Yesterday afternoon I traveled to Wave Hill -a beautiful botanical garden in the Bronx, New York- to perform as part of Merian Soto’s Branch Dance Project. It was the first snow storm of the season. Most of the trees are still full of leaves, not ready for snow and ice. At 2:45 p.m. under the heavy snow, we started the dance. Together with the other dancers and musician, I moved slowly for about 30 minutes.
The field was full of snow. My branch was long and brown; it curved towards the edge on one end, making it slightly heavier on that side. I found a spot in the field were I wanted to settle. The wood stick was leaning against my body, resting on my shoulder as I was standing with my arms hanging down.
I could hear the sound of the snow balls fall on my rain poncho. I started to breathe deeper so as to feel more heat in my inner body, to soften my joints, to connect with the moment as it was. I bent my knees a little so to feel my own weight against the ground. The ground felt very far away. I invited myself to sink into my socks, my snow boots, down through the layers of snow and finally into the ground. Once I found the surface I was standing on, I started to feel the weight of the branch on my shoulder. Its weight was comforting and stable. Following my impulse to touch it, I slowly intended movement towards the branch. I reached the branch with my hands, with my wet gloves.
The touch was humid and timid at first, every touch would release pieces of dirt that had attached to the branch’s surface. I was looking down to the ground to avoid getting snow in my eyes, so I could see brown drips falling on the white snow. I continued to understand the branch’s rough surface and shape with my touch. I was now able to support the branch with little tension, this made me feel grounded, a small smile lit up in my mouth. I paused to enjoy this feeling; the pause didn’t really felt like stillness.
At this point I was ready to respond more confidently, but adjusting my body was more challenging than usual. I couldn’t move my feet smoothly as the snow was sticky, slippery, and uneven. I had to find many ways in which to shift my body weight keeping while keeping the feet on the ground. The support of the branch was helping me. I found a way to lean into the branch which was leaning on me — we depended on each other. We paused and took in the rest of the environment. I could hear, in the distance, full branches of trees breaking and falling with the weight of the snow. In these moments I had a greater impulse to support and be supported by the branch. Somehow it was a poetic action, a recognition of the trees that were loosing its extremities. http://vimeo.com/32366130
I started to notice how the heat throughout my body was activated specially around my core. I was focusing on this area of the body since my extremities were wet and busy. I enjoyed feeling my whole body and the branch moving as one, this partnership was starting to flow. The weight of the branch towards one side of the horizontal plane started to take me into a slow spin. I followed it , and felt very peaceful. I inevitably connected with the dancers around me. I saw the bodies and branches making a moving drawing, designing the pathways in the space, pausing together, taking turns for movement. At this point it seemed that the natural environment was very much integrated into each movement of our personal experience and our collective experience. This flowing energy was very special. I was no longer scared about the challenges of the snow, the cold, the falling ice. My focus was accurate and suspended.
I also understood it was inevitable that the trees loose significantly big and important branches, I couldn’t take care of it in any other way, nature’s power just is. By being with it, it was clear that going against nature is also going against ourselves. I didn’t want this dance to end.