Monday, September 12, 2011

Relationships with strings.

Metaphorically, of course. These puppets don't have strings.

String: 1) cord or thread used for binding. 2) to stretch (in as to string along).

Interesting. Binding and stretching. That seems about right.

I'm participating in a performance with Hua Hua Zhang's Visual Expressions at the Annenberg Center next month called "Two Hands." Loosely, the performance explores the relationships between east and west, through dance, music, theatre, lighting and costume design, and puppetry.

As someone used to working soley with her body, this process has been trying, but fascinating! Yesterday, I was listening as Ken and Kun-Yang were debriefing over Western Puppetry and Eastern Puppetry. Ken said (and I apologize if I misquote), "Western puppetry is about manipulation whereas Eastern puppetry is about having a relationship." I think he could probably have made this statement about anything West vs. East. We manipulate our bodies, our friends, our families, our careers... or at least we try to. Usually, at least in my experience, unsuccessfully. My experiences in studying Eastern philosophies is that the relationship - the negotiation - is part of the process and the result.

This process, with Hua Hua, is quite difficult. Creating a relationship with myself, with another object, with the space... sure, we practice this ALL THE TIME, but this process has made me question how much I dedicate to the relationship.

Working with the puppet is hard. I do try to manipulate and control. But the puppet - whatever that is, wants and needs to have a voice too. Kun-Yang compares our work in his choreography to puppetry. It makes sense to me. One of his sayings follows something like "In dance you have body, time, space, and energy. The body is you and the space is the puppet. The relationship between you and the puppet is time and energy. Your relationship to the puppet is like your relationship to the space."

Relationship. That's another hard word. (I inadvertently typed "work" instead of "word" - Freudian slip? Perhaps not.) Relationships are hard work. And they require practice and constant vigilance. Work.

I'm learning that I cannot "push" forward. In order to grow, sometimes, I need to sit back and allow the relationship to happen. This is proving true both in my art and in my life. As dancers and artists, I don't believe we can completely separate the two. We constantly live in and work with our instrument. We don't get to "leave it at the office." So right now, instead of pushing for more reflection and depth, I'm just going to sit back and allow more of the conversation - the relationship - to unfold.

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