Traveling Vertical Roads


Traveling Vertical Roads


I wrote a blog post yesterday about the Akram Khan material, but it keeps inspiring me to write more and more. In the past I’ve veered away from overly impressionistic descriptions, but a course I’m currently taking (called Moving Texts) is an exploration of the fruitful interplay and dialogue between dance and creative writing.


Communicating the experience of dance through writing can be difficult; rather than viewing writing as the keyhole of a locked door, an incomplete glimpse of a subjective experience from which the reader is barred, I’m envisioning a photographic aperture. This device allows a small amount of light into a camera lens to create an image. Writing may not be able to “capture” the ineffable experience of dance, but, like a photograph, it speaks to the experience and frames it in a new way, shedding light on what could easily be passed by. It becomes something new.


Furthermore, dancing and language have been in dialogue in my mind, and the practice of writing about dance helps me form new ways of articulating these perceptions. The dancing is affecting my writing; I can feel the cadence of the rhythms as I write about the choreography, and as I search for synesthetic and imagistic ways to convey what I want to say.


I wanted to write about a piece that we are learning, called Vertical Road, which presents as much kinesthetic challenge as its title implies. This is my response to the first snippet of a phrase:



We stand poised to move, breath quickening slightly to the rattling drum beats that punctuate the air.




Drop to the ground. I’m never ready enough to embrace the jolt—a warrior suddenly reminded of the thousand years of accumulated dust that I am shedding.

The weight shift on three is like a return to the sun, trying to cup a tiny sphere of warmth, a disbelief in the light that my eyes track across the sky after eons of silence in clay vaults.


Wuuuun two threeeee FOUR!


Is a suspension longer than myself, my curved wrists cling to air with a rock-climber’s grip—the only break in verticality that keeps me from falling down the waterfall of my own body.


So sudden—

I become aware that I breathe without thinking

Arms snake up a sparkling trail

Fireworks burst and the movement lingers in smoke patterns

Ash that disperses with the wind

You inhale the gunpowder smell of the last movement

Right as you blaze on to the next


Everything crackles like fire and lingers like smoke


Each arm circle turns a wheel of a thousand years

But a twist of the hands

Caging energy

Disappears as quickly as embers thrown from a bonfire 

Into the night


Tiny moment of vulnerability

Dreaming of flowers around my neck

What I thought would be

An inhalation of perfume

Awakens me to battle


Sharp shift of weight, supported in a crouching knee, leaning away from clawed hands that fend off danger


Then a swing of the arm that sounds like a roar at myself

A dragon of energy

It loops through the hoop of my left arm

And births a baby snake that spits out

A tiny jewel a my feet


The glint directs my gaze downward


Now the movement is water 

My arms stir spirals


Like the current,

I am no longer a swimmer

But the sea swimming through itself


In a low crouch I feel my arms moving like mad to pull me back to the surface, my arms wrap around my head and my waist, as tight as holding breath, then


TWO! Triumphantly dry and regal I fling water from my hands


My head initiates the next step

Lungs—blowing a bubble larger than myself

I hold the iridescence by my skin

Feeling the fragility of film

As it pulses with my breathing


I inhale through my elbows


Then shatter the whisper into a crash


The counts quicken and the movement becomes red—

Streaks of color that reinvigorate my blood

A reminder:

We all dance in the sky of a setting sun


I too share colors. When I throw my whole being into the count, I can feel them working.


Space between beats echoes the space between breaths between heartbeats


Dance that sparks me into remembering to live

I am its rhythms and its colors


Fire that burns no less energetically

Simply because smoke and ash promise immortality