Force and Movement

I watched the documentary Mr. Gaga today. At first, I watched with the sound off and subtitles on, while listening to a podcast. This is an objectively terrible habit I’ve gotten into, of taking multitasking to absurd and undermining ends, but I thought the film might be atmospheric and give an experimental air to the room.

Wonderfully, however, it was the sort of documentary which won’t stand for that treatment, which makes one want to engage with what is happening on screen, inside of the other lives, as though one’s own. And I did!

Eventually I stood up and shook my body convulsively, turned my limbs in odd directions this way and that. It felt great, though I stopped short of practicing the fascinating falls (you’ll have to see the documentary)!

dancer with very little hair, very little clothing, reaches back. Her hands are almost to the floor behind her but she sustains a pose that brings all bodily strength and discipline to the fore.
Image from Stanford University promo

I didn’t know much about Gaga as a dance style, or as a language, as the film suggests. Until taken by friends to see the last Pina Bausch choreographed show Vollmond, I’m embarrassed to say that I knew little of the modern dance world beyond outside of parodies, which always gave the impression of a frivolous world of privilege far far away from my own.

Like many little girls, I had desperately wanted to be a ballerina when young, but it was because I was drawn to the beauty of the sets and movements, the hypnotizing and grand lyricism of it all. In fact, when I was about 13, I followed behind a girl at my church, learning to walk and hold my posture just like hers, pretending that I was also a dancer… a form which stuck and I still haven’t quite broken. I even learned to swing my ponytail like hers, while appearing to hold my head perfectly still.

So I remember feeling confused and overwhelmed after the Pina show, as though my mind had been curled and pushed backwards and all my linear lines of thought thwarted so much that they just wouldn’t work anymore.

Walking out, my sophisticated friends long immersed in the Art World asked what I thought, and I remember trying to compose a sentence or two that might give the impression I understood “the story” at all. I couldn’t. Looking for the story was the story, which was a koan to me.

And because it was a koan to me, for months afterward I felt and dreamed the splashing waters and the whooshing in everything, feeling the force Pina was trying to show, of destruction and resilience, embodying rather than ‘thinking’ about it directly.

Image result for vollmond pina
Image from

This is my sense of things right now… an urgency that has me trying everything under the sun to get out of my head and onto the page, the stage, the whatever-it-takes. I feel like I’m trying to break into my own life, defying convention and my own accepted wisdom to do so.


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