Among the Shadows & the Flowers

Puente by Diego Piñón

Somehow I ended up in the 8 day workshop intensive with Diego Piñón. That experience will resonate with me my whole life. I have developed such a deep gratitude for this man, and for the opportunity to learn with him.

The night opened with Christopher Mankowski  huddled on the floor. Face down, folded onto his shins, hands bound behind his back in the rear-center of a large white triangle. Slowly, he rises. Just as he seems to get his footing, he falls to his side. There is a sense of struggle, a heaviness that makes it hard for me to breathe. There is a log, a cup, white rope and a dish of dried beans. The beans are cupped into each hand held at his sides towards the audience. As he walks towards the apex of the triangle, toward the audience, a bean drops. Then another. The tension this creates is unnerving.

Eventually more and more beans fall until there are none left in his hands. Standing on the log precariously with his arms outstretched, I notice his eye. Or more specifically, its the flesh surrounding his eye, red and swollen. Intentional? Serendipitous…He reaches above as a red cloth descends from the ceiling. The cloth is over his face. He is in the middle of the triangle. An egg in the mouth, in the middle of his covered red head. Its disturbing. It brings forth something primordial. A dark past still present in all of us, still clawing at the unconsciousness. Bringing tears to my eyes.

I notice Spider who is sitting next to me is also crying.  The lights are on and its intermission. We hold each other. Digesting something of this offering we have witnessed together.

Then it begins. First, you hear the music. Its crackling and its a fire being fed. Ever so slowly we begin to see his form emerge across the stage cutting through the darkness. He is hunched over carrying a bundle of branches atop his back. With purpose, he sets them upright. The sound of cracking branches as he does so. It seems possible he is a thousand years old and has performed this act faithfully, every day. He shows us the unyielding spirit of the beings of earth. Drawing a supernatural strength into this fragile existence.

There is a thick, bright crimson red strip spanning the length of the stage. Creating a border between Diego and his witnesses.  He approaches this boundary and moves along twitching with arms bending backward. The music harsh and distorted. The darkness descends as he disappears.

Here, at the edge of the stage in the back, the black curtains cast shadows and flickering lights. The suspense is building. Time passes and we watch the shadow play. Actively waiting for what might happen. There is movement behind the curtains. Ejected as if spring loaded, out comes an old rocking horse, and Diego, all in black with his head in a mask. A bondage inspired lucha libre mask with glimmering diamond accents. This image is striking and disturbing. I hear laughter, deep hearty laughter and I appreciate the opportunity to shift into a lighter mood.

He is conjuring up many things in this particular piece. For me, it was about power struggles and expectations. How we choose to interact with our own self when we interact with others. By the end, the mask is on the horse, his pants are off and he is licking the horse. Hoisting up the horse, he wrangles it off the stage with his whole body.

He appears again dressed all in red. Bright crimson red. A softer mood. More delicate. Fragile. Offering us an invitation to witness his explorations into his own internal sentiments. For a moment he disappears and then the red strip moves. He is crouching down to roll up the fabric. A colorful hat full of flowers bobbing atop his head. He is playful and childlike as he hops across the stage, removing the symbolic divide. At this point I am overwhelmed with emotions. So much gratitude, love and happiness flowing through this whole space. Its hard to remember the rest. Its the swelling of my heart I remember.

There is one more thing. We learned an exercise called the crystal box. Its storytelling through movement and its beautiful to practice and even more beautiful to witness. The whole point is to believe. To embody. Our imagination is one of the most powerful tools we have to transform our lives, our whole world.

“As a whole, I consider ritual dance as an expression of the sacred—a way to transcend our cultural indoctrination in order to communicate with the universe from the organic impulses of our human origins.” -Diego Piñón

We are invited into a dream. The dream does not speak to the critic in us. The dream speaks directly to heart, to the deepest parts of us. Diego heats and folds the dream into waking life. Forging our perception like a blade. Enabling the witness to cut through the veil and receive more clearly the light of being.

Paula Helen

By Paula Helen

Gravitating toward spirituality and poetic narrative, Paula has recently allowed the passion of movement to connect with writing. Practicing Butoh directly, while studying all forms of contemporary dance through the process of cultural journalism, she has developed a new level of appreciation for all the performing arts.

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