Arts Review Festival

Unknown Bodies

Days 6 ~ 8 at T:BA:14

Day 6

Tuesday was a day for reflection and rest. After work I finished up the review that I started in the morning and then headed over to Conduit for the Luke George & Collaborators performance, Not About Face.

As I enter the space I notice people lining up behind two different piles of sheets with assistants lifting up the pastel colored sheets, covering the audience members. I stand in line and allow myself to be covered. I decide to take my glasses off and allow myself a lack of vision, which I am hoping will assist rather than hinder my experience. Once everyone is covered there is a random shuffling of people and I am wondering what happens next. We wander about as we witness two sheets that begin reciting aloud and moving about. I am excited about the ability to move about the room.

As the two performers shift through the space, I move with them and notice the different perspectives. We are summoned to move closer to Hilary. She wants us to sing. We sing. We are summoned again later on, this time by Luke. We move in close, real close, then pull away. Eventually we are on the ground, cuddling with strangers or rather, unknown bodies. Some people choose not to, everyone experiencing something different.

As I lie there listening to his voice, I am amazed at how comforting this feels. The heat is intense, all those bodies close together and sheets on top of us. I am feeling nostalgic. The pale peach sheet over me, with this particular lighting its womb-like. Its one of those moments I wish could last. The lighting changes and then my hands look dark and old. I can see all of the wrinkles. I begin to have a strange sensory experience, the awareness of my physical body and my mental/emotional state is heightened in a way that startles and fascinates me.

He is telling us a story. An idea for a performance he would like to create, one that is set at a performance, a conversation with a performer about the collective unconscious. He performs this seed of an idea with the help of an audience member. In the darkness, we can see him swapping clothes and shoes with a participant from the room. There is a shift that has taken place. He performs the dance of this stranger. No longer is he Luke George. But then he comes back. We reveal ourselves and he becomes hidden under the sheets; we lay upon him. And then he emerges.

Do you know the song by Britney Spears, “Till the World Ends”? Well, I am now familiar with the lyrics “I can’t take it, take it, take no more. Never felt like, felt like this before”. Repeating constantly as the sound gets louder and louder, the room fills with the intensity of his energy. Once the movement slows, he stands there, dripping sweat. Staring into the eyes of each person in the room. I’m watching the crowd gazing into his eyes, sharing presence.

My heart is overflowing with gratitude for this unique experience. Leaving that space, I had to sit for a few minutes to regain my composure. I felt so disoriented and ungrounded. But it was a pleasant feeling and an opportunity to talk with others about their experiences.

Day 7


I read the description for SQUART! (spontaneous queer art) and was momentarily interested in participating… but then I sort of forgot about it. It came back to me when someone explained that I could just show up at 7p.m. on Wednesday if I wanted to join up. With a bit of encouragement, I decided to keep it open as a possibility. Well, I showed up along with 50 other people. After a  stimulating warm up, we split into groups of four. Somehow I ended up in a group with 5 other ladies. We listened to Larry Arrington read off the list of requirements. A silly list of things we needed to cover in our 14 minute performance which would be judged by an entertaining group of “celebrity” judges.

Once left to our own devices, there was some serious tension in our group. I think we were all a little concerned about our limited number of people. Three of the ladies seemed to be close with each other and the rest of us were unacquainted. A leader emerged and ideas were thrown around. We warmed up once we started to physically experiment with the ideas. I found it to be a rather awkward process working together, but once our time was up for collaborating, I felt pretty good about our concept and how I imagined it playing out.

After watching the first two groups, it was our turn. I got to be a goat! It all happened so fast. I felt like it came together quite nicely and after listening to the judges, I thought we had a good chance of winning. After the performances, each one its own world of luscious craziness, spontaneous non-monetary crowd sourcing commenced. The winner was revealed, and the dance party began. Exhausted, I slowly biked home.

Day 8

The workshop with Luke George and Hilary Clark started a tad behind schedule. There were a number of people who had also attended the previous night’s festivities at The WORKS, including our workshop facilitators who were part of the “celebrity” judge panel. Once we started we got right into it, shaking our whole bodies. We began feeling our skin, not by touch, but with breath and internal awareness, eventually feeling the layers beneath the surface. We began using our voice to resonate our skulls, our chest and our pelvis. We moved around the room, exploring and moving towards our interest, activating our senses as we interacted with our interest, following it impulsively when it shifted to something new.

At times the space must have looked very strange, bodies in constantly shifting piles all over the floor. The longer we explored, the deeper we went into our internal and external sensory explorations.

Eventually we partnered up to practice an exercise we learned earlier in the week in another workshop. I found it to be a more serious practice this time, with a partner I felt much more uncomfortable with. We stood on opposite sides of the room. Our opposite moved in a line backwards and forwards in whatever pace they chose, stopping when the other stood still, saying “stop”. The person who says stop says so when they notice a shift in perception.

At the end of the workshop we split into three groups, taking turns performing for each other. One minute to stand still, allowing ourselves to see and to be seen. One minute to shift into a still position, one minute of constant movement, one minute to return to the beginning, to standing still, seeing and being seen. We talked for awhile, conversing about the experiences and thoughts that came up for people.

 One more blog coming soon covering Days 9-10.

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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