From Mariel — Following Pleasure


I’ve been thinking and reading lately about pleasure as a radical tool.

Many of us can relate to the feeling of not belonging somewhere, of putting ourselves in places that were not constructed for us. That feeling can obviously vary widely based on our identities and contexts, but the essence of what I’m trying to say is that often we feel hopelessly subjected to our surroundings.

When I feel this, it’s easy to give into grumbling. Coping mechanisms for feeling stressed, out-of-place, tired, trapped, bored, etc. include losing focus, closing off physically and mentally, and wallowing in mental agony and self-pity. Never am I more aware of this than in a particularly dull morning lecture in which I feel subjugated by the clock, forced to endure the remaining minutes.

I mention all this because one of the wonderful surprises about the construction of Gaga movement is the simple notion of allowing pleasure to guide one’s movement. Inspiration and novelty can wane, but pleasure is the river flowing in a steady stream through us — it will always tell us a step forward if we are present enough to listen to it. And in the times when I feel I am following pleasure, the notion of endurance withers. My attention is effortlessly sharp. It’s the equivalent to laughter breaking out — the joy of it snaps me to my senses.

Perhaps most excitingly, pleasure gives me agency in any context. Whether in the studio, the classroom, waiting in line, driving in traffic, or any other situation in which I’m aware of time passing, tapping into pleasure gives me power over my surroundings. Rehearsals can be long, physically taxing, and challenging, but even during moments of effort, Saar reminds us to find the pleasure driving everything we do. In seeking out the pleasure, the effort itself lessens. It’s for this reason that these rehearsals, though initially a daunting time investment, have become havens for me. It takes work to stay focused and present, but the rewards have been more than worth it. I step into the studio, put up my hair, and take off my watch. With no mirrors, phones, or clocks in sight, I’m swept up into the daily rhythm of my body much more easily.