Flight from Edinburgh from Atlanta uneventful, no explosions. Arrived to a warm late-summer night in Richmond with a coppery half-moon gliding up the sky, and a Bach concerto on the radio in my patient car that waited for us all week in the airport lot.
Still have some writing to finish up on Edinburgh shows, still reeling from the last night, when we saw Black Watch, a theater piece about a Scottish regiment that served in Iraq. Powerful, beautiful and agonizing; spilling me back over that edge of awareness, vulnerability, openness, so that I could barely talk about it afterwards. The ending sequence was a march that moved through the space, breaking apart and re-forming, men falling out as if killed, getting up, rejoining, and falling again. Here was a visceral evocation of the physical fact of war, the grandiose, idiotic, deadly pattern, endlessly repeated with no end in sight–vicious inevitability.
The next morning in the airport, seeing everyone quietly clutching their clear plastic bags of necessities, my eyes open wide, watching the strange sadness of it, the cold breath of fear and the ensuing scramble back towards control. Seeing the small boy in line with his mother, carrying his floppy-eared stuffed dog in a clear plastic bag, concentrated all the pain into one image–how do you think his mother explained it to him? He stood so quietly, as well-behaved and docile as the grown-ups around him.
A man sits on one of the bridges I cross every day and plays a little flute. He is weather-beaten and tattered and has a small dog usually asleep at his feet. The road and sidewalks are full of traffic and noise at all hours, but his piping cuts through–a high, delicate and mysterious sound I love to hear amidst the chaos. So today made sure to drop money in his hat in thanks, before leaving. Very blue eyes in a lean, lined face.
This afternoon, a trip to Plaisir du Chocolat yielded wee, silk-smooth chocolates in a wide array of complicated flavours highly appealing to literary nerds like myself: pomegranate, lavender, rose, pepper. They slide smoothly down the throat and then when next you breathe, the flavour fills your head. Must devise a way to fit some in luggage, along with everything else, since no hand luggage allowed on trips back to the US. I may crack if they really don’t let us bring magazines or books on the plane; will have to resort to reading Sky magazine or using the barf bag to write articles on–now that’s terror.
It’s my turn to be the girl walking home in tears, having just seen Derevo–a bewildering, gorgeous, chaotic experience, yielding a true catharsis, where you can burst into tears and not be able to explain why. Once in the theatre, and then halfway up the street, almost uncontrollable weeping. Not sorrow, just overflowing. And now must take this experience and distill it to a 350 word response–I won’t say review; the most I can hope to do is offer some kind of creative response, some processing of what I have seen.
Walked home in the blazing sun, and it’s now cold and rainy. The news today is bad, but at least we fly out of Edinburgh and do not pass through Heathrow, and perhaps things will have calmed slightly by Monday.
Earlier today, saw more bad bad dance work and was inspired, first, to run onstage, shake some of those people and cry, Give me back that beautiful music (two pieces to Bach cello, one to the Moonlight Sonata, you get the drift), you shuffling wretches! And next, to make a piece called Bad Solo. Don’t worry, I won’t actually do it. At least the show was in a lovely church space–one of the venues we worked last year, and when I couldn’t look at the dancing any longer, I focused on the shadows out the back of a par can that made a perfect solar eclipse pattern on the sanctuary wall.
Settling in at the kitchen table now to try and craft in words the visions given to me by a bunch of half-naked Russians in the dark of a church in the middle of Scotland, fear and danger at large in the world, but the sun just came out again, so perhaps we will be alright.
…Later…have unaccountably dissolved in tears again at the keyboard, trying to write in an excess of unidentifiable emotion. Partly from the performance, maybe partly from a news overdose which, if it catches you (me anyway) off guard, can bowl you over with the foolishness and pain of us all, the horror that fear and anger cause on all sides. I suppose I am being an over-sensitive writer type, but better sensitive than deadened, I think. Eating scottish strawberries and looking at the little stick figures I drew in my review notes helps. Now, to turn overwrought self into generator of finely-wrought prose, with a little luck.
Seems I have to work until three, words don’t get going until after midnight. Why is this? Inherent procrastinatory tendencies. At any rate, am now caught up, and if you like you can read three pieces (soon to be four) still on the Forum at Ballet-Dance.
Weather has turned cool and breezy, with moments of sunlight that cause you to strip off the layers you put on moments before. A sight to cherish from yesterday in the streets: a teenaged girl dressed all in black, with badass biker jacket, carrying a tiny silver handbag, gorgeously incongruous. Then, a girl in tears walking home, and a woman playing the harp in the park.
Today, a terrible, terrible show which I had luckily not arranged to review (though it might be fun to shred). Sort of like a dancey halftime show, stupid little skits along sports themes, performed by buff, strong, flexible eye-candy types with zero character. All very well, but this was at our favorite venue, Aurora Nova, a vanguard of amazing physical theatre shows from all over the world that usually make you rearrange all your preconceptions about art. Not this. A James Bond fantasy ski-land number in shiny white bodysuits. A complete waste of intelligent lights. An elaborately choreographed bow to Sting’s “Fragile”? I’ll stop there. We shouted our outrage all the way back up the hill, art snobs wringing our hands over Entertainment with a capital E. Even the kids sitting next to me were bored.
Tomorrow we see Derevo, whose 2004 performance we considered to be just about perfect. I wrote about it here. Have scheduled no other shows to see afterwards, time to drink it in and write about them again. These people are incredible art-aliens, and we would give a great deal to bring them home to Virginia to perform. Someday.
On a windy day, a lull in the breeze makes me stare at the curving, draped branches of a tall tree, all leaves motionless for a moment, cupping the still air around its trunk like a hoop.
Later…walk home through windy night in this northern clime, where scarf and jacket are at home in August too. There was that moon again, oversized and brilliant, gliding along behind old buildings or sailing unfettered through the sky over the Meadows. When she was rising at 11pm, there were still vestiges of the sunset in the western sky.
Pondering the unlikelihood of anyone reading any of this, but who cares? Since I would keep a travel journal regardless, and it’s a new sensation to call out into the wild ether-darkness, like throwing coins down a well. See? Procrastinating again.
To see what it is I’m actually working on while over here, you can check out the following link, which will take you to the Edinburgh Fringe 2006 topic on the Ballet-Dance.com Forum. Many of my Fringe reviews will be posted there first (along with lots of others!), and will then be collected into the monthly online magazine in September at www.ballet-dance.com.
A review of the Russian dance theatre company Derevo, plus an article on the dance/physical theatre genre, should come out in Dance Magazine sometime this fall, either in print or online.
Not much more need be said when you pass someone in a pink gorilla suit on the street and don’t bat an eye. Then there was the white lady, lovely statue bending down stiff, but graceful, to an enraptured little girl whose parents, though, were in a bit of a hurry.
I sit in my window and work, popping out a couple of times a day to a show or a meal, like a cuckoo clock marking the time. Staying focused in the midst of such chaos, so many things to see, is an excellent exercise which I accomplish with mixed success. This evening, a ballet class, dinner, a performance of Knots (the blurb says, “exposing the fine line between love and madness” –should be alarming), and then home for more writing.
After four years visiting Edinburgh, I broke down and bought a little tartan skirt-kilt today, oh dear. What’s next, knee socks and a bagpipe??
Snatches of singing from the woman in the window across the way, and I see she has donned elbow-length gloves and a feathered hat. Maybe I should just follow along to see where she goes…
Later in the evening: nothing like taking long strides home across this city through chill air, under a giant moon. Oh that moon she is sometimes too much for me…too much and just right, casting a web of light across the old old countryside beyond the city, stone and lichen and rushing wind.
Roamed about this morning, and in The Meadows (big open park we cross on the way to almost anywhere), saw a group of people meditating, scattered on the grass in beautiful silent stillness.
Remembered that Saturday is farmer’s market day behind the castle. Bought excessive amounts of expensive food, but who can help it when the berries look like a shipwrecked person’s dream of berries? And the spinach is as big as your hand?
Then visited the flea market along the Grassmarket and found a man selling old keys, irresistable. See below for a ditty about them, composed just now while procrastinating writing a review.
Even later, after dinner with our friend David the Scot, we waited in line for crepes at the crepe-stand (real French people work there, mais oui!) and watched two fire dancers spinning, spinning, holding a crowd rapt with flaming batons and ropes, sound of fire rushing through the air, swung by strong slender wrists with concentration and relaxed, accomplished poise.
Three skeleton keys
stand tilted on their single feet
blank oblate heads
casting tiny shadows
on a lamplit desk.
If I were smaller I
could walk among them
gaze at their long bones
ask them to let me in
but now I sit and watch them
puzzled under the desk light,
arrayed in a crooked triangle
as if to march unsteadily forward
small aliens at my elbow
asking where their doors have gone.
Later, after more procrastinating, another poem came along…
This being, for me, a writer’s holiday–back at the Edinburgh Fringe for 10 days of seeing shows, writing reviews, roaming the city–I figured what the hell, morph my travel notes into blog form like everyone else with a spark of egoism. So here Rob and I are, arrived at 10 am local time, which for us felt like 5am east coast time with very little sleep and high on airline food, bad coffee and tea. Have just regained some measure of humanity from long hot shower, and feel inclined to ramble a bit, so see the Extended Entry for more. This will probably be the longest entry of the week, since I will soon descend into mad review-writing scramble, and stagger around the flat at all hours gazing with fear and trembling at my friendly little VCU Dance laptop and notes from the most recent performance…