Monday, January 16, 2012

WINTER @ Bluebell Meadow: Dedicated to the memory of Niles Ford

Sunday's performance at Bluebell Meadow set the record for the coldest branch dance performance to date: 23 degrees.

Somehow it didn't feel so cold to me. Perhaps I was numb inside from the sad sad news of Niles' unexpected passing the day before. How could it be? So young, maybe 50? Such a daring, vibrant and generous dancer and friend, gone in his sleep. Niles created unforgettable roles in several of my works-- Historias (1992) Familias (1995) and Pelea de Gallos (1998). He was an incredible support to my growth as an artist.

Numb. I was focused on my role as director. Gotta do the work. Gotta get to the site. Didn't check the temperature; can't find my watch. Didn't write in the blog. No matter. The show must go on. Ha, its not a show, its a performance.

It was a brilliant day. There were only 2 or 3 people out with their dogs when we arrived. Odd, I thought, I had expected more people would be there, especially on such a gloriously beautiful morning. The practice is to perform no matter what, no matter who is there or not. We follow the plan. Set up, and go. We started and they came! Wonderful to see some familiar faces: Ken and Annie Goldenberg, Leila Macbeth, Judy Williams, Colleen Hooper, Karen and Deanna Bond. In retrospect, knowing the temperature, its amazing that anyone came.

The moment I entered the dance, I once again felt deeply grateful to the dancers and audience for this shared moment in time and nature. "the fragility of balance" Ken called it. Something magical happens in the space and time of the branch dance practice. In the challenge to stay present and find balance, we connect. We re-connect to the branches, ourselves, to each other, to nature. In moving towards stillness and riding the fragile edge of ever shifting balance we enter a dynamic state of flow and awareness.

I felt a powerful connection with the dancers: Marion Ramirez, Jumatatu Poe and Beau Hancock. I felt a powerful connection to the bare trees and the play of sunlight and shadows, to Tigger Benford's delicate music.

Remembering Niles, I felt a pang in my heart. The suddenness; we are here a moment and gone the next. Jenny went to bed beside her spouse and awakened next to a corpse. The heart breaks suddenly. My heart gave a cry and I yielded. The branch crashed to the ground beside me.

My hat loosened from my head I felt the cold on my neck. I check the impulse to protect my head and neck from the cold. This is right. I remember the branches breaking and crashing under the weight of the snow at Wave Hill during the storm last fall. I feel my chest expanding and contracting. Breath, breathe. My weight on the ground, my face in the ground. To the earth we return. Safe travel Niles; may your spirit be free.

I waited there with my face in the ground. Someone approached me and asked if I was OK. I waited, smelling the earth, sensing the breath, listening, honoring Niles. I waited a long while until I could no longer hear Tigger's music.

Slowly, I sat up to see Marion too, lying on the earth, and Juma and Beau were crouching. The end. Sadness, gratitude and love. Most of the audience was gone or scurrying to their cars, except for a few friends who stayed to say hello.


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