CHARGE: Needles, California

CHARGE: Needles, California

February 1, 2016

Kristine Adams & Philippa Moirai

I would have never guessed I would meet up with Kristine Adams and Philippa Moirai in the very small town of Needles, California, on this historic Route 66.

I saw on Facebook that Philippa and Kristine were in the states and on a road trip. Turns out we were both driving through Arizona. We decided to meet right on the border of California and Nevada.  We found a cute little trailer park right on the Colorado River to park our rig.  They found a motel only a couple miles away.

I invited them over for dinner at the trailer.  We caught up on travels of past and future plans.  Then we checked the weather for the next day.  Snow both ways and super crazy winds!  We all decided to just spend the day together in Needles and wait the weather out for one more day.

I shared the CHARGE project with the girls and…YES!  Kristine proposed a deserted old motel she saw as location. Yes. Philippa proposed a Hotel California flamenco remix. Yes. We started some laundry at the park and head to the motel.

It just happened. One idea after the other. We just did it.  It was a loosely developed idea with a lot of improvisation. It was so enjoyable. Kristine and Philippa are a joy. Creative, light, loving and up for it. This was the most time I have ever spent with either one of the girls. I have respected both of their works for many years but this was my first opportunity to experience truly why these two humans are so uniquely amazing.

I’m reaching to find much more to say because it was easy.  Enjoyable. Relaxing and exhilarating at the same time.

Just yes :-)

CHARGE: Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville, North Carolina

December 12th 2015

Nicole

I went through Asheville, North Carolina specifically to visit my dear friend SamiTe. We stayed three days in a beautiful spot on the river. I got in some great runs and great dinners! The last night we were there, SamiTe took us to her friend Nicole’s house for some music and a hot tub soak.

Nicole is awesome and she just recently found Psytrance. Psytrance is electronic dance music geared toward long sessions of a type of trance dance. She told me how she found this music and how it changed her life. CHARGE! Raven actually sent me a text while she was sitting there that said, “Charge?” We made plans for the next evening and we stayed one more day so I could specifically work with Nicole.

We started with some flocking just to get to know each other’s movement a little bit. She had done a lot of Tai Chi in her past and it came into play right away. I could tell that Nicole had not collaborated a lot in movement. She was mostly comfortable completely shut off from her surroundings, disappearing into an alternate space. Movement is an escape for her, a transformation.  I tried to take her cues and disappear into my own world when she needed it.  WE had trouble finding each other at first.  She moves with her eyes closed so I found it difficult to collaborate and easier to follow her… wherever she was going.

It was a very cool experience to be where Nicole lives in movement.  I find myself rarely moving without analyzing and remembering.  She let in and let it go.  I can compare it to moving Shavasana.  I mentally struggled with what we would tape and document.  I could tell it would be difficult to solidify something from this session, it would not be exact or re-creatable.  So we taped a few things and then Nicole started singing.  I was with her and she took us somewhere extremely special.  She let me ride along with her and I have a feeling she doesn’t always make room for other people in her movement process.

What I loved about moving with Nicole was the ability to separate and come back together, numerous times.  Waiting for her cues when she was ready for me.  Finding my own space when she wasn’t.  Dancing with her to Psytrance and feeling the passion that she carries for this sound.  Listening to her sing, listening to her breathe, watching her control the space around her.  She is free in her movements.  She is an individual and strong when she moves.  This is how Nicole rebels against her normal world, how she finds spirituality.

Thank you Nicole for finding ways to include me in your movement.  Thank you for making this experience profound.

CHARGE: Lyles, Tennessee

Lyles, Tennessee

November 28-29th 2015

Cheryl Spears

This is a great story. While we were in Sedona, Arizona at a campground, we ran into a couple coming back from the toilets. Cory and Cheryl. Cory said good morning immediately. We exchanged small talk from a distance at first. “Where ya headed?” “Where y’all from?” They came closer to the trailer as we were hitching up, and we chit-chatted about travels. I knew these two were my sort of people right away. I asked them if they wanted to smoke together, and yes, they were my sort of people. They were so kind that they told us if we passed through Tennessee, we could park outside their house. We really had no idea if we were going to make it but we took their info and went on our way.

The rest of the trip until Tennessee, Raven and I spoke about these two. Raven had a really strong feeling that we should visit, she felt we were destined to be friends. I was very excited because Cheryl is a double amputee…I thought of the CHARGE project right away. It did’t feel like the appropriate time to ask at the campground where we met…I wondered…if I asked, would she say yes? What would I make with her? I was nervous and hopeful she would be interested. When I first met Cheryl she came off as independent, strong, and absolutely capable of anything. So let’s go to Tennessee!

We called Cory and Cheryl when we left Memphis and they welcomed us with huge hugs. They live in Lyles, Tennessee right outside of Nashville. We had a beautiful place to park and three wonderful dogs to keep us company. (It seems we’ve run into a lot of awesome dogs this sabbatical.)

We rolled in Thanksgiving Day, and Cory brought us to his mom and dad’s house. Turns out Cory comes from Grand Ole Opry royalty! If you know something about country western music then you probably know that many of the first breakthrough artists got their start on the Grand Ole Opry. The first woman of the Grand Ole Opry, Jean Shepard, is Cory’s mom. So we spent the day with Jean Shepard, country superstar, 82 years old! We also got a private guitar pickin’ session from her husband Benny Birchfield! It was an honor. Truly.

Friday, I asked Cheryl to dance with me. She was confused at the question. “We can make anything we want, Cheryl. You can tell me yes, you can tell me no.” We agreed, and Saturday we tried something. As Cheryl left the room, her man, Cory, told me about her prosthetics. “She has two legs in the closet she needs to work with.” Instinctively I knew that we needed to use her new legs.

She allowed me to be a part of the whole process. (Cheryl, you are so generous.) I watched her attach her legs. There is a screw at the end of these neoprene knee sleeves that locks into the legs. We started in the living room with her wheelchair and a walker in front of her. I had no idea what to do.

Honestly, I was nervous as hell! I have no training in amputee physical therapy. Period. I was worried the whole night before. I reminded myself to stay open. To learn, not teach; to say yes, with no critique or expectations.

So there we were, ready to begin…Where to begin? Cheryl says it’s been a couple months since she has attempted to stand on her legs. Let’s try! Using the walker, and a lot of upper body strength, she pulled herself up. Her legs cramped immediately, and she sat right back in her chair. A short break later she tried again. Cramping immediately. When she went to sit back in her chair, her chair slid back and she fell to the floor. Slowly, fortunately. We both got scared. Cheryl looked at me and said, “I’m done.” Damn! I joined her on the floor and we leaned into each other. I felt her frustration and her fear. Her disappointment. We took a smoke break on the floor together. We sat and talked and smoked. I was so curious as to how her body has responded to losing her legs. She only lost them one year ago. I felt as though her back would be so tight from sitting in the chair day after day. What about a forward bend? “Hey Cheryl, can you stretch toward your feet?” Holy shit!  She folds in half.  Just lays completely flat on her prosthetics.  No hamstrings!  She is incredibly flexible!  I asked her where her forward bend was before, she never checked.

The energy changed just like that.  Our work was on the floor.  Exhale…yes!  Can we roll over? Can we cobra?  Down-dog? (No)  The windows opened and I could tell that Cheryl felt safe.  We spent the next 3 hours rolling around on the floor.  Eventually we came up with a little flow that included some rolls from front to back and a cobra pose.  It was beautiful and a lot of rest and work.

As we were in cobra pose I noticed Cheryl’s prosthetic knees hit the ground.  I saw it finally.  I think she can push herself to her hands and knees.  Yep!  A couple tries and she has it.  She’s crawling.  First time in years.  We were so exited we started screaming!  Cheryl’s man Cory was outside talking with is mom, he thought Cheryl fell and came running into the house.  We crawled around the floor laughing and screaming.  It was truly a joyous experience.  We ended the day right there and agreed we could work the next day too.

I went back to the trailer by myself to contemplate.  As I walked in the door I began crying.  It was everything.  It was the truth in human hardship, the beauty of friendship, the sadness of loss and the sunshine of determination.  It was the simple success of crawling and the overwhelming feelings of how hard this will be for Cheryl in the future.

How lucky I am that this beautiful stranger would share this journey with me.  The truth is I know nothing about rehabilitation of an amputee.  I wish I knew more.  But Cheryl and I found something that day.  WE found the strength in the Earth below us.  It was truly from the ground up.  WE walked the next day, further and further every time.

At the end of the 2nd work session we sat together her in her wheelchair and me on the sofa. I was telling her how brave and inspirational she was to me.  If I ever lost my legs she would be the first person I would call.  She stopped me and said something that I will think about for the rest of my life.  “Everyone says how brave I am, how inspirational, but Amy, this is not ok.  It will never be ok.” As she places her hands on the top of her thighs.

I love you Cheryl.  Thank you.  I know this is not ok, and you are brave because you have to be.  You are an inspiration to me whether you like it or not.  Peace, love and growth to you my friend.  I hope to see you soon.

 

CHARGE: New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans, Louisiana

November 18th 2015 5:10pm-5:40pm

Sara Landrieu

Oh my gosh, Sara!!!

I have already spent a couple days in New Orleans, and it is really very charming and witchy.  The streets are alive!  There were so many colorful humans that I think I was overwhelmed at first.  We spent a lot of time walking around the usual haunts and although I had some random interactions, I wasn’t moved to ask anyone to make something with me.

Day 3, the truck needs new tires.  We have about an hour and a half to kill.  We took a walk down to the bayou near City Park and passed by an antique store.  Raven pulled me in and there was Sara.  We spent a couple moments talking about the eccentrics of the city, then I told her about CHARGE.  She was in right away although she told me that she was a terrible dancer.  We agreed to meet at her shop at 5pm.

Her store, Broads on Broad, is gorgeous.  It’s full of so many treasures.  I was very excited to have some place private and beautiful.  Sara was so trusting.  She brought us into her shop and locked the doors.  We had only known each other for literally 4 minutes.

I picked a song I thought fit the venue.  She loved it! Sara offered up the whole store and 30 minutes of her time before she had to make a furniture delivery.  We sat down in two beautiful chairs to talk about the piece.  She looked at me and said, “Just tell me what to do and i’ll do it.”  Then she started throwing ideas at me!  The whole piece was full of really awesome organic ideas from Sara.  She had presented herself as a non-dancer with little vision on the project.  She is actually a very driven visionary artist full of independence.  She was clear with what she loved and equally as clear with what wasn’t working for her.  Sara is a joy to create with.  She grew her heart and body into it.

Sara is a 58 year old vibrant woman full of love and trust.  It was so comfortable for me, we laughed like we were old friends.

I am thinking about how incredibly easy it is for me to move with strangers.  Is this a dancer thing?  Is it a completely weird experience for them that I act so casual?

We finished in 30 minutes with as much detail as we could solidify in that time.  It was so fun!  We gave each other huge hugs and exchanged emails.

I felt so light during this process.  I talked about it all the way back to the trailer, making observations and assumptions.  I love talking about the experience after, wondering if my creative partner is talking and thinking about it as well.

Here’s one more thing…not associated to any one experience…  I want to share more of the dark side of what I have been feeling.  These experiences that I’m having are all amazing processes, at the same time, I’m questioning the product a little.  Do I really need to video this?  Does this transfer?  I am not giving up on the project, but I’m questioning where the “work” is right now?  Where the value lies and where all of this is leading.

I am going to start working on some new workshop material and this might give me some perspective…

Dancing with Sara was so fun!!

Thanks Sara and her Broads on Broad antique shop!

CHARGE: Austin, Texas pt. 2

Austin, Texas

November 6th 2015  9:00pm-9:10pm

Kylie Phillips

I was not on a CHARGE mission this night, didn’t even bring my iPad for taping.  I went with April Rose to a house warming party for one of her friends, Melanie.  I am on the back porch chillin’, and in walks Kylie Phillips and her Dad Swift.  I could tell she was a performer right away.  She was so animated with her Dad!

Lauren Checchio was also at the party and we were fortunate enough that she brought her dumbek with her.  Lauren is a bad ass drummer from austin.  She was playing and young Kylie (12 years old) couldn’t stand still.  I asked her, “Do you want to learn something?”  She said yes right away.  Lauren handed me the drum and jumped up to show her some steps.  It was so much fun to watch, but every time I watched the dancers I fucked up the rhythm!  I had to concentrate.  Then Lauren switched me spots and Kylie started talking about crumping.  I begged her to show me something.  We practiced the first 4cts crumping and I added a 5-6-7-8 hip step thing.

Raven grabbed her phone camera, Lauren drummed, Kylie and I danced and April Rose called out the highlights.  I know it’s poor lighting and I debated wether I should post the footage.  The beauty in this one though is the spontaneity and organicness.  I had just met this young lady and we were dancing together.  In true collaboration.

So, after the magic I talked to Kylie and her Dad about the project.  Turns out Kylie is already a celebrity in her own right.  She is Kyliegirl414 on youtube!  She is a singer, songwriter, dancer and choreographer.  She travels for performance and already has a music video out!  Watch it here…..KylieGirl414

This explains why Kylie was so willing.  I thought to myself, she’s a professional!  Her interview is one of my favorites.  She just turned it on when I said go.  I went home immediately and googled her.  She’s amazing.

I do wish there was more light, but what I love about this event is the age difference.

At the end of the evening the host, not Melanie but her husband, stopped to tell me something.  He explained that Kylie’s father Swift and him had toured together for many years.  he told me how special it was to watch our interaction for him.  Full circle friends.  Full circle!

CHARGE: Austin, Texas pt. 1

Austin, Texas

November 15th 2015  3:00pm-5:00pm

April Rose Burnam

April Rose was on my ‘exception to a stranger list’ since the project first conceptualized.  She is one of my dearest friends, for a very long time, and I don’t know if we have ever created together.  I have choreographed, she has choreographed, but we have never made something together.

We started in her living room standing, moved to the floor sitting, then to the dining room table.  It was unclear at the beginning which movements we were technically banking but we continued to just explore.  It was casual work, mixed with random love and snuggles with her animals.  Raisin, the small mixed breed dog, and Butterball a fluffy calico cat.

Once we got to the table things really began to solidify and the “choreography” began to take shape. The piece seemed to say ‘relationship’ right away.  The movements were slow and calming, but it seemed like there was an undertone of misunderstanding.  Now that I have watched the video again as I write this, I actually think it is about actually understanding!  About two people in different places with deep connection that spans time and distance.

We tried a lot of other stuff with the table, but once the music was chosen, it defined where the piece ended.  We used almost everything we banked sitting on the floor but nothing from the standing session.  I was really satisfied when we were able to incorporate some of the ideas from the sitting session because I was unsure how everything was coming together.

I’m very interested to hear what everyone’s different feelings will be about this piece.  What does it reveal?

I really love what we made, but more than that I loved these things:  Watching April in a healthy happy partnership, living in her new house, seeing the new Rose Movement Studio, dancing in her classes on a Wednesday evening, watching her with her animals, hiking the green belt and the making of her interview (so great!)

I have been in Austin for 7 days, the longest we have stayed anywhere since we left Sacramento.

I love you ApRoRo!

CHARGE: Carlsbad, New Mexico

Carlsbad, New Mexico

November 2nd 2015  10:40am-11:00am

Phyllis Beaver, Anna, Don and Joe

On our way to Carlsbad Cavern we found Brantley State Park.  It looked like a beautiful spot to camp.  On the long road out there was a pull out on the side of the road by a small creek.  I could see another trailer parked with a campfire.  We decided to save the $14 and boondock (free off road camping) for the night.

I took a small hike around the area.  It was a lovely spot but full of trash.  I wandered by the creek and noticed that the other campers were trying to take a group photo.  Raven encouraged me to go help.  We chatted for a small amount of time.  They are 6 friends all over 70 years of age.  They had met at dance class at the senior center about 5 years ago.  They are all locals.  They meet here once a year to hang out, catch up, fish and play games.  We excused ourselves to the trailer for the night although they did invite us to stay and play games.

In the morning I took my time with coffee then headed back over to the creek.  Anna came out to meet me immediately.  I walked over to their trailers with them and started on my speech about my sabbatical project, hoping they might be interested…their first answer was no.  Phyllis had a sensitive back, Don had a shoulder issue and Joe sat quietly.  I could tell that Anna was considering.  I got my persuasive voice on and started my pep talk.  I won!  We settled on a game plan.  Don would play his guitar and Joe would teach me to 2-Step.

Don began playing “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash. Joe was saying “not right” and grabbed a small CD player.  He was not a teacher and Anna stepped in to tell me “It’s 2 steps then 1”.  As Joe and I danced he explained to me that his 2 Step was unusual and unique.  He once taught it to an actual dance teacher.  Anna videoed and Phyllis, despite her back , and Don, despite his shoulder aches, couldn’t help but to stand up and join us.

I really wanted to get Don’s Folsom Prison Blues, and I also really wanted to dance with Anna because originally she was totally game, so we worked out a quick little sequence of “step touches” and went for it.  Phyllis joined us.  Anna also asked me to show them what I do, so Don played something on his guitar and I think I performed one of the worst solos of my life.  But they smiled and laughed and I am sure it was genuine.

After the interviews Phyllis invited us to come to her house, “where there’s plenty of room”, and stay with her.  She offered to open the garage where we would have a huge dance party with all their friends.  We exchanged information and now plan to visit again.

The highlight for me was this:  As everyone else was chatting, Phyllis walked by me quietly then stood right beside me.  She said, “You touch everyone you meet don’t you?”  It began a thought process that lasted the whole days travel.

Maybe this project isn’t just for me?…

CHARGE: Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe, New Mexico

October 30th 2015  6:00pm-8:00pm and 9:00pm-10:00pm

Kara McDonald

One of my students, and dear friends, has been battling breast cancer for the past year and a half.  It was a top priority for me to make it to Santa Fe to be with her.  I wanted to be here sooner.

This project is predominately about working with people whom I don’t know, however I knew there would be a few exceptions along the way.  Kara being the first of them.  She just finished her last chemotherapy and I knew we needed to dance together.

We began by catching up on health issues, family stuff, and romance.  I told her about CHARGE and she was in, immediately.  I was really excited about collaborating, to make something co-created by the two of us.  I have so far created with people in an all “follow them”, or “follow me” way.

We just started moving.  I used some of my Pilobolus technique to open my mind and body and receive.  There was some awkward moments in the beginning, but we were both patient and kept discovering.  We kept digging physically without much dialogue.  We banked what we loved without counting or solidifying too much detail.  It was beautiful.  We were just moving, laughing, and connecting.

We took a dinner break after about 2 hours and walked her crazy ass 9 month old puppy to grab some food.  Then back to creating for another hour.  We video’d the piece for memory and agreed to hit downtown Santa Fe the next day to find a great place to document.

Day 2
Halloween day!  We taped in numerous places.  Warehouse 21: a youth safe house, and a few spots in the park.  My favorite was the tunnel.  Kara and I were inspired to re-work a couple movements to adapt to the tunnel.  It was a truly beautiful experience to dance the sequence numerous times in her comfortable surroundings.  I don’t remember which take it was, but at the end when we were back face to face, I saw her struggle, I saw her victory,  I saw her fear, and I saw her strength.  It moved me to tears.  The rest of that story is really hers to tell.

We went to a local pub for Halloween festivities that night.  I wore a tiger onesie, stayed up late, got up early, hitched the trailer and on my way South to Carlsbad.

I think this is Raven’s favorite piece so far.  I sang this song over and over in my head for a full week following this event.  I love you Kara.

CHARGE: Concho, Arizona

Concho, Arizona

October 29th, 2015  9:00am-9:05am

Me

Raven’s Dad and wife Tori bought some property in Concho, AZ.  We made it a priority on this trip to make it out there.  It is 150 acres in the middle of the high desert.  20 miles on a dirt road with the nearest neighbor over a mile away.

Raven’s Dad is a good ‘ole fashion country boy with a side of red-neck.  He moved to Arizona so he could ride his 4 wheeler to the store with a gun on his hip and a rifle mounted in the cab.  I was immediately inspired to ask him to make something with me during our visit.  Leonard says there are only 2 types of music, Country and Western.  I knew this.  I also knew he is not so open to what he would consider “hippy shit”.  I needed to think strategically about how to get him to say yes.  I should come with a plan, or even a little choreography.  I picked up an old pair of cowboy boots from a resale shop, selected an old Randy Travis song and worked out 2 counts of 8.  Something simple just in case we couldn’t figure something out together.  I thought I would propose it on the 2nd day.  Warm him up a bit.

Day 2:  I chickened out :-(

I’m not sure why I felt so scared of it.  I am completely comfortable with people saying no to me.  I usually have to use some sort of persuasion to creatively get experimental movement.  I told myself he was going to say no, I was going to push too far and things were going to get awkward.  We will never know if that would have happened because I never even asked him.

In the morning I was kicking myself with my old new boots.  Lame.  I totally let that moment pass by.  I feel like I should write about both the triumphs and failures of this project.  So here’s a video clip that I consider a failure for this project.

I asked Raven to come outside with me and tape the little combo I had done for her Dad so I could reference this.  I don’t like the combo when I watch it.  It was made for more, not just for me, but for an experience that I didn’t grab.  I am not sure if I don’t like it because of what it represents to me, or because I just don’t like it.

I do love this 1951 Chevy behind me named Jake.  I love the colors!  I love the morning light in the desert and my new old boots.

I will remember this feeling next time I second guess myself.  Remember…CHARGE!

 

CHARGE: Jerome, Arizona

Jerome, Arizona

October 23, 2015  6:15pm-6:20pm

SunFlower

Tiny little ghost town turned biker-artist community.  On the advice of Sherri Wheatley we rolled through.  I have never been here even though I lived 2 years in Arizona.  We got in late so we found a fireman to direct us to a free land space to camp.  It was incredible.  Small dirt road turns into a beautiful pull out on a gorgeous bluff!  In the morning we walked to town.  Literally the second shop we entered, I met SunFlower, who was working in the shop. She spoke to me first, “Well, aren’t you a work of art.” Still new to how I would be asking people to participate, I started by just asking her what time she got off work. I took a walk down the street but could not stop thinking she was the one for this stop, so I went back and asked if she’d like to dance with me when she got off work, she was so excited to do it.  68 years young, mother of 6 and grandmother of 12, I could not wait to see what would happen. I was really surprised that I met my new dance partner so quickly!

I met her at 6pm outside and she drove me to the park.  We talked of her 6 daughters and shared grandma stories.  She said she has known me before and we were supposed to meet again.  I picked the song for her.  She cried when she heard it.  Then she just started dancing.  I followed her.  We danced it 3 times and she lead me every time.  It was again almost dark.  Sorry for the video quality.  SunFlower was worth the wait.  She wanted me to know that the universe is giving her a farm with goats and room for all of her family.  We are going to meet again, I am sure about that.  I think she is a medicine woman with a lot of wisdom.  While we were dancing together she was whispering, “These are the crystals they gave me.”

All light had been replaced by only a sliver of moonlight as we finished up. We exchanged a couple of hugs and SunFlower said, “OK…we’re just going to walk away now…” I could tell that she was fully connected to the experience, and as we parted she returned to her car and I heard a loud, “Whoooooo!” I smiled to myself. We had met for that joy, I am certain.

The process was different for me – she just took off flying and I had to find how to keep up with her.  We literally worked for 3 minutes during the 3 times we played the song.  Ready, Set, DANCE!  I have thought about her so much after this event and we have been texting each other regularly.  I can’t wait to go visit her on her Universe Farm!