After the first or second “House” rehearsal I asked Renee if she wanted me to call a cab. “I can’t just flag one down from here, can I?” she said. “Uber works too,” she said. And, “I saw those legs go up,” she said.
I wouldn’t have considered the legs “up,” but it had been a solid 90o arabesque day, no wobbles. Like weather, it wasn’t reliable or constant, but my balance was mostly sunny for that rehearsal.
I also know it was early on in the rehearsal process because my next question was about what else I could do. I told Renee how appreciative I was of the organization and centering of the Floor-Barre warm-up, but I craved strength through any suggestion of further exercises to prepare for our future work, and I suppose, the performance.
Strength is subjective and relative, but losing it has worried me for ages, I realize. Every summer while traveling or at camp I think that surely hiking only a few miles or a little leisurely swimming will mean returning with a tan, lots of stories, and no strength. The first week of college, too: I went to dance auditions daily so that I was attending regular ballet classes. In the YDT information session before the Trisha Brown project (attendance: three – Aren, Emily, and Me), I asked if I should worry about staying in shape for the rehearsals and I asked about whether the guest choreographers would give any technique or strengthening classes in our allotted six hours a week.
So my question to Renee wasn’t new or unique. She gently inhaled in the way she does when she’s telling us what our bodies are telling her, but this time it was a world, a career, a lifetime of bodies that gave her the words she spoke to me. Contrary to later iterations of “more” of “it’s not enough, not enough,” she told me to believe what she believes: that by coming and working on the principles she gives us during Floor-Barre time after time – focusing on length, opposition, organization, and under no circumstances tightening – the strength and desired body would come.
Waiting until Saturday was hard.
Renee’s plan required too much trust, it was too uncertain, and mostly, it was too early in the rehearsal process. But of course, what she advised eventually happened. I used an enormous amount of brain energy to convince my body to do less. While feeling a taught slack-line stretched so tightly from toe to scalp that nothing in my body wavered, I had to somehow relax around it. Tight was short while long was smooth and stable and spacious. It was all about finding space.
In our first conversation, Renee alluded to something akin to an “aha” moment: the proverbial light bulb or eureka that seemed highly unlikely in our four short months. But one day, on the second side of the final Floor-Barre exercise, we turned over and lengthened one leg on the floor with our backs in line with our bodies while plié-ing our free leg high and to the side. And without Renee’s words or hands, my hip found space and my leg floated. Everything was soft in a held, lengthened way, and I found the freedom to move. It was really cathartic, like pressing send at 11:59 after writing a paper all day, or stepping into a long overdue shower. Even better was the next rehearsal when I found it again, along with the affirmation that I hadn’t just been lucky.
The point though, goes back to the trust I put in Renee despite any uncertainties, expectations, or reservations.
The performance was about love, diversity, heritage and beauty. But it was built on trust.
Trust in Renee with our bodies. Seeing the slightest imbalance between heart and hips. Reading the delicate overworking of an anxious ankle. Hearing our voracity to push everything and patiently, calmly, telling us to believe in length, opposition, and – of course – story.
Trust in Matthew to each week untangle the jumble of folk songs, personal stories, and mismatched dancers while following a sporadic schedule and high pressure time limit.
Trust in Caroline’s wings.
Trust in Holly’s hips.
Trust in MC’s hearts of palm.
Trust in our knees and strong bases to support us through heart, mind, and soul…
Trust in the music and in ourselves to translate the music. Trust to illustrate the mood, and be the tumbleweed.
Trust in our voices to carry the words and place them just-so in front of the world. Trust in our voices to reach the man in the aisle seat, and trust in our voices to reach the woman on the street.
Trust in the musicians.
Trust in the audience to care and to listen.
Trust in our hair not to spontaneously unravel.
Trust in “one little girl,” in MC delivering Karlanna’s words of mothers and lettuce and toughness.
Trust in our months of work that could never be more than glimpsed in a 25-minute proscenium production.
Trust in sharing, not proving.
Trust in our bodies that we built. The smooth, racecars we slowly learned to drive as Renee moved to the passenger seat.
Trust in Emily for masterminding a project that incorporated so much and impacted so many.
Trust in the movement to carry our messages, and trust in ourselves to dance it.