Ever created a piece that was melancholy? Heavy? Heart-wrenching? Down right depressing?
My husband's response to my latest project was, "What do you want to go make something sad for? Isn't that just going to make you sad?" My response (after the eye roll and a deep breath) was that it's okay for art/dance to be sad. Art can be whatever we want it to be. I'm just trying to do something new for me as a creator.
Originally, I wrote the text for this last piece (So we go there, where nothing is waiting) as I was tired after work, waiting for the train, anxious that I wouldn't be able to find anyone else to write it and understand my aim in such a short amount of time - nurturing a collaborative relationship like I strive for takes months and years. I already had a hard time articulating to one writer what I really wanted out of their work. And frankly, when I work with others, I want it to be dusted with my influence, but their voice shining brightly through and through. So, it was no real surprise to me that I wasn't able to nail it on the first try. I took a stab at it as I somehow oozed the words off my fingertips into a text message to myself. After few edits I was satisfied. But what had I written?
I'd written a prose that was disjunct and eerie. I'd described a land that had been tormented by disaster, a feeling that was heavy with sorrow, a state that was difficult to swallow. Even I couldn't look at the text all the time. I didn't want to be stuck in this hell I'd created - I just wanted to draw my inspiration and movement from it. I felt like a child in the late 1800s standing in a frozen land of trees that were covered in ash with no one around for miles. I couldn't be sad, I had to move on. I couldn't cry about what had happened, I had to look for water or something to eat. There was no use in talking about it, it wasn't going to bring them back.
At this moment, as I built on the struggles and experiences of this child I was developing, I realized I had my first character. I had a tragic experience to reference and her decisions on how to move on afterward. It wasn't entirely important what exactly had happened that caused all of this agony, it was more about how this little girls continues living. She is strong, as most children are. No time for nonsense or rehashing, just time to survive and be at peace. Now that I had my start, I wanted more.
At first I thought about writing up a few characters and putting them in this story together. Then I had a wild idea after a visiting professor came in to view my rehearsal with one of her students. She, a cancer survivor, brought her own meaning to the work. She read my text, was curious to see what my movement would look like, and began to tear up as I showed her my first chunk of material. Me, certain that it wasn't my dazzling stylings that had brought her tears out, cautiously sat down next to her to ask her what happened. She continued to tell me about what she felt when the doctor first told her she had cancer, and that her first response was to be the protector of her family. They needed the protection, after all. She would be fine.
I was shocked that I hadn't considered this dark piece could bring up tragedy in someone else with their own traumatic experiences. But why would I? I made up this story. It was fictional. I had created it with a purpose to not to reveal the specific event that caused this heart ache. And by doing so, I left the field open for interpretation for anyone who wanted to take a chance.
From there I thought about doing more research on various types of loss/tragic events. What if I asked a few people to write down their thoughts/feelings about how they felt when something life changing happened? What if they were my characters? What if they had a chance to share their stories?
Then I thought - what if this is a bad idea? What if this causes hurt?
This is where you come in. What do you think? Fictional characters or real-life woman sharing their stories? What are the pros and cons? What would you want from someone sharing your story through text and movement? Would you want any part of it?
Leave a comment, or if you'd prefer you can email a response to email@example.com. No story is more or less important than another - it's about how it affected you.
Thanks for reading - looking forward to discussing this more. Until next time, friends...