D&D SummerSchool

My hopeless attempts to connect

Text: Saskia de Haas

Last year I attended a workshop in Guatemala. It was about intimacy. I always feel uncomfortable only thinking about these kinds of workshops, but my curiosity won.
There was a lot of hugging. I hate hugging people I hardly know.
During one of the exercises I had to partner up with a stranger. I connected with a girl of my own age. We had to look each other deep in the eyes. We were silent, but it felt like we were telling each other a lot. Then we had to share our deepest secret. She looked at me with a sparkle in her eyes, as if she was raising the tension. All possibilities of secrets were passing my mind. She opened her mouth and broke the silence.
“My joni is on fire!”, she almost yelled with this crazy gaze in her eyes.
The intimate moment we just had, broke into thousand pieces.
After this three hour workshop experience with a lot of hugging, playing animals and telling “deep secrets”, I promised myself to never, never do this again.

But here I am. Only two blocks away from home. Attending workshops.
About intimacy and making contact.

I’m sitting on the ground, in front of a stranger. I think circle and close my eyes for a few seconds.
I open my eyes and look at the point between the eyebrows of the stranger in front of me.
“Sending, sending, sending, send”, I say pretty intense, while sending the word ‘circle’ with my mind. The stranger in front of me raises her eyebrows and sighs.
I nod enthusiastic. The stranger remains silent.
“It is your turn now.”
“Send”, she says bored.
“Triangle?”, I guess.
She nods yes, but doesn’t seem to be impressed at all.

After this telepathic contact with a stranger, I have to fall in love with an object. I scan all objects in the room. I lay my eyes on this green-blue fluffy ball. I don’t know why. Maybe because it looks soft and funny.
Unfortunately I have to share my love. With two others. With a man and a woman. They don’t even seem to notice me. I see how they touch the ball and look each other in the eye full of recognition of their shared love. I feel second row. I give up and make myself believe it’s more exiting to not know how the ball really feels.

The workshops are led by Jija, Andrea and Lucy. There is also a “mama” listening to an audiobook while lying down on a mattress. She wears sunglasses.

Lucy is in an electric wheelchair. She is very disabled.
With a blue and pink sponge in her hands, Lucy tells us how she is washed every morning by a caregiver. Her voice sounds sweet and soft.
She rubs the pink sponge softly over the leg of Jija. The blue sponge is for the upper body, she tells us. The pink sponge for the lower body.
I can’t imagine how it feels to let a ‘stranger’ wash me, touch every part of my body. I try to imagine how I want to be washed by a stranger. But it is difficult to know. I imagine too soft can make it erotic, but too rough and practical can make it cold and detached, almost like ignoring the intimacy of the action. Because it is intimate.

Jija asks Lucy how it feels to have intimacy when you can’t use your whole body. Andrea suggests to bond her, to tie her up with tape, so she can experience. Lucy emphasizes bonding doesn’t mean you have to be passive.
While tied up, Jija looks very vulnerable. She search for the limits of her body. Slowly she moves her head, her neck. Then she moves her folded body. With a lot of attention Jija moves the parts she can moves. She crawls slowly over the floor. Andrea lies her body against the body of Jija.

Not by attending workshops and telling each other ‘deep secrets’.
Not by telepathic contact or by falling in love with an object. But here, in this moment, while watching the connection between Jija and Andrea and while listening to Lucy’s frank story, I finally connect and find intimacy.  

Essay from Saskia de Haas after seeing Preview: Lands of Concerts: Body Work Edition by Jija Sohn, Andrea Zavala Zavala Folache & Lucy Wilke at Theaterfestival Boulevard 2019. Saskia 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.