Tied Up in the Air

My teacher, Ms. Cody Schreger, who is fairly wicked awesome.
For almost a year-and-a-half now, I've tried different ways of tying myself up, suspended from the ceiling, at least once a week.  Some weeks I let go by without fulfilling this habit, others I manage to engage in it several times.  But it's likely that I've tied myself to the ceiling a few hundred times now.  For some, that might qualify them as something of an advanced practitioner when it comes to tethering oneself to the inner-roof; Wife Megan, for example, is quite adept after the same extent of experience.  Personally, I still consider myself to be an intermediate at best as it pertains to lashing my body in suspension from architectural hoods.  It's tough to pin-point the reason for this discrepancy, but I generally chalk it up to Megan having had extensive dance experience, and me being a rather shimmying, scampering, klutzy ol' dork.

(Friend Geoff still think it's hilarious/terrifying that I stilt-walk, since from his perspective it's a dodgy proposition for me to make it regular-walking through a doorway without comical mishap.)

Whatever the reason, this discrepancy is why Megan made her aerial silks performance debut in August, and will be showing her sophomore routine in the same show in which I will hopefully prove to the world that when I fall off of fabric, it's purely intentional.  The performances will be in mid-October, as part of an all-ages Halloween show at the STREB studio in Williamsburg.  I've been preparing for it since I got back from the Marywood work in Scranton (see 9/12/10) and am just at that stage where one realizes just how much work will actually need to be done to achieve one's vision.  Whenever we have an idea for a performance, we never truly have a concept of how much it will take to achieve it.  It's similar to what I've read about childbirth in this way, I think: as time goes on you remember the joy better than the agony.

I posted a video the week I got back of my very first draft of the piece.  I wouldn't have done this normally, but the curator of the show needed to see a sample and I figured the worst it would do is demonstrate how far I had come by the time I posted a performance video.  Even in ten days (six hours' rehearsal) or so, the piece has evolved quite a bit, and I have a clearer sense of where I'm headed.  What started out as a concept piece featuring my stock silent-film clown has evolved into something with a larger story, lightly connected to what Megan will perform and featuring a new clownish sort of character - a slightly deluded old-timey strongman.  It's fun, recognizable and it works, I think.  I've even found a song and buffed down the choreography to a reasonable skill-level and duration.

However: This is hard work of a variety with which I am not terribly comfortable.  I have been known, when a show I'm in randomly requires dance choreography, to internally combust, and not in that nice fuel-injected way.  It makes me SUPER SELF CRITICAL and HULK SMASH.  For some reason I don't get this way with fight choreography, nor acrobalance - love it!  Give it to me more please!  Aerial silks has a dancier (is SO a word) feel to it for me, though, and so there are some personal blocks there.  On top of that, it's awfully specific in a way that people without training can take for granted.  As an actor, it's painfully obvious to me when someone is trying their hand at acting, and doesn't have certain (eventually) instinctive specifics going on.  So I'm working on that with silks.

I'm also trying to build a piece that plays to both my strengths and weaknesses.  For example, I can't seem to point my toes to save my life.  You might be surprised what a difference this makes.  Heck: Even if I could achieve this WONDER of the classical dance world, my extension (how straight, long and pretty on is) in my legs is worse than a Virginia fence.  But I have a certain amount of upper body strength.  Nothing that's leading Cirque du Soleil to pound down my door but, you know.  So I've devised the circus strongman character as someone who might take pride in his stiff form and right angles.  Ah, but there's a trick in that, too.  My feet can't just be casually flexed, they must be UBER-FLEXED at ALL TIMES.

Ah, art.

It's great fun stuff, though, in spite of all the struggles.  It's still climbing, after all.  I'm often at odds about the work required to go from enjoying something to being able to do it reliably well.  I gave up on vocal training because I wanted singing to remain something I enjoyed for myself, rather than resented for needing to struggle through.  This isn't necessarily an intelligent decision, I realize, but it's one that was and continues to be personally important to me.  I don't want to do this with silks, however, which is why performing is so important.  It forces me to take things from fun to reliable, and thereby take whatever little talent I have to whatever little skill I can muster.  So I remind myself of that every time the move is too complicated for me to remember, or I am too weak to execute a climb for the fifth or sixth time, or the dance belt (O God, that dance belt) chafes.

And then sometimes I just scamper and shimmy to my heart's content.

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