In my journey as a dancer/artist, I have never been more blessed to be a part of a work that has felt so deeply meaningful to me and allowed me to find an intense connection to the performers around me. This work involved the longest rehearsal process that I was involved in as it was nearly a yearlong process, but here I am now wishing that it wasn't over. This process allowed me to challenge my own insecurities and beliefs as a human and a performer.
From a rehearsal standpoint, the process as somewhat different from what I was used to for a conventional piece. The rehearsals tended to be very discussion-based and there could be days that involved little to no movement. These days were probably the most beneficial days for me because they allowed me to get inside of the choreographer, Lynne Price's head. There were days where we would read multiple poems and articles that pertained to these complex ideas centered around gender, trauma, recovery, vulnerability, etc. These subjects were generally ideas and topics that I would not typically volunteer to talk about. On the first rehearsal, I was asked about my experience with trauma and different ideas around gender, but I did not feel comfortable speaking on the subject. 1) I did not feel like I knew what I was talking about enough to speak on the subjects and 2) I did not feel safe or comfortable yet opening up to people that I barely knew. In the beginning, of the rehearsal process I found myself wanting to rely on movement to get me through rehearsal because it did not require that I open up allow myself to be vulnerable.
Lynne very often challenged me in a safe space to allow myself to be vulnerable or open to new ideas and concepts. Lynne would speak and provide articles about gender norms and challenging those concepts. I remember there was a point in the process when the research we were provided stopped feeling like homework and started becoming something that I was eager to absorb. There came a point where I started to feel confident speaking about the subjects. Lynne's piece allowed me to find an opinion and a voice that did not exactly mirror Lynne's opinions, but gave me enough knowledge to understand Lynne's point of view. This piece was probably the first time that I really felt like I understood where the choreographer was coming from and this was simply because we shared the research and discussed and created everything together. If there was a moment that I felt lost, I felt like I could ask Lynne and develop and understanding.
One idea that sort of challenged me was the idea of being nude (which ended up not happening). I said that I was okay with being nude provided that it served a purpose in the work beyond shock value. If I was going to be physically vulnerable in such a physical way, I wanted to be sure that there was meaning and value behind it. Lynne was very open about the nudity and was sure to explain the thought process behind it, so again I felt an understanding and connection to Lynne's ideas. Working with Lynne was so powerful because Lynne overflows with strength and vulnerability, which is something that most people would not consider to go together. Lynne is someone who is able to let their walls down allowing me to feel connected to them. I felt like I understood Lynne and the things I didn't understand I wanted to understand. I felt so protective of Lynne and the work.
Performing this piece offered a roller coaster of emotions. From feeling vulnerable for wearing a dress and bikini top so closely to people to reciting a love people to random audience members, I constantly felt like I was putting myself out there. There were also moments that made me feel like an "other" or a tool. I was the only man in the main cast so there were moments where I felt like I was the joke almost because I had to walk around in a bikini. I felt like I wasn't dress gender neutral rather I was dressed like a girl, but this was an idea that I battled with. I struggled because all of the girls wore it too, so in the context of the show it could be considered gender neutral. It was something that really made me a little nervous to enter the dance theater each night. I wasn't sure how people would respond to me. I also felt exposed reciting my "Recipe for Disaster." I am not really someone who likes to have a lot of serious attention. I like for everyone to be laughing at me or with me, but not hearing me in a very real moment struggle. I felt alone as I spoke about struggling with insecurities and no confidence. Those were very real things for me. They were also things that I would not have been able to reveal at the beginning of the process. The final moment that resonated with me is when Lynne is alone receiving support. In rehearsing that section, I never was able to think about how vulnerable and scary that could be. I never understood how rewarding it also could be. It was one of those moments that didn't click for me until the final dress rehearsal. Each night that I'd go to kiss Lynne, I felt so nervous having everyone watch. I really wanted to provide a real moment of support, but I was also feeling like a science experiment with everyone watching. I felt nervous for Lynne also because I didn't want Lynne to feel alone. Each night the outpouring of love and comfort for Lynne made me leave feeling empowered and faithful in humanity.
While there is so much more that I could write about, I will stop here. Working in the show is a moment that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. It is something that will always be in the back of my mind as I create art. I always struggled with how to develop socially-conscious work and it appears that Lynne wrote the book for it. It comes from a place of knowing yourself and learning from who you are. I hope that I can one day be as strong and inspiring as Lynne.