Emotions in circles
Text: Rania Broud
You. Within a space.
Be it a dark black box
or in a colorful room.
A space where you and I
have no pre-belonging
sense of place.
Where do I stand
Where do you find
your own space?
Together with a group of strangers.
(So much in my own head)
This corner belongs to me and a couple of people now.
Open spaces with no direction
no seat number to guide or determine
where you will position yourself
for the next hour or so.
Am I OK in this corner?
Sometimes just positioning yourself in a room – when the whole group of people are doing just that – becomes a prolog to a performance only an outside eye will notice. (Or just the tech people.)
You and the others – without language – decide. We get ready for the artists to enter the room. Here. From where each one of us decides to position ourselves.
You are here –
Says this years Boulevard Theaterfestival’s slogan.
Here I am.
Excited and nervous for the unexpected. Perhaps just like the performer(s).
1. Punk rock circle dance
Miet Warlop’s Ghost Writer and the Broken Hand Break
Three dancers spinning.
Spinning in circles.
I decide to stand in my corner, and I take turns focusing on each of the three performers.
Sometimes I lose my balance.
My fellow audience members sit on the floor.
I look down at the floor to see if the floor is rocking.
It is not.
But my body is.
Like an optical illusion picture tricks your brain, to think that the patterns are moving, the three circle dances each performer is doing, tricks me into feeling movement in the floor.
Does watching dance make you want to dance? Or move?
And when did dancing together turn into someone dancing for some spectators?
I kind of want to join their spinning.
I suppress the need.
I’m moved by their spinning. Their endless spinning. I’m moved between boredom and restlessness with their endless spinning. Where are they taking us, with this spinning? Should I also take my arms out to my sides and join their spinning project? What would happen if i did?
It is so quiet here.
I keep standing.
Beats coming from someones hips.
One of the male performers taps some devices attached to his hips. Music beats coming from his tapping.
Sound-tech guy becomes fetching-dancers-one-instrument-each-guy. Fetching to male performer with yellow painted right hand an instrument. Yellow catches. Fetching second male performer with blue painted right hand an instrument. Blue catches. Fetching third and last performer, a female with a red painted right hand, an instrument. Red catches.
After a while music was happening. Yellow holds a drum. Blue a guitar. Red a high-hat. Blue fumbles with the guitar at first. Made me worry. Blue finds his own balance within his own spinning momentum. Yellow was fine and drumming away a beat Blue had to groove to. Red’s high-hat, an instrument more difficult to maneuver in circles, took control over her. She had to accept that the momentum she had built was going to change. But then together they found a beat. Complementing. And together dancing and making music in circles.
After a while the music became a punk rock circle dance concert. What was quiet is no more. Now I dare to not stand still. Dance in my own way. Rock my head or tap my hand. Others in the room do too. Our own tribal dance.
2. Circle, square and triangle – received and sent with use of telepathy
Jija Sohn, Andrea Zavala Folache and Lucy Wilke’s Preview: Lands of Concerts: Body Work Edition
After doing breathing exercises together with a group of people – Oh my god, I really needed those – my body was open to any challenges. After searching the room for an inanimate object to fall in love with, I am asked to pair up with a girl to do some telepathy. As one does in a workshop. Why not. Let’s be open minded. Together.
The girl sends me a circle, square or triangle. I feel her skepticism. A lot of negative energy. Maybe she is nervous. I guess the first one. It’s correct. She looks surprised. I concentrate and send her a circle. She receives and guesses correct. More surprised. We fail a couple of times before not failing again. She seems more relaxed now. Even smiles. I take it as a win. We are now both more open minded to the world. With that a portal in my mind opens up:
Why is it called that?
Why not circle, square and triangle?
A circle can roll itself into any place, any building. A square can move with some difficulties, but the triangle might be less fortunate. Needs a hand to move it from point A to point B.
In Norway, where I live – one of the richest countries in the world – I rarely see people in wheelchairs. Therefore I rarely pay attention to my privileged moving body. I need not to pay attention to whether or not a building has easy access for people on wheelchairs. I walk right in. At Boulevard Theaterfestival, in the streets of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, I saw many people in wheelchairs with different types of disabilities. Both in the street and on stage as performers. Diverse body types among artists and audience members.
I (sometimes) felt a hint of shame for noticing other human beings with differently functioning bodies. I question this underexposure of body diversity. I recall my friend’s brother who is disabled, who I first met during a vacation a couple of years back. So much more planning went into that trip for my friend’s family than it did for me. I saw first handed how much harder a normal day was for them. I also came to recall the growing anger I felt a summers day traveling from Norway to Morocco with my father in 2015. He was in a wheelchair for the first time after just receiving the “death penalty” from his doctor. His cancer had spread severely. Estimated time left was four weeks.
-‘Take me to Morocco. I want to die where I was born.’
The trip itself was difficult. The clock was ticking as if we were in war with time. Trying to get to my fathers home before his body would slowly shut down. Before arriving, we had a layover in Paris. A few antagonizing hours at Charles de Gaulle. No place suited for a weak – soon to be – disabled body. No places for his tired body to rest. I’ve always looked back on that day and thought that we were both lucky he made it. I could see my father concentrating on staying alive. Trying to make it home. I too was concentrating on him making it home. Envisioning him in his bed, not in some airport, dying. Not in some hospital, but at home. Surrounded with his family, friends and neighbours. Few weeks later that wish came through.
Day by day his body lost strength. He lost his voice too. Getting him to eat became a struggle. Rapidly he lost even more weight. At the day it happened, my stepmother and I were in the room when he took his final breath.
-‘Did he just die?’, my stepmother asked.
-‘I don’t know’, I said and cried.
In midst of the chaos, my stepmother and I washed my fathers dead body. We knew him as the type of man who always made sure to look presentable in front of people. Therefore we washed him, changed his diaper and got him in some fresh clothes. All before the doctor declared him legally dead. And before the religious and ceremonial wash of the body would take place by a fkih. Appearance was important to him. We figured this would be no different if he was a corpse. Only days before his passing he made sure he groomed himself. A home visit by a barber – new hair cut. His beard nicely shaved. By me. He was a beautiful corpse. Dressed in all white and smelling of rose water. Ready to get buried.
All of these memories flushed over me, when the performers during Lands of Concerts: Body Work Edition pretended to give Jija Sohn a sponge bath. Andrea Zavala Folache doing the task and Lucy Wilke instructing and explaining how it’s done. Beautifully explained, by the beautiful blond haired Lucy, sitting in her wheelchair. The two circles and the triangle. Someone they called mama, a blind woman – the square – relaxing and listening to an audio book.
After the bathing sequence in Lands of Concerts: Body Work Edition, the audience-performer relationship had shifted from a participating workshop, where we had to complete different tasks, to us becoming spectators watching a performance. It was due to participating in different tasks and having the time to also just look and think that I could transport myself to different periods of my life. When Jija and Andrea asked Lucy how it was for her to be depending on others washing her, I also wondered, if I had been gentle when I used to work at a nursing home as a teenager, washing elderly and disabled elderly people. Most of them probably gone now, unless some of them were turning a hundred years old.
I particularly remember singing to the woman in room 308 the nurses explained soon would pass away. Taking turns, we would sit in her room. The woman cried and screamed for days. Not out of pain, but perhaps out of sadness, loneliness or frustration. I couldn’t bear listening to this poor woman’s sounds, so I sang for her to calm her down. She would stop her crying and listen with her eyes closed, but soon start again if I stopped. I would sing until she fell asleep, or until my shift was done. That whole scenario reminded me of a cat I once had. I would bathe it, making it cry. If I sang she would stop crying. During the years I worked at the nursing home, I never saw a dead body. Not until my own father died. I’ve lost count of how many cat’s I’ve buried. They often got run over and would crawl back to our yard. We eventually stopped adopting cats.
Jija’s strapped body in an awkward position was done for her to experience a body with limitations. Making her circle into a triangle. Spreading her pain across the room. My right shoulder started to hurt from watching her movements. How come corpses are hidden so much from society, and how come I rarely see physical challenged people in wheelchairs in my daily life? Do we hide them to not be reminded of other peoples pain and our own immortality? The beauty of the dead is mostly for the mortician, and the beauty of the disabled for the nurses.
Sending, sending, sending, sent.
Circle, square or triangle?
3. Unicorn penpal
Chiara Bersani’s Seeking Unicorns
C is an unique unicorn
Always dressed in white
She’s a rare type of unicorn,
the type that can choose when to wear her horn
C is planning a reunion party with her old friends
she hasn’t seen for a long time
She’s old fashioned
She sends out her invitations by mail
The waiting both agonizes and thrills her
Music from the neighbours puts a smile on her face
Soon they will be hearing music pounding against their wall too
Soon she’ll be dancing
If someone dares to dance
Soon she’ll be singing
If someone dares to sing
Soon she’ll be playing music
on her trumpet
And then a brass band
Invitation letter from C, as presented to us before entering the performance
«It was July, 28th 2009 and Stephen Hawking was sitting alone in the dancing hall.
There were white, silver and purple helium balloons.
There was gold everywhere.
At the entrance there was a banner saying ‘Welcome Time Travelers’. It would have been an amazing party if only we would have arrived there.
If they would have arrived at the appointment with their evening dresses, a bit tired by the journey maybe, but smiling, looking them in their eyes, we could have finally said: Here they are!
From that moment on, nobody would have had any doubts about their existence.
Now it is 2019, it’s August and here in ‘s-Hertogenbosch we are following the sun. I imagine you, one by one, from the moment you decided to reply to my invitation. I imagine you while you organize the day, while you ask yourselves whether it’s better to eat before or after the appointment. I imagine you in front of your wardrobe busy deciding the best dress. I imagine you while you are walking towards me going through this summer afternoon.
I have been waiting for such a long time…
I bought you flowers, I tied up my world, and now I have vertigo as I hear you rumbling outside the door.
Who knows if we will recognize each other this evening.
Who knows if we will eventually discover that yes, we actually exist.
Who knows if you will invite me to dance.
Who knows if we will spend the night together.
With my heart in my throat,
I will wait for you there.
A response letter from the future
Thank you for your invitation.
To think it’s been 10 years already. Time runs by so fast.
2009 feels like yesterday. It feels like time traveling – visiting a 10 year old memory – just to find myself back here in the present. I find myself tired but happy. I am currently writing to you from New Zealand. I hope to make the party just in time. Traveling from here will be the closest thing to an actual time traveling experience. I hope to bring good news from the future. I wonder if it will be a rainy summer afternoon. I kind of wish it will be. I wonder if this letter will even arrive before or after my visit.
Before will give you confirmation that I am coming. After will leave you wondering, but then surprised.
As of now I’ve already decided for my red dotted dress. But I have no idea which shoes to wear, or if I should wear my hair up or down. Perhaps up. In the beginning. If I feel like it I can always take it down later.
Do you still play the trumpet? I haven’t played any instruments since our final exam in high school. I used to play the violin and the viola. Now it would probably sound as if I was strangling a cat. For some reason I still have my flute from primary school, and I even take it with me on travels. I’ll bring it with me and play. But only if you play your trumpet. If I should be late to your party, just know I am probably lost in the streets somewhere close.
How about you play your trumpet just so I can find my way to your place? That would be fun.
Remember our graduation party? I admired your courage to join every teenage activity regardless of what people said or thought about your body’s ability. You never let anyone’s criticism affect you. At least I think. You always saw yourself as a unicorn who could do anything. Play the trumpet. Even if your tiny body with your tiny lungs had to practice twice as much to keep up. Or party. Even if your tiny body couldn’t cope with as much alcohol as ours. You did not let your body decide how much life it should or should not experience. So you became the mystical creature that is a unicorn, because of your ability to bring people together, just as you will do with this party.
I still have the picture of you lying drunk in the grass with flowers in your hair – straight out of a Shakespearian Midsummer Night’s Dream – you held my hand and asked – will you remember this moment forever? I did. I send you a copy of the picture to bring smiles to your face.
With warmth and smiles
from the near future
Your time traveller
C the unicorn dances in a square
Her own type of circle dance
The guests are a bit timid
Watching her solo
Watching, even if the time goes by slowly
Watching, because they admire her
Watching, because they’re in awe
of how much patience each crawl requires
from both them and her
C the unicorn
makes sure to see
each person in their eyes
To wish them welcome
To say, without words
I see you
We are here together
You are here –
Here I am
Full of life
Full of joy
And in the end
Essay from Rania Broud after seeing Miet Warlop’s Ghost Writer and the Broken Hand Break, Preview: Lands of Concerts: Body Work Edition by Jija Sohn, Andrea Zavala Folache & Lucy Wilke and Chiara Bersani’s Seeking Unicorns at Theaterfestival Boulevard 2019. Rania is 1 of the participants of the Dance&Dare SummerSchool, an international project for creative writers who dare to look for new words for dance and performance, by Domain for Art Criticism & DansBrabant. Read all the essays on the DansBrabantBlog.