely finish anything. I used to feel badly about this. Now I take great delight in not finishing something. It is how I assert the right of my living breathing body, bound my time, space and gravity, over ink and paper.

Novels: the only time I can bear novels these days is if I am sick and weak or if it is good children's fiction. The last time I finished a (grown-up) novel was when I was shivering feverishly in bed with a kidney infection. I read Carol Shields' Unless, amongst others, and despite my allergy to Can(chick)lit, I was quite moved by it.

I am now reading Beckett (ok, ok, I surrender). As I rummaged through my bookshelf to find Molloy, I wondered why I had so many books on theatre (because I have Beckett in my theatre section) when frankly, I despise so much of it. Theatre, that is.

Books on dance: I have a number of them, bought by me bound by a sense of duty or
given to me by well-meaning people; but I never read them. They are unbearable. The last book on dance that I finished was 20 years ago: a book on Doris Humphrey given to me by Lari. But I'm not sure if I read it because it interested me or because I loved Lari.

Maybe my allergy to novels is an allergy to endings. As Gabriel Josipovici says (see my entry on authorship/authority): "Finding the conclusion means giving what has gone on before meaning. Giving something an end is not the same as giving it meaning, any more than life acquires meaning simply by coming to an end. The trouble with novels is that the only meaning they can have is conferred on them by their authors: but what authority do they have to confer meaning? "

Last night I watched a number of dances whose endings left me disappointed and unmoved despite my earlier investment and interest in the proceedings.

I find myself questioning the point of dance as an art object that tries to confer meaning on that which is unfathomable.

in-between #2

Amidst the week of performances at the Antipodes, 2 things remain with me clearly:

I remember Benoît, behind the screen waiting for his cue to start the third section of Body-Scan. In that moment, he is not the artist, not the choreographer, the teacher - he is just a dancer, listening to the moment to which he is serving. I remember the alertness in his body, the surrender to his task.

I remember lying on the floor of the studio de danse, after all the performances of Body-Scan, coping with a cold, preparing for my last performance of The Whole Beast, exhausted and barely conscious, being watched silently by Jocelyn, Yves, Pauline, Aude, James and David. Feeling their quiet and calm holding me while I searched for the dance left in me.

These are the sacred moments of dance.

Pictures by Annabel Vergne.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

more beckett! but not really..

Right after my last rumination on Beckett, I sat down on the toilet, picked up a copy of the TLS and what do I find but an article on Stéphane Mallarmé and Samuel Beckett and how for them foreign languages were a way out of the familiar and into primal sounds! Well, knock me on the head with a bamboo stick.

Funnily, the only thing that resonated for me in all this Beckettbabble was a quote from Virginia Woolf:

"In illness words seem to possess a mystic quality. We grasp what is beyond their surface meaning, gather instinctively this, that, and the other - a sound, a colour, here a stress, there a pause - which the poet, knowing words to be meagre in comparison with ideas, has strewn about his page to evoke, when collected, a state of mind which neither words can express nor the reason explain...In health meaning has encroached upon sound. Our intelligence domineers over our senses. But in illness, with the police off duty...words give out their scent and distil their flavour..Foreigners, to whom the tongue is strange, have us at a disadvantage."

Oh that we were all étrangèrement malade...

beckett schmeckett

An offering from Beckett via a penpal:

elles viennent
autres et pareilles
avec chacune c'est autre et c'est pareil
avec chacune l'absence d'amour est autre
avec chacune l'absence d'amour est pareil

Benoît, in Body-Scan, talks about l'omniprésence de l'absence while he drifts silently amidst the absence of all our dancing.

Billy Marchenski once told me that he thought love was just a matter of focus.

Beckett, who is up there for me with Sartre as an overrated ass, did manage also to say "Fail again, fail better".

(Again, I find myself quoting people I cannot stand. But at least, this time amidst people I love)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

les malaisiennes

During a section in my solo in which I was, you know, funny, ML chortled very loudly (chortle: I don't really know what chortle means but I imagine it to be somewhere between a snort and a chuckle which is exactly what ML did) while everyone else sat with baguettes up their asses. The lady with red hair turned around and glared at ML. During the bows, ML yelled "Syabas!". The lady with red hair turned around and said "C'est à dire?"

Later, over champagne, we cursed her and all her ilk roundly.

Much later, this lady with red hair turned out to be a writer and psychoanalyst on the panel and she made it a point to tell me that my work was "très beau", "formidable" and that she liked what I said at the forum.


the french

Just found this in Waverley Root's very entertaining "The Food of France", written in 1958:

"From abroad, France appears as the leader of Western culture and civilization. So indeed she is, but the distant view reveals only the top of the iceberg, whose massive submerged base remains unsuspected. If France is universally the country of unfailing taste, how do you account for French hotel wallpaper? The fact is that France is not only one of the greatest artistic and intellectual countries in the world; it is also one of the most bourgeois countries in the world."

(He goes on to say, "These two tendencies, so hostile in some settings, marry perfectly in the kitchen." But that is another story)


Éliane lent us her little house in Argenton to hang out in after the festival. We listened to Pink Floyd on vinyl, drank a lot of wine (David said, they're givin' it away in this country!), ate a lot of cheese and gazed at the ocean.

Monday, March 24, 2008


And pourquoi french??

David says it is because it is a language I chose. Not a language I inherited.


When I finally got to speak, I responded to a question about limits - what can be shown, what cannot, what ought to be shown, what ought not. I said that there was the limitation of our body - that governed by the laws of physics, by gravity, by the limits of our bone and tissue. Then there was the limitation of the Other - when this body met another - either a lover, another artist or the audience - and their regard, their expectations. I said that in between these two limits was where the research was: that in the negotiation between these two limitations there is space and emptiness, where we could be free.

People with white guilt ask me why I don't speak chinese in the piece. Or Malay.
When I say I have lost them, they don't really get it.

My solo: somewhere between the french language, the english language, the dance language and the longing for forgotten languages is where I am free.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

My adventures at Les Antipodes #7 - why I felt like a winner

My adventures at Les Antipodes #6 - why I felt like a loser

Well, first there was the picture of Ziyian instead of me in Les Inrockuptibles - the case of interchangeable Asian women.

Then they forgot to put my name as co-creator on the poster of Body-Scan (and for that matter, where were the posters of The Whole Beast?) which they later fixed with a cut & paste job.

There was also, in the lobby, no sign leading to The Whole Beast in the Studio de Danse but signs leading to other shows in the Studio de Danse.

And then the repeated references to Body-Scan as Benoît's piece.

And finally, at the forum, as if to underline my growing sense of invisibility, I had to hold my hand up a long time before I barged in.

My adventures at Les Antipodes #5 - the odd compliments

At the forum on the erotic and the pornographic, this man thanked the creators of Body-Scan for showing a nudity that made him feel good because it was a nudity of well, imperfect bodies. (I thought, whaddaya mean "imperfect"?)

Later, Bruno the painter, friend of Oscarine the poet, my new friend, noticed that I was the only one who, in my nakedness, walked gauchement and how beautiful it was. (I thought, whaddaya mean gauchement?)

At the end of my workshop in the second week, Rosalie, (who was one of maybe 5 Asian people I saw in all of Brest if you did not count the massive Chinese dance troupe that performed a silk road extravaganza to a standing ovation and again, Jacques Blanc with his head in his hands) thanked me for being naked and daring to show my not-very elastic-Asian skin, my stretched marked post-pregnancy belly in Body-Scan. (I thought, whaddaya mean, you noticed??)

My adventures at Les Antipodes #4 - the mindfuck

When someone tells you, C'était très beau, you think beau? Only beau? How come you weren't bouleversé, struck dumb, on your knees?

When someone tells you they were moved, you think, moved? Is that code for you didn't think much of it? It wasn't beau enough?

My adventures at Les Antipodes #3 - my solo and les techniciens

The first few times I ran the solo in the space, I thought the technicians hated it. They kept looking at the creases in the cyclorama that they were trying to fix. They looked at everything but me it seemed. Once, after a run during which I desperately wanted their approval, I had to succumb to secret tears and be comforted by a circle of James, Junhong and David. I felt if the French technicians hated it, all of France would also hate it.

But later, when I told Yves that I had made changes and taken some of the music out, he looked griefstricken and spent half an hour telling me how much he loved it and was blown away.

And in one of the performances, I looked up and saw Jocelyn, watching wide-eyed with his hand in his mouth, and for that performance, he became my beloved to whom I could offer up my efforts.

My adventures at Les Antipodes #2 - my solo and Junhong

The first time I tried the solo without the insupportable music, afterwards, Junhong asked me if I wanted a drink. I said yes. He brought me a plastic cup of water. On the plastic cup was written:

It sucks without music
Add the music
I hate it without music
It needs music

My adventures at Les Antipodes #1 - my solo and Jacques Blanc

It is not often, in one's career, that two days before the world premiere of your solo, the one you have been working on for 2 years, that during a run, you look into the small invited audience and see Jacques Blanc, the big daddy of the festival, with his head in his hands, eyes averted. After the run, he tells you that the baroque music you are using is insupportable. That there is too much text and that if you don't do something about it, ils vont te tuer, ils being the hordes of press and professionals who would be descending upon the festival in the next few days.

Despite the shock of such a thing (because two days earlier, in a private performance in the tower of the manoir, I had made Benoît and Moravia cry!!), I decided that he was nevertheless speaking out of love. It also occurred to me, and still does, that perhaps he was also saying to me, shut up and dance.

I got rid of some of the baroque music and danced like a motherfucker; but I did not shut up. In the end, they did not kill me. I think, actually, that they rather liked me.