Such Great Heights


Yesterday was a Sunday, and I've relished those Sundays in the past few years that allowed me to sleep in, do a crossword and generally rock the low-key rockin'. I generally hate to rehearse on a Sunday night. Someone always wants you to. It's driven by desperation, largely. The scale of production I generally work on in the city doesn't pay one enough to quit his or her day job, so the folks managing schedules are confronted with a barrage of money-making conflicts. No one wants to rehearse early on Sunday, because of God. Also, because it follows too close on the heels of festive Saturday night. So someone invariably suggests Sunday night for rehearsals, and I invariably have to say, "Oh yeah, no, that's my knitting-circle night," or some such. Yesterday I had a rehearsal at mid-day, which was okay. If the trains hadn't been wearing their special helmets, I might have even made it on time.


Cirque Boom has been requested to perform at a benefit for NYFA, and I and three other performers were requested by Ruth Juliet Wikler-Luker to participate. One Ms. Cody Schreger is joining me for acrobatic duets, largely of the standing variety, owing to the constraints of the space. True to Cirque Boom form, we're playing energetically eccentric characters. I'm playing a tormented, mute poet, immigrated to America some years ago in a quest for a new love; Cody his first lover from "The Olde Country," venturing to America for the first time in the hopes of bringing him safely back into her embrace. This is all an elaborate excuse for flamboyant gesture and expressive acrobalance. We met yesterday in an apartment/studio in Brooklyn to refresh our (read: my) memories and choreograph.


I hurt today. And it is a good pain.


Approximately three years ago, Kirkos, a circus-theatre-et-al. troupe I was a founding member of, effectively folded. A little while later, Ruth of Cirque-Boom fame left the country for a year. These were my two core sources not only for "acro" exposure and practice, but for my expressive physical activity in general. In the intervening years between then and now, I've kept busy and tried to apply all I learned between 2002 and 2005 to other shows I've worked on and in workshops I taught. I worked so hard at that, in fact, that I had come to believe that I was maintaining my practice sufficiently, if not with as great rigor or regularity. It's amazing how complacent a person can become if he or she only wills it to be so.


I've written here before about the good ol' days of my acro career, when I was young(er) and doing handstands in the corridors of my day job with Friend Melissa (see 12/5/07). The emphasis of that writing was craving a return to that level of activity and physical maintenance, which has been a strong desire for me as well. What I learned from Sunday, however, is that part of the reason that's been so difficult for me is that it's been all me. I mean, not all me. On the occasions when we're working on a show together, Friend Heather and I train in acro a bit, and Friend Geoff and I both have a love/hate relationship with jogging, etc. What I mean to say is, I've discovered I've been missing more than the exercise. Last summer I worked myself into a muscle-bound frenzy (not so's you'd necessarily notice, mind you) for my part in As Far As We Know, but I wasn't building anything but myself, and it faded.


Sunday's rehearsal was even in a space that reminded me of Friend Kate's loft, where Kirkos met and tumbled about. It was in a, shall we say, less-developed section of Brooklyn, in a converted space with plenty of raw-lumber beams and old factory floorboards about. We climbed the stairs, removed our shoes, laid mats and started warming up. The warm-up wasn't just to loosen our joints, or "awake" our physical sensitivity, it was serious -- stretching out and warming up muscles and tendons that would soon be asked a lot of. We took our time, chatted, doped one anothers' stretches if they looked good, as a group will when they've worked together before and don't need to acknowledge social conventions. After a good, long warm-up, we began.


I'll skip the details of development. Suffice it to say that we choreographed quickly, everyone throwing in ideas and interpretations. Within minutes, I found myself performing tricks I had forgotten I'd known, and doing some I hadn't been able to do years before. The sensation was incredible. I'm not at this time in the greatest shape of my life, but working with an experienced acrobat like Cody made everything easier, and it does seem as though I've gotten stronger in some regard over the past few years. Though, by the end of the two hours, I was definitely quite winded. And, as I put it above, I hurt today.


All this leads me to conclude that it's past time for me to be regularly involved in this training again, whether I can find a group to join, or have to start one myself. The common approach for most of my acro friends of late has been to team up with someone who they can count on, train and prepare for performance opportunities with. And that's well and good, and works great, but I need a group. I need a community that can sustain itself even when I'm off in Italy, applying the skills from that group to my commedia dell'arte work. And it may be up to me to form it.


We may even have to meet on Sundays.
 
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