After a year with Deborah Hay’s “FIRE!”
by Evangel King, April 2000
“FIRE!” requires I wear shoes with black and white clothing. And:
Š I walk into the light without a stride.
Š I stand imagining myself in the middle of the dance.
Š I begin dancing a dance done in the collapse of lived time. Travelling without ever facing the audience. I resist emphasizing my spatial path to make my arrival downstage a surprise.
Š I ask three questions in a friendly and curious manner when I arrive:
Š ‘Who are you?’ is followed by a very engrossing side to side choreography.
Š Following ‘Where are you from?’ I do a dance with my hands and arms making squares.
Š ‘What do you want?’ is asked twice and I twirl into a sexy chaotic dance that travels across the space.
Š Before finishing the sexy chaotic dance I take three steps downstage stepping out of the dance. When ready I take three steps back. Falling back into the dance as if I had never left it.
Š I finish the cross with little upward pulses.
Š Next I step with elegance in a small circle. The circle becomes a line, which is a circle upon the horizon.
Deborah gave these instructions for the first part of FIRE! This is how she taught us. While learning it I felt stunned and exhilarated in the same breath. After a year with FIRE! I find myself with these very same feelings. And I love that this practice continues to put me in this state.
Did you catch that word practice in the last sentence? This is the heart of what Deborah gave us, the 15 women at her 1999 Solo Commissioning Project. Our practice began as soon as we learned FIRE! One at a time we practiced for Deborah and the other women. At the end we saw Deborah practice FIRE! We each witnessed fifteen practices of FIRE! This in itself forever changed my appetite for both seeing and creating dance. I take every opportunity to perform FIRE! and to dance it on the same program with others who dance FIRE! I dream of a time when all 15 of us practice for an audience once again. My desire to have an intimate relationship with others dance – making has grown by leaps and bounds. And I feel with every fiber the true importance creating dances (all art) has to the world. I realize the invaluable uniqueness that each of us has to give. As a result my own work represents more and more of the ‘I am’ of me.
We each conferred with Deborah to clarify how we were going to incorporate the practice of FIRE! into our lives. She asked us to practice at least five days a week for several months before we performed our practice for an audience. I felt panic. How was I to have the time for my own rehearsals? She suggested to me that I use the practice as a way to warm up for my own rehearsal. So with great doubt I began and indeed it has blown open many a new door. And my biggest thrill is my own work is becoming a practice. I realize it deserves the same immersion into a non- judgmental focus. There are several of Deborah’s sayings I think catch the essence of this focus. They are:
Š Surrender hope with gratitude.
Š It’s simply impossible.
Š Just play it out like a dog with a bone.
Š My whole - body my teacher.
Well HELL practicing FIRE! blows me out of memory and directly into NOW (this very instant). No retreat is possible or probable and this frees me. I willingly surrender hope with gratitude and suddenly I am without the weight of my convictions about dance. I am playing it live and am alive with the now-ness of my perceptual liveliness. I am home with my whole body my teacher and 53 trillion cells at once inviting being seen. This is the practice of FIRE! . FIRE! practice is anything and everything and this is truly a wonder. Now a year later I practice FIRE! in many different ways. In fact I am practicing FIRE! as I write this article. As Deborah said FIRE! has no one way that it looks.
Deborah created a context for community involvement by requiring that her commissioning fee come from our community. The collective list of patrons numbers over 250 and whenever FIRE! is performed all the patrons are listed in the program. Patrons are not only from America but also Canada, Australia and Europe.
It took a huge leap of faith to ask for this support. It was not something I had ever thought I would do, could do, or should do. Deborah succinctly framed the reason for the request and made it possible for me to ask by writing:
‘The residency is designed to involve your community in the creation of art. In this way the community supports the artist’s individual development while paying for the creation of art’.
I received support from thirty-nine people. I was elated by this new connection to others. I have a continuing desire to nurture and feed this connection. I have written to them to thank them. I have written to them to tell them what the residency felt like. Whenever I perform FIRE! I inform my patrons. I have circulated a video of FIRE! to those far away. I have had audiences of one and that is just as lovely as twenty are. I continue to set up times for those who haven’t been able to see it. I do all of this because having connection is invigorating. Both the practice of FIRE! and the connection I now have with my patrons continue giving me gratitude that I dance and create dances. In the past I have often lacked gratitude. I held showings with discussions for my dances at my studio out of what I felt as an evil called necessity. Necessity grew from my need to have both an affordable performing outlet and one that was in my hands alone. Now these showings come from the joy I experience in actively creating these opportunities to grow and deepen both my artistry and my connections with those who come. I am now clear that dance is always giving back to me. Imagine that!
Come see FIRE! anytime. And I’d love it if you’d like to set a time to see each other work. To set-up a showing time or to receive notice of upcoming performances of Fire! or my dances you can call or email. Telephone: 510-540-5539 and Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.