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Toni Bravo's "Is There a Heaven?" poem

Toni Bravo, Is There a Heaven  May 2009

Me and my Ginger and my favorite little ones all four of the three girls and the one boy all six or seven or eight, we all went to the Umlauf Sculpture Garden for Toni’s moving dance performance.  I took no notes except to keep up with each one of us and what we were watching and when we were moving from place to place.

It was a nice crowd of serious enjoyers of dance moving quickly to find the next dance coming out of the trees and between the molded sensuous and passionate bodies of Umlauf.  “Why do they not have any clothes, Granma?”

We sat in the grass and walked the paths.  We cuddled all together wondering and sometimes waiting.  Dancers and their ambient music painted the rolling nooks of nature with thick and thin strokes and splashes of color washes.  We were all dipped into French settings of lightness and sadness, “Are they telling a story?” into raucous meetings in the park, “Are they mad at each other, Granma?” into powerful corridors of war by Hindi woman and Western man, “Can we go now?” into Toni’s signature conversations of playful interaction and comments on too many monkeys, “What’s she doing, Granma?”

Then we arrived at an open plain layered with rock housing many young ballet and modern dancers.  We tucked around each other on the side and absorbed the warm and glowing movements of the dancers all dressed in white.  The imagery and the dancing was very satisfying and kept us all still for a little while.

The connections between the dancers seemed to help us to bind together sitting there, the boy leaning back on me and one little one leaning on each side with the independent one sitting on the edge of the rock taking in every move.  That worked until the boy started making buzzing noises with his mouth and the one on the edge kept saying, “Be quiet.”  After three times of no change with requests, I took him off to the side and that broke the concentration of all except the one on the edge.  They followed me and we ended up in a fire ant bed stinging and brushing and whapping away while the dance continued with such beauty and power.

Afterwards I asked what their favorite part was.  The one on the edge said, “I liked the old woman.”  The older woman I think was in black.  Throughout this section, she watched the younger dancers with a serious expression.  When she came center, she commanded the arena with powerful and convincing moves.

I had to run for cold wet towels to soothe the fire ant bites and that was all the dancing for us.  We had to have water and a break.  We passed a poignant dancer portraying a priest and made our way to the gallery where they watched a showing of  the Umlauf sculptures.  The dances did their job because all four recognized each sculptures, “I saw that one.”  “I saw that one.”

I checked my pocket and realized I had laid my camera down in the park so I ran outside.  Half way down the first walk way I was called back by the boy’s father who had picked it up.  On the way back I got the gift of the performance ending with the whole gang of dancers in white moving slowly toward the audience.  The feeling was the anticipation of friends and loved ones coming together, slowly approaching the dancers interacted with each other and with us.

Well, we had our heaven today and went straight for Amy’s ice cream.

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Heloise Gold "And Now What" poem

Danger:  Dance Ahead

And Now What Happens, produced by Heloise Gold

Watch your head.  I mean really watch your head.  You are about to enter a zone from which you may not return.

I am viewing still in my head the show by Heloise Gold and Beverly Bajema of January 2009 and Heloise’s Fusebox Festival show at some time in the Spring of 2009.  As you can see, I am slightly disoriented months later and am writing to distill the experience of this earthly ethereal choreography.

My mind reels from watching the two in January and the variety of performers in the Fusebox show.  It is as if my palate is being asked to process the smoothest textured mud pie that actually has the sensation, the taste, and the emotional transport of the finest chocolate.

But let me get back to the danger warning with which I began.  Just as an example, Ginger and I have never recovered from a show Heloise did 10 years ago.  She performs these full body blasts of bird sounds that wake up the soul.  I would guess that we woke up in some way because since that day we communicate with each other by using “peep, peep.”  That is the way we find each other in the grocery store and greet each other on the phone.  That would be bad enough but we refer to each other as “Mr. and Mrs. Peep.”

That is only one part of the Dance Danger as I am sure our hard drive is permeated with movements and sideways glances beyond our awareness.

And we are not the only ones.  There are people all over this planet flaring their nostrils and communicating as if they were pigs.  This was happening pre-Miss Piggie and pre-piggie world everywhere with pets and toys.  Piggie phobia folk may not want to continue with my exploration of the depths of pigdom.

Just as an example of the danger to others, listen to the language of the January audience afterwards.  Sorry, I do not have a “before” example to compare what they were like before the performance.  Here are their words, “arugula beauty” “mesmerizing perspiration”  “happy fancy”  “laughing variety”  “primordial yeah” and “pump infinitesimal.”

So much for the warnings.  Let’s launch into my poems which are the only way I can begin to process the slippery sublimity of these dances.

The Fusebox show begins

Chrysanthemum by Heloise goes beyond description

Have a Nice Life–How does a group of meshlings become a wingness and a palmness pulling the wind into the setting sun?

Lauren entrance–How does one come to this state?  How does one come to this smoothness, a skill of slipping inside and outside a transparent skin, immulating the juices of the innards blending, melting, and molting all states into lightness and springing that does not touch the earth.

Meg entrance–How does one become as casual as a child’s knee hanging over a creek bottom?

Elaine entrance–How does one become the “Oh” personality of the “O” movement?

Heloise entrance–How does a soaring bird bank her flight beyond the horizon?  White inhales sought the sender, unfurling, exhaling more white into a flight of surrender.

The Sound of Paper

My mind wipes clean everything and returns with Heloise appearing as a dream in a huge white paper costume.  Heloise’s encasement of paper is 8 feet high and wide wide, designed by Beverly Bajema to obliterate any previous image or concept in the human visual or emotional vocabulary.  Here is my commentary:

Once there was a whiteness, a brightness, a thirdness of arm that had, yes, surrendered to the windness, leaning white lines feathered crackles into a million mile homage.  Only stillness will arrive.

The huge white costume home of the dancer is complete, quintessential, so much largeness of itself.  What are you doing on this earth, great white one?  So much of itself, a face beyond an ancient face, an arm as large and round as a serpent, a skirt and fringe trickling the ground.  The face of Heloise radiates as an ancient one generating more and more whiteness.  It moves, every movement magnified in the universe, making a crackling sound emanating from the forest itself, a growling, an unraveling anticipation.

I am startled by my cell phone that I had failed to turn off.  It had to ring at this crucial quiet moment.  I fumble in my pocket and instead of the phone, my wad of keys falls to the floor with a loud clunk.  Devastated I am stunned and still in an altered state from this dance moment.  Heloise continues an infinitesimally slow turn occasionally using a third arm.  The audience recovers somehow from my chaos of sound, the lights go to black, and the show goes on.

Duet–Julie entrance with a tube

Can a meeting of two come due more alive?  Rubble troubled slap and rap could have cuddled slip or clap.  Stiletto pointatello.  Dribble, slide in, then find a wall and riddle falling metaphor, stallion ridden, slid spit split behind over with and off.  A lean.  A break.  Standing alone pounced up a wall, strike and throw away into an openness beyond any yearn or shallow rattling wall.  As two become due, due and two slip like the river through.  They listen and speak as if two and due never were, yet there they are slithering into the heart of the wave, emerging with a wild single sound something like  a melody of rocks clacking in rapids

Bottles and Birds–Heloise enters humbled with French horn and saxophone

Sometimes mining requires a long slow spelunker’s journey into craggy tiny passages sometimes in darkness, always in the vacuous space between explosive and surprising sound.  Like a garden, once the ground has felt the slow touch of the spade all around and experienced its underside freshly exposed, then a surprising “now” sends its aroma to the spelunker ready to ply his luck at the mine.  Tools like a saxophone noodling with a French horn become one with the spelunker and float with them into the vacuous nothingness that began once the fresh earth aroma arrived at the tintillated hairs of nostrils.  The body of the spelunker has no choise at this point but to laugh or cry into the flight down or up the rope into an oblivion of lightness.  The vocal chords likewise have no choice but to call out as a soaring bird calling for it clearest echo.  At long last or short or absence of duration, the treasure of the hunt, the ore of yore or other poetic click or clack dissolves and runs like water into around and through the earth, the air, the light until only one thing remains and that is delight as if that were the grail at the end of the trail or other such nostalgias.  Only the sound of wind remains, tintalatory sweet swift soft rippling.  And once the vibration flutters the hairs of the ears, the spectrums of the eyes, the nostrils, the dermal pairs, the secretion’s mares, the gastral squirts, and the heartal squoosh., still all that is left is delight in the wind.

Pigz R Us–Questions for a piggie, both mechanical and humane?

Well, if you were the symbol of life, well yes you are pink and almost ooshy like the squooshy gooshy around an open heart, and yes you are just as insistent and loud and you do like to snuggle down into mud like our most precious ancestors and their plankton friends.  Well I have to admit your squeal is seminal inside my brain calling once and for all now to have it all, promising to fall into an avalanche of tears unless life gives you more life.  So, well what of your symbol of mating and courting and dreaming and simply smiling in the mud.  Could you symbol those too?

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Living Springs Arts poem

Poems by Tim Hurst

Never Too Far, Produced and choreographed by Deborah Tate

Trumpet Star Spangled Banner begins and I am immediately puzzled.  The feeling in the room is different from other performances.  There is a quality from the sound of the trumpet that hints that something really good is about to happen.

What is the difference?  A singer’s pose, a dancer’s presence, a body of wholeness, a voice of stillness, enticing life, connecting with God at the speed of light.

What is the difference?  There is a stillness in these bodies, man and woman; a resting that passes desperation on their way to a higher power.  There is a quietness of reaching within.  There is a softness, a firmness, a powerful spark always at work.  There is a connection to brightness pulsing within and showing itself fully that goes beyond excellence, beyond sexiness, and beyond the dancing and singing within my own heart.

So the story begins and the son is told a home always awaits him.  Gone away, he sings his songs of stench and emptiness.  His angels come sliding on his dark cloud.  With fishing gear and dancing shoes, they call him from his knees and ask for his “yes.”

The son sings with his whole being.  Only a man of such huge wholeness could bring the quest for forgiveness through his stomach, his entrails boiling with his “yes.”  His singular angel of triumph is called to thaw his frozen sun, to raise his broken chest, to make sure all the anguish is spun and flung into the hands of God.  His angel finishes with a walk that washes all his pathways back home.

Here is the real steadiness I see in these bodies, these men, these women.  They know nothing will ever separate them from their loving Father.  They will never be too far to come back.  The full round sound of the trumpet calls in gratitude for the setting sun.

After a pause, dancers bring us back with Glorious song.

Dancers’ joyful noise again captivates wholeness, stillness centers itself to spin, ribbons awake the space, fans surprise the heartbeat, and unison surges to spell the purpose of fullness.

Singers call, “can you buy me a resolution…old me, new me…I love to ask for that funny little game we play…amazing grace.”

Duet dancers run to Turn it Out.  Here we are.  Bring it.  Tell it.  No, don’t.  OK knees feel it.  Here we are.  Tell it.  No, wait.  OK now tell it, kick it, leap it.  Now fly.  We are the heat.  Here we stay.  We can bring it quiet, spin it loud, smile it right, live it.

Dancing chief comes to speak of the Promise.  Her torso explodes across the sky.  Her palms cool the contour of the earth.  Her complete energy proclaims.  Her footprints are from her maker.

A poets’ message for me:  “finally get away from the madness, just call my name.”  “You can “stand in the midst and let God have his way.”

Dancers reprise and respond with Marvelous.

Marvelous, the message flows, connects.  I will see space carved to the end of the earth, movement redeemed, all given.

Marvelous, the message flows, ignites.  I will see fire’s center, flames of light, life given.

Marvelous, the message flows.  I will see me set free, elbows unclasped, torsos unleashed, fullness forever.  Marvel.

Piano washes away all the stillness of the sea waiting for you and me.  The quiet is God blessing our own.  And we hear the echo of the poet again, “I am done holding on.  Today I am standing on your promises.”

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Audience and performers create together

As a dance audience we are creating along with the performers a tangible experience together.  With each audience, what is created is unique.  The swells of emotion and excitement change from one evening, from one audience to another.  The laughter, the applause, the sighs, all these are unique to the experience that is being created by this audience, with these performers, in this particular location.

The experience of dance and theater is also unique in preparing the audience to open to this mutual creation.  The audience is guided to this opening by the choreographers and directors and handlers of support and logistics.  Their dedication and clarity set the stage for an experience waiting to happen.

The quality of the experience depends on the willingness of all parties to reach for this experience.  So what performances create is an opportunity for the kind of openness that is required for a mutual creation.  Everyone involved creates the results.

The performance experience reflects the willingness of us as audience to open and recognize this mutual creation.

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Viewing Mr. B's Episodes by Ballet Austin

George Balanchine’s Episodes by Ballet Austin October 2008

This piece goes far beyond what I have been told to expect from Mr. B, movement stripped to its essential beauty for its own sake.  I was surprised and awed to find what audiences have discovered in his ballets from the beginning of his career.

I am stunned.  I am invited and ushered inside Mr. B’s mind tasting every morsel of a dancer’s explorations.

I am meticulously told where to look, how to follow joints folding, binding, crumpling, twining.  My wired anticipations are shocked with hard female toes aimed at male ears.  My eye is tricked and teased to follow duos only to find unos instead.

Most challenging of all, I am invited to the vulnerability of dancers revealing the human beauty of the stutter, the stumble, the assisted flutter.  And I am challenged to believe that the floating flying bodies defy what should be pounding athleticism and reveal the utter beauty of the human spirit.

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Viewing Julie Nathanielsz improv rehearsal

Julie, Bev, Hel, Meg  Improvisations   September 21, 2008 Anna Hiss

Poems by Tim Hurst,  Thanks for including me in your dance space.  From my Hay and Mettler training, I always consider myself a part of the dance and allow myself to work along with you in words.  The words then become movements and rhythms and the sense has to come from that rather than the rhetorical structure or whatever words normally do.  Here are the poems:

I am a murmur.  Never mind the waterfall pounding from my eyes.  Four bodies shaping the air creates water body, water air, play, sounding together, washing multiple brain waves bouncing everywhere.

Exploring the sound of moving, all moves are me speaking to me, connecting stasis, wading thigh deep in loud brain synapses.  All whip and lift catches cortical beats clearing one habit and embarking on another.

This us is once rustled, once truffled in canter pace before banter on the long walk.  After once tuggled, before tumbled, tuckled in to, then coupled.  Once ten’d, twentied toe nails brushed, then the round goes through, the up rolls into, the couple spills over space into.

Split second.   Speed.  Change we need.

Nested in a long string, happiness again.  Relationships set quickly, allow extended finish or more change within.

Rock two bodies in knee.  Lock stop.  Two winged and antlered, frame a two whistle middle.  Ram sent to corner where partners four puddle in Arabic.  Now far away in a line lifted, spelled, pelled.  Fingers spring back a cog wheel.  Elbows rise.  Capesh.

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Dance stripped to its essense Poem

When I go past the tease of bare bodies, past the dancer’s smile, past each dancer’s push into the lime light, what is it that captures me?

When I go past the form of the Latin whipped hip, the gripped leg line, the sassy and the whirling, the punched, the fleeting, and the slithery, what is it that captures me?

When I go past the luscious personality and the spunky, the tendered and the guarded, the raw and the pained, what is it that captures me?

What captures me is not easily spoken because the sheer energy of the dance pulls something from me that connects with the dancer.  That connection is like a blossom of feeling, exuberance, anticipation, pride for myself and the dancer.  Simply, we share the powerful waterfall that we call life.

What captures me in that waterfall has something to do with the vulnerability of someone standing out there alone or with a partner or a group.  They are baring everything they are and challenging every part of themselves.  That bravery is more than I can often summon.  I am in awe and totally thankful for the dancer taking the steps that I do not.

So when I am connected to the dancer’s energy in all my feeling and awe, what captures me?  Again the vulnerability stands right out there and I see my own vulnerability.  I see us all in the same boat as powerful and awkward, as catching the moment as quickly as we can.  We are all very human people.

In that vulnerabiliy, something of the beauty in each person stands out beyond the skin showing costume, beyond the elegance or the slinky postures.  Even in competition, the prime currency becomes whether the dancer excells their own doubts and states clearly who they are as a person.

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Watch dance to fire more brain cells

Here is what Steven Brown and Lawrence M. Parsons say in Scientific American:

Watching dance fires the brain and even more so when the viewer has learned the style of dance they are watching.  Here is what Scientific American has to say:

Investigators have found that when people watch simple actions, areas in the premotor cortex involved in performing those actions switch on, suggesting that we mentally rehearse what we see—a practice that might help us learn and understand new movements. Researchers are examining how widely humans rely on such imitation circuits.

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Watching Modern Dance

Modern dancers and their contemporary dance offspring are our explorers. They go first into the caves of our minds and emotions, into the wilderness of our fears and hopes. Because the body is their paint brush and canvas, we experience with all our senses what other artists symbolize in other materials.

Watching modern dance is going into a wilderness of uncharted territory, . I have to be willing to explore the ramblings of the choreographer’s mind and respect their courage for going where I could never imagine. My own perspective becomes a testing ground for their boldness and their quiet moments of reflection.

History has shown us that changes of perspective are often seen in art prior to the understanding of the principles in science. Choreographers like Deborah Hay are aware that her explorations of the body help us to understand the changing perspectives in scientific and psychological theory.  In this way all of our explorations are connected and we are all changing moment by moment by our courage to look around and willing go to the next step.

Watching dance, and especially modern dance, is one way I exercise my courage and willingness. Absorbing every nuance of movement becomes a compassionate look at my personal exploration and an attempt to explore with the performer.

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Viewing Deborah Hay poem

Dear Deborah Hay,                                                January 15, 2005

The Match and Solo Adaptations:  Echoes of the Self staking out its vulnerability from deep inside the silence of the Temple.

Vulnerability runs through my self as a participant and observer within your dance.  There is no catching or holding any image other than the passing of the moment to moment attention that we share.  As audience, we are in a relationship with you to shake loose our limitations that delude us into thinking that we are hiding in some way.  Your dancers bring this home over and over that the truth inside is already visible and using your form they have an excuse to be that truth as deeply as they will allow.

Standing in this relationship as audience is a demanding one, to be here with you while we both explore our silences, our screams, our darkest moments.  Of course, the demands of performance are no different from being with you daily except that in my daily life I pretend to hide my fear of not having enough commitment, sincerity, etcetera.  Actually you are giving me a chance to go ahead and admit that I am vulnerable with you and it’s OK to just be in the silence together.

And as with any journey into our united self, I need the guidance of a person of great discipline and commitment to light the pathway ahead.  And on this earth, I need a form to keep my attention so I keep taking one step at a time.  Thank you for dedicating yourself to your unique form that enriches my life every day.  Your dance abounds with all that I wish for, clarity, courage, longevity, and willingness.  In your dances, I am inspired to step into the lightning of my self where laughter and tears flow as one.

God bless and thank you and your elegant dancers,

 Tim Hurst






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Viewing Ellen Bartel poem

Ellen Bartel Solo

Spank Dance

At Salvage Vanguard

September 20, 2008


Ellen stands in front of small crowd.


Ginger and I stand at the back looking through rows of people to catch glimpses of her.


Ellen simply standing sends out beams of bright light, strong and cutting and at the same time oozing and tender.


I feel drawn to go to the center of the three lines of people in front of us.  Ginger feels more comfortable where we are at the back with lots of space around us.


I inch forward while we wait for sound problems to be worked out.  Then I realize Ginger is standing behind me and I want us to watch together.


Inside myself, I feel a tangible sensation of wrenching loose my desire to watch from the front of the room.  I step back along side Ginger and place my arm around her waist.


Sound difficulties assuaged, Ellen begins to move.


I can only see bits of her movement.  In the front row is a red head with buzzed out hair beside a man with black hair tight against his elongated head.  Between them is a triangle shaped opening that become by monitor screen number one.


To their left is a larger space before another woman with lots of brown hair.  I can see past her rib cage to a little bit of the floor.


On the second row, a little to our right, is a friend stands with a few strands of hair left on his large head.  And of course, like the last time I saw Ellen, a very tall dark haired man steps right in front of us.  He even stands on his toes blocking more visibility.


Ginger complains and we fidget a little to our right.


After catching a few glimpses of Ellen’s first moves through this maze of negative space, I realize that we have the best seat in the house because Ellen’s powerful movements are highlighted in very interesting ways through these several openings.


Ellen’s movements must be tailored for standing crowds because each move captured me with its beginning or its middle or its end, depending on the opening that I was following at the time.


The water of her hands preceded her across and down and through.  She rolled in a wind keeping her aloft and propelling her elbow, chin, shoulder across my privileged screen.


A wave must have buoyed our craft; her knee barely rose into the red head screen.  The wave intensified as Ellen reared up and back, one knee digging into the screen and pushing down and out of view.


The giant man moves more in front of us.  We shift and gawk around him.


Ellen’s one hand rises above the heads, one of her fingers emerges from an ear of the red head, passes across, up and comes directly out of the top of my friends almost bald capo.


I am moved to sway in and out of the spaces where Ellen emerges, my eyes, my head, my torso undulating with the powerful tenderness of her movements.


One arm aloft, all five of her fingers fly up, open, arriving, preparing for the completion of the dance.