Mar. 19th, 2017 06:04 pm
shanmonster: (Purple mohawk)
I sent a short story out for possible publication in a science fiction anthology last week. I haven't had a story published in ages, so it's high time I get my arse back in gear. I hope it gets published.

I sent out my application for the Canadian ocean expedition on Thursday as soon as I got confirmation from my china painting instructor that she would be a reference. Eeeee!

On Friday, I purchased airfare for my trip to Africa this summer. I'll be travelling through Namibia, Botswana, and Zambia (~1300 km), seeing the Namib Desert (where Fury Road was filmed), the Kalahari Desert, meeting Bushmen, hopefully seeing elephants, lions, zebras, and more, and then ending my tour at Victoria Falls. Eeeee!

Later on Friday, I went to the gym and during my squat set, something freaked out and tried to lock/spasm on my lower back. Different kind of eeeeee. Eeeeeeeouch. I have no idea what happened, there. As far as I know, I wasn't using bad form, and was only lifting five pounds more than I usually do. I tried to find a massage therapy clinic that was open, but none are ever open on the Friday evening of Saint Patrick's Day. I managed to find someone yesterday, but that someone was a tiny sadist who was the roughest massage therapist I've ever experienced. She started with elbows in my back. There was no warmup. I feel just like I was in a fight. I'm pretty sure I'm bruised from head to arse, but I do have mobility now: enough that I was able to go to the gym today and do a full training session. I skipped burpees in favour of jump rope (I didn't want to do fast movements which could have negative impact on my lower back), and all my squats were with an empty bar.

I leave for Toronto tomorrow morning for a week of butoh training. I plan on hitting the gym a couple of times while I'm there. I'm determined to get back in shape. I'm registered to compete in two races this spring/summer: a 5km obstacle course race, and a 14km trail race.

Over the past year, due to health issues and the disruption incurred by buying and renovating a house, my training has been spotty at best. This month was going very well until my back freakout on Friday. I feel strong again, and my endurance is slowly returning. I've been paying much closer attention to what I eat (not calorie-wise, but content-wise), and I'm gradually losing the extra padding I put on. So far, I have lost about ten pounds of fluff and my clothes are fitting much better again. I'm still about twenty pounds heavier than I was when I was competing regularly five years ago, but I have faith that my body will continue to get healthier as I work hard to take care of it.

I had every intention of writing up applications for a travel writing scholarship yesterday, but life and massage therapy got in the way. I hope to be able to get the applications done tomorrow while I'm on the train and killing time in coffee shops in Toronto. If I get the scholarship, I'll be travelling through southeastern Europe (eg. Kosovo, Croatia, Montenegro, etc.).

What if I get accepted for the ocean expedition AND the scholarship? I'll be travelling all over the freaking world this year! Eeeee....
shanmonster: (Dance Monkey Dance!)
Though past years have turned me more in the direction of athletics, I am still dancing. I've just been doing a lot more study and teaching than I have performances. Today, I received the most excellent news that I'm the recipient of a scholarship to continue my butoh training from September through to April. I'll be studying with Denise Fujiwara again. I hope to be able to put elements of these studies into performance, but venues for such stuff is pretty scarce, and paid venues even more scarce.

I started doing pole dance again as of about a year ago, and am currently in the advanced/masters-level class over at Aradia Fitness, where I also teach belly dance on Tuesday nights. If you would like to try out my class, sign up here ($15 + HST/class, Tuesdays from 6-7).

Tomorrow, I'll be taking a classic burlesque workshop with Sassy Ray. I miss doing burlesque, and hope to be performing at it again within the year.

Later this week, I'll be doing choreography and gymnastics workshops with Natalia Skomorowski.

Next month, I once again take up aerial silks with Stan Sokolenko over at In.Motion School of Performing Arts.

In between all that, I keep my strength and endurance up through regular training at CrossFit Kitchener.

I guess you could say I'm busy.
shanmonster: (Dance Monkey Dance!)
For the past week, I spent the majority of my time in Studio E of The Children's Dance Theatre in Cabbagetown. I've been going to this studio off and on for about six years now: as long as I've lived in Ontario. I go there to study butoh, and occasionally other dance styles, as well. This week, I was studying under the tutelage of Denise Fujiwara. The workshop was entitled Embodiment, and the theme was fear.

Every now and then, someone asks me what butoh is, and I always pause. I have a hard time defining it in a way that will make sense. Although I've been studying butoh for about six years now, I think it's only been within the past year or so that I have begun to get a tentative understanding of what it is I have been investigating. Butoh is not like any other dance or movement style I've ever experienced. For the most part, it's not a technique sort of thing. That is, there is no real component of first you put your foot here, and then you move your arm like so. No, it's not like that, at all.

And it's easy to get the wrong idea by watching a performance or two, as well. You might watch this incredibly compelling presentation and think that the dancer was showing us his or her most innermost feelings, or was taking on a character role, but no.

In a fucked-up sort of way, the closest way I can think to describe butoh is akin to shamanism. Or maybe even a strange form of lycanthropy. Let's say the dancer is performing something about trees. The dancer would not be doing a sort of kindergarten approach to trees, coming out with her or his body held out in the shape of a tree, with the legs playing the part of the trunk, and the arms waving about like branches in the breeze. Instead, the dancer might focus on some aspect of the tree and become that.

Obviously, you are not seeing an actual transformation. The human in front of you is not about to start sprouting leaves and producing chlorophyl. But it's not so simple as pretending to be a tree....

Over the years of studying with Denise, I have learned that the progression is not fast. Our warm-ups are gradual. There is a certain amount of repetition. I have done many of the exercises numerous times, and I often wonder just how they will fit into the context of performance. We start with tiny movements. This week, we began with microscopic movements of the head on the occipital joint, and tiny movements of the tailbone. We worked on waking up the entire spine in a gradual fashion, getting larger and larger motions, and then progressed to suri-ashi, the gliding walk of Japanese dance (and Japanese martial arts). This walk, which is the only specific physical technique I've ever studied in butoh, gives a physical focus to practice while mental focus is upon external forces which do not actually exist. It is essentially a moving meditation, and I slip away into a different state while I do it. My mind may wander occasionally, but if I'm in the moment, the only things which exist are the floor beneath my feet and the strings which pull me along.

A string pulls the top of my head to the sky. Another draws my tailbone to the earth. Another string is attached a couple of inches below my navel and extends to the horizon. Each of these strings pulls inexorably, and I am drawn along at a constant speed. Once I am moving with no acceleration or deceleration, other strings are added. They may be attached to the back of my heart, my left floating rib, or the back of my right ear. They may be attached in multiple places, all pulling me along. Which string will pull the strongest? Which will change my direction or speed? I do not know until it happens. The impulse is subconscious. If I make a conscious decision, then my ego is too much at the forefront. The strings are what controls my direction, not my conscious decisions.

In an earlier workshop, we worked on killing the self. Since I'm here now, typing this to you, you know this wasn't a literal suicide. But it was a destruction of ego. If a dancer was caught emoting, s/he would receive a scolding. No choreographing. No showing. No acting. Just being. Embodying.

This week, as often before, we started working on the elements of fire, air, water, and earth. We would sit in a circle and free associate terms associated with one of those elements. For fire, we might hear the following:
  • heat
  • burning
  • scorch
  • incandescent
  • radiating

Then we would become hollow beings, and we would become filled with the qualities of that element. I was filled with fire. My bones were no more. I was flame. My skin and eyes and hair and flesh were fire. Sometimes I flickered. Sometimes I burst in a conflagration. Sometimes I smouldered.

We repeated the same exercise for the other elements, and at the end of the first day, we were given homework: we were to prepare a list of our ten worst fears and bring it into class the next day.

The next morning, we shared some of those fears. Some are ubiquitous: things like losing your loved ones, violent death, cancer, old age. Some were unique: insects indoors, flushing the toilet at night, having feet skewered or smashed.

I was mystified. Here were were, sharing things very personal to us, but studying something which strips the personal away. What were we going to do with these fears? We paired up, and did a descension/ascension exercise while holding our partner's head, and moving it around gently while they relaxed and surrendered all muscular control of it to our hands. This takes a lot of trust and concentration, and is darned tricky. We then repeated the exercise, but this time, the person whose head was being held had to talk about their greatest fear throughout the exercise. This was difficult for multiple reasons. Just on a purely mechanical basis, it's much harder to free the muscles in your head and neck while you're talking. There is also the discomfort of talking about something that scares the shit out of you, and opening up to someone you don't know all that well about something intensely personal. There's the almost inevitable stiffening up that will happen while you think about something terrifying.

But something unexpected happened. Even though the exercise took us all outside our comfort zones, with our heads being supported by our partners, the initial tension melted away. Interesting....

We set that aside and went back to embodying elements. Once again, I was left wondering how everything fit in together.

And on the third day of the workshop, everything started to click. We each chose a fear from our list, and we mapped that fear to an element. My fear is decrepitude. I've sampled this a few times in the past because of sickness or injury. There have been times when I was unable to do simple things for myself, like walk or even get in and out of bed without assistance. The thought of experiencing these things again, or, even worse, experiencing them again without a chance of getting better, gives me the heeby-jeebies. This fear is an enormous stimulus for why I do so much physical training.

My fear of decrepitude is heavy, and weighs upon me like earth, so that is the element I chose. Specificity is key, so I decided upon sand. The way I see it, sand is infertile. It has no life of its own, but is blown by the wind, fills cracks and corners, and gets heavy and sodden. These are the characteristics I embodied. I did not act out my fear, but transformed myself into sand, giving it the same sort of "loudness" engendered by my fear. I was heavy. Everything about me was heavy. I was drawn toward the floor without collapsing. My eyes were blind because they were sand. My skin was heavy. Face. Belly. Legs. Lungs. Everything. I was pushed by a wind. I was pressed against a wall. Sodden with trickling grains.

We became these elements in groups. Some people were able to successfully transform themselves. Others had a harder time, and used their bodies to describe their element rather than to become it. Some had a difficult time divesting themselves of prior dance training, and there were exhortations to get rid of the embellishments and to stop choreographing. Demands included more specificity, no censoring, no hiding, and no expressing. With practice, there were no more frowns or sad faces, arabesques or pliés, and something much more primal, authentic, and unpracticed appeared. Performances became much more compelling, and though the dancers were not using expression of emotion at all, as an audience, what we saw was intensely expressive and deeply moving.

We continued to progress with these exercises for the remainder of the workshop, and by the end, we had three pieces placed together in a group: two fears and one thing which was the opposite or cure of a fear. I decided to go with the decrepitude again, and decided the opposite or cure is self-mastery.

So my three were:
  1. Fear of decrepitude as engendered through earth. Sand,
  2. Fear of tooth extraction as engendered through fire. Radiation and the contraction caused by heat.
  3. Self-mastery as engendered through water. Fluidity and the coalescence of water surface tension.

Our fears and chosen elements are immaterial to the audience. I did not know what fears were obliquely represented by the dancers in front of me, although I could make an educated guess as to what element they might be embodying. What mattered was what I saw. And I saw something beautiful and grotesque and powerful.

I saw butoh.
shanmonster: (Dance Monkey Dance!)
Here's what I've got going on, right now, in terms of movement training. And yes, I consider my CrossFit part of my dance training, even if it isn't dance, per se.


  • Ongoing, 3-4 times per week: CrossFit training
  • Jan. 9-13: Embodiment Butoh workshop with Denise Fujiwara
  • Feb. 16, 17: Dancing from Inside Out with Margie Gillis
  • March 3: An Exploration of Creative Methods with Antoine Vereecken of Wayne McGregor | Random Dance
  • March 9-11: Releasing/Dancing/Flying with Nathan Dryden
  • March 30 - Apr. 1: Butoh workshop with Yumiko Yoshioka
  • mid-May and onward: Aerial silk classes

Competitions and Events:
shanmonster: (Dance Monkey Dance!)
Since I moved to Ontario about four years ago, I've been taking in as many butoh workshops and performances as I can, devouring them as though starving. I've studied with Denise Fujiwara, Yuko Kaseki, and now, Jocelyne Montpetit.  Each of my teachers has a different approach to the other, but the underlying thread remains the same: an emptiness, and movement that doesn't originate from the body.

After three days of working with Ms. Montpetit, I feel like something is finally beginning to click. Her workshop was the least physically-intensive of all the butoh training I've done. But it's not exactly intellectual, either. Intellectualization can hamper it, I think. Although the exercises invariably included the word "imagine," after a while, it seemed as though I were no longer imagining an impulse, but that it was actually happening. So I wasn't just imagining having a string pull my pelvis, I could feel it. I could feel my body turning into dandelion fluff, being blown by the wind, being moved by the snakes beneath my skin, steered and pulled by the ribbon of smoke pouring from my elbow, etc.

With inspirations no more complex than an imaginary stick pressing against our foreheads, we created arresting dance pieces. As long as the dancer hold onto the imagery, the dance has an incredible intensity. You can see the moment when the attention wavers. The movements lose their verity and become diminished. They look contrived and lacking in power.

I am disappointed my week of dance training has drawn to a close, but I feel enriched for all that I have experienced. I wish I had someone to collaborate with to continue practicing what I have learned.
shanmonster: (Default)
You don't want my help.

A telemarketer just called, asking me for $300 to support the local symphony. I interrupted her spiel to say, "Look. I'm a dancer. I'm willing to donate my time as a performer to raise funds for the symphony, but I'm a starving artist myself, and just don't have money to donate--only time and my skills."

I knew she wouldn't go for it.

They never do.


I have a good news, sorta bad news situation today. The good news is I got the dance scholarship I'd applied for. The bad news is it's only a partial scholarship, and only covers three classes, which is about 25% of what I was hoping for. It doesn't cover the butoh week intensive in January, which was the part I was most interested in. Still, it's more than I had before, so I'm glad for that. I just can't help but feel a bit disappointed.

I think I can swing the tuition for the intensive. Transportation will be a bitch. If I'm lucky, I'll find a place to stay in Toronto, and won't need to commute from Kitchener to Toronto every day on the bus.


Time to go teach a class. Sorta. Kinda. Theoretically.
shanmonster: (Dance Monkey Dance!)
One of the main reasons I moved to Ontario was to continue developing as a dance artist. And one of the styles that brought me here was butoh.

Since I moved here, I have been studying butoh and contemplative dance whenever I could with Denise Fujiwara at Fujiwara Dance Inventions. I've had to miss a couple of workshops because of money issues. But now I see there is a scholarship coming up which will cover training from November until April. I'm pretty sure I qualify for this, but I need two references.

I've never applied for this sort of scholarship before, so I'm really not sure who I should ask. Presumably, a professional dancer. Aside from Ms. Fujiwara herself, I don't know any professional butoh performers who are familiar with my work. Do you think other dance stylists would suffice? And if so, what should I be looking for in a reference? A studio owner? A performer? A teacher?

I'm at a bit of a loss, but I sure would like to get this scholarship.

Any ideas/volunteers are appreciated.
shanmonster: (On the stairs)
My voice has been gone since very early on Sunday morning. I can only make squeaking sounds. I sure hope it comes back soon, because teaching dance class without a voice is a special sort of challenge I don't want to repeat. I've been sick for over two weeks now, and it's getting really old. I haven't been to the gym in about three weeks, and I'm starting to go to seed. Gah!

I have a butoh/contemplative dance workshop on Sunday. I sure hope I'm up to four hours of dance by then....

Link time? Sure.

Ultimate Praying Championship: Irreverent, and funny, because it's true (thanks, [ profile] gha5t).

Giant Blob Tumbleweeds: Come for the tumbleweeds, and stay for the steampunk. Cool stuff, as always.

Totalitarian Architecture of the Third Reich: I must admit, I really like this stripped-down version of classical architecture. It's just so imposing and grand.

Gov. Tells Man: “You Can’t Marry, You’re A Woman!”: What happens when paperwork gets mixed up. Amazingly enough, [ profile] f00dave was a woman for quite some time. His driver's license declared him thus, and when we got married, the JP flubbed her lines and said to me, "Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife?" My response, "Uh, sure."

'Boy Weds Dog To Avoid Indian Tiger Death': No word on whether or not the wedding must be consummated. Ye gads.

Lego Pharaoh floats down River Thames: What would Queen Elizabeth I have thought?

Bacon and Cheese Stuffed Pizza Burger: Oh god. This horrifies me so much.

Flaming Balls of Shit: One of the absolute funniest things I've ever read. READ IT!

shanmonster: (Dance Monkey Dance!)
Imre Thormann, who I believe I've linked to in this series before, performs butoh at Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine in Shiga (Japan) in summer 2006. The live music is by Swiss jazz pianist Nik Baertsch and his band "Mobile". His muscular control amazes me. I see what looks a bit like Nauli to me, and can't help but wonder if that's something he studies in particular.

shanmonster: (Dance Monkey Dance!)
Butoh dancers Maya Dunsky and Artour Astman perform a section from When the Room Becomes Water. I really like the use of colour in this otherwise stark composition.

shanmonster: (Dance Monkey Dance!)
These are excerpts from the 2007 New York Butoh festival. I have been lucky enough to study with two of the dancers featured in this clip: Denise Fujiwara and Yuko Kaseki. I am fascinated by the way these dancers transform themselves.

shanmonster: (Default)
I stayed at a hostel last night. It was ... interesting. I'll post about that experience when I get more time. Right now, I'm at a public library terminal, and the internet connection is pretty frigging slow.

The butoh workshop progresses well. I feel like I'm learning a lot, and creating art, all at the same time. W00t!

I won't be staying at the hostel anymore. Brad, a guy I know from Underworld is having me over for the next couple of nights. Huzzah for Brad!

In the meantime, I'm slightly buzzing off a Blackthorne cider I had for supper (along with wings and Cajun chicken soup) at Einstein's Irish Pub on College St. I can't say the pub was terribly Irish (aside from the availability of Guinness), but the food was very satisfactory. Small menu, but good food. If you're looking for pub grub, check it out when you're in Toronto.

Ok. Gotta run. Catch you on the flip side....
shanmonster: (Dance Monkey Dance!)
I'm going to a company Christmas party on Saturday. It's for the dance studio where I teach. Who wants to be my date? [ profile] f00dave is going to be out of town, and can't make it.

Also, I have signed up for another butoh workshop with Denise Fujiwara in January. This one is for performance level butoh. Does this mean I may finally be able to perform what I've been studying? I hope so! I am once again looking for crash space in downtown Toronto, or on the subway line. The workshop runs from Jan. 13-16, so I'm looking for a comfy couch or floor on the nights of the 14th and 15th.

I just got back from the gym, which made me realize how much strength I've lost over the past few months. Unacceptable! Crunches making my belly tremble? This is an outrage! I've always had abs of steel. Where has this wobbling come from? Fine. Weights three times a week again, mixed with copious amounts of cardio. It's time to get my muscles back.

The surly man in the motorized wheelchair who I always see picking fights seems to have been hit by a car tonight. When I left the gym, blue and red lights were flashing everywhere, his chair was smashed, and paramedics were wrapping him in a metallic blanket. I hope he lives to fight another day. Poor fucker....

Have a couple more links.

Glam Guns: Your source for pink handcuffs and Hello Kitty machine guns.

Woman Convicted After Smuggling Monkey Into U.S. Disguised As Her Fetus: The woman is a dumb ass (thanks, [ profile] tailchaser).
shanmonster: (Default)
Yesterday was a strange day filled with oddities. First of all, I had two complete strangers groping at my bodacious tatas because of a routine ultrasound and mammogram. I've never had a mammogram before. I had no idea such small boobs could squish out so big. I was a little bit afraid there might be some sort of Playdough Barber Shop thing going on, but everything stayed intact, thank fuck. Much to my happiness, it didn't hurt at all.

And as for the ultrasound, I had a big bottle of lube splooged all over me. It was like the Alien queen drooled on me, but without all the chest bursting and acidic badness. Watching the monitor during the ultrasound made me realize just how made of meat I am.

My daytime was spent in relaxation. I had a bubble bath and read from Mastering the Art of War. Then I taught my last Wednesday night dance class for the year, and went to Club Renaissance to see Glenn Love.

This was my favourite show of his, yet. Go listen to his stuff. He's good. And he's a total sweetheart, too.

I ended up DJing most of the night afterwards, and played a pretty eclectic set, everything from Bjork to Motorhead to Skinny Puppy to David Bowie. The dance floor stayed busy all night, so I'm pretty pleased.

This weekend, I'm off to Toronto again. It has become my other home. Unfortunately, I still don't know where I'm staying. So if you live in the downtown Toronto area and can lend me couch or floor space for Monday and Tuesday night of next week, I will be very fucking happy. I'm going there to study butoh with Yuko Kaseki.

This is her in action:

If all goes well, on Sunday night, I'll also be going to see Amanda Palmer, who I only just found out is playing in Toronto that night.

I get so much culture I could very well turn into yoghourt.

Want some links? Here you go!

Antonia the Pygmy Polar Bear: The story of a polar bear with dwarfism.

Oh What a Beautiful Wedding: The Twinkie cake kills me.

Two-faced kitten born in Perth: I want a mutant kitty! Hell, I want a non-mutant kitty, too. I hope this one lives. There are too few two-faced kitties in the world.

Bra for the boys an online bestseller in Japan: It's about time someone started marketing bras meant to fit men who like to wear bras.

The Guinea Pig Olympics: The boxing competition is my favourite.

Art Nudes: NSFW, but there's some quality photography to be found here.

Midwest Teen Sex Show: Fetishes: Entertaining and educational, explains the difference between kink and fetish.

Yoshiro Nakamatsu, We Salute You: Master inventor. His technique for coming up with new ideas for inventions is unconventional and more than a little frightening (thanks, [ profile] gha5t).

Chicken Head Tracking: I used to do this with my chickens all the time. I'd put them on turntables and watch them spot like ballerinas.
shanmonster: (On the stairs)
I spent the weekend running around a very cold forest dressed in armour and falling asleep in random places: on logs, under logs, on soft cedar boughs, in piles of elves, and once, in the freezing mud beside a swamp. I do not recommend the latter. I woke up disoriented and unable to do anything more than stagger and moan like a zombie. Luckily for me, Kijs and James escorted me to a campfire where I eventually defrosted my brains and was able to rejoin the world of the living.

After my dance class tonight, I'm headed off to Toronto. I would love to make a bonfire in honour of the date, but I'm really not sure this is possible. Instead, I may end up doing karaoke, which really isn't an appropriate substitution, but when in Toronto....

Next month, I get to take another butoh workshop, and I get to see GWAR again. SCORE!

Would you like some links? I thought you might.

Toronto schools chief (mostly) defends Halloween sensitivity policy: Toronto schools don't have Hallowe'en. They have Black and Orange Day.

A Band of Orcs: I'd really like one of their tshirts. Specifically, this one. We're not misunderstood. We're evil.

Jogger runs mile with rabid fox on her arm: I can't say I've ever had that sort of thing happen to me while I was out running. I ran about 7 km today, and all I saw was a cranky swan and a shih tzu with an updo. But I once went for a walk in the ocean, and realized just how flexible and well-balanced I was when my left foot shot up straight over my head with a crab dangling from my big toe. Until then, I had no idea I could do that. I'll bet this woman never suspected she could run a mile with a fox clamped onto her arm.

Vampire Moth Discovered -- Evolution at Work: "A previously unknown population of vampire moths has been found in Siberia. And in a twist worthy of a Halloween horror movie, entomologists say the bloodsuckers may have evolved from a purely fruit-eating species."

Kool-Ade is a Zombie: This just seems appropriate, considering my Hallowe'en weekend of undead badness.

Funeral home gets 'All Shook Up': A funeral home hosts an open house party, complete with an Elvis impersonator. "Ninety-nine percent of the time they come here, they're sad.... We're putting the first three letters back in funeral."

Teen bride: 'My wedding cost £100,000': If this is real, I am so frightened.

Dr. Steel: Nerdcore steampunk robot rock. Amazing stuff (thanks, [ profile] miami_pony).

Green Porno: This may very well be the most amazing thing I have seen all year. I love Isabella Rossellini. Now I want to have sex with her, snail-style (thanks, [ profile] tailchaser).

Cool Photo: NSFW, but well done (thanks, [ profile] f00dave).

Sky Burial: "Sky burial or ritual dissection was once a common funerary practice in Tibet wherein a human corpse is cut into small pieces and placed on a mountaintop, exposing it to the elements or the mahabhuta and animals – especially to birds of prey. In Tibetan the practice is known as jhator (Tibetan: བྱ་གཏོར་; Wylie: bya gtor), which literally means, "giving alms to the birds."" Article contains amazing photos.

Suit Case Exhibit: A moving look at the lost denizens of an early twentieth century insane asylum.

shanmonster: (Dance Monkey Dance!)
I spent a lot of time on College Street yesterday, and wrote down a few observations.

The acrid smell of human piss stings my nose while I wait. A middle-aged man in mirror shades, and a shiny PVC jacket pedals by on a tricycle, show tunes blaring from a pocket stereo. An unhealthy-looking older woman in ruined clothes squats on the sidewalk smoking bargain cigarettes. A white stretch limo idles in front of me; a young man wearing a ball cap sits in back, looking at me with an idle expression.

A man lets his fat brown puppy shit on the sidewalk in front of the woman, then drags the still-pooping dog away by the leash. The woman mumbles in faint disgust. The woman is fascinated by me. "Are you writing a letter?" she asks.

"Yes," I say. Close enough, anyhow.

"Ah, she says. I wrote two letters, once." Then she stands up and walks away, and I watch her leave. Her shirt is filled with tiny holes, like she's been chewed on by rats and moths in her sleep.


The butoh workshop is going well. I am very much out of my element. The class is conceptual to the extreme, and I spent much of yesterday afternoon being earth (the element, not the planet). For a half hour or so, I became earthquake, skree, and stillness. And I performed it, while doing my best to experience "no mind." It's exhausting and exhilarating, all at once. My muscles ache today, and I can't wait to see what brain-destroying material I absorb. Part of me views what we're doing as painfully artsy-fartsy, and it goes very much against my pragmatic nature. However, there is no denying what I'm seeing. When I pause for a moment to look around the room, I am witnessing raw and visceral dance of a sort I rarely see. And I am part of this.


Well, running out of time on the public library terminal, so I must be off. I'll write more if I get the chance to come back to the library.
shanmonster: (Dance Monkey Dance!)
Thanks to the lovely Heather, I now have crash space for the duration of my butoh dance workshop. Thank you! Mwah!
shanmonster: (Dance Monkey Dance!)
Guess what! There's another dance workshop coming up in Toronto, and I really want to attend it. Can anyone in the downtown area provide me with crash space on the nights of Sept. 9-11? I would be ever so happy! I am really looking forward to doing a four-day butoh intensive.

I am now sans roommate. [ profile] amelia_brave moved out today to go back to school. And last night was her going-away party. We went out for supper, then convened at Club Ren where I got the least drunk out of the crew that was there. I'd no intentions on drinking (last weekend's debauchery at the LARP site should tide me over for a few months), but rounds of Jagermeister were purchased, and I couldn't abandon the toasts.

I am so happy I practice moderation. No hangovers for me. No puking for me. And now I get to eat Amelia's pasta leftovers from last night, because she was too sick to enjoy them, herself. Huzzah for moderation!

Now that I have my office/dance studio back, I have to do some tidying up. It's good to have space! I'll soon recommence making armour, costumes, and jewellery. Whee!
shanmonster: (Don't just sing it--bring it!)
Ticketmaster is a scam. I just bought a ticket to see Skinny Puppy in June. The tickets are listed as $29.50, which is quite reasonable. I've never before encountered a place which told you your grand total only after your payment had gone through. My total ended up being $43 (which is more than I can really afford). What the heck is a convenience charge, and why is it $8.75?

Still, I've loved Puppy since the mid-80s, and am relishing the thought of finally getting to see them live. Oh yes!

Are you going?


I went to Toronto on Saturday to attend two dance performances: Tedd Robinson's REDD (a contemporary dance piece) and Denise Fujiwara's No Exit (a butoh piece). I must admit, I am not a fan of REDD. Although there were elements I enjoyed (Robinson is a wiz with fabric draping), overall, I found myself literally falling asleep while he was onstage. Robinson's hour-long performance was broken into three parts. The first part opened with him coming on stage with a crooked walking stick. He began doing a quick side-to-side sway with his hips. Then he stopped, balanced the stick on his head, and resumed the hip movements. A man in the audience was very impressed by this rudimentary balancing act and yelled out "Bravo!" I suggest he check out a raqs saif, raqs shamadan, or Moroccan tea tray performance to be truly blown away by dancers with stuff on their heads. The rest of the performance consisted of Robinson reading text written on large bits of fabric, occasionally wrapping the fabric around himself kimono-style. He talked about country living, and bears in the woods. The whole time I watched and listened, I couldn't help but think he sounded like a city slicker talking about something he'd never experienced. It just did not ring true. Then again, I grew up on farms and in forests, living off the land, so go figure. If I were to dance city living, I'll betcha it wouldn't ring true, either.

The next piece he did was his most interesting. He came out with a blinding kimono. It was covered with reflective sequins or paillettes, so glaringly bright that the kimono seemed electrically powered. After posing reflectively (in both senses of the word), the odd, off-kilter music began to blend with an Irish ballad. He stripped off the kimono, and underneath was wearing a kilt and sporran. This is the only time he evoked a physical reaction from me. I laughed at the incongruity. And then he did a stomping sort of dance.

The third dance consisted of Robinson showing up onstage with a giant stick balanced on his head. He talked about being a professional balancer. And then he stuck the stick upright in the stage, rearranged his t-shirt and some more wrapped/draped cloth so he looked monk-like (he actually was a Buddhist monk, by the way), and sat under the stick. That was the end.

As the lights faded and before the applause began, a man in the audience said in a loud voice, "I can't believe I paid money for this."

Although I believe the man's response was unconscionably rude (it was obvious to me that Robinson had been crushed by the outburst), I understood where he was coming from. This performance had come across to me as self-aggrandizing, second-rate performance art. Other people in the audience, however, would disagree. I heard much laughter during the performance (and not the derisive sort, either). So maybe I just didn't get Robinson's art. I don't know. I do know I'll never choose to watch another of his performances. I am glad I didn't pay money, though. I was seeing the show on trade (I volunteered to hand out surveys in exchange for watching the performances).

Up next was Denise Fujiwara's No Exit. This was the real reason I'd come to the show. I've done workshops with Fujiwara before and found her kind and knowledgeable, and the workshops illuminating. I'd also attended the Can-Asian Dance Festival (one of her pet projects) and it was excellent. So I wanted to see the butoh choreography she'd built around the Sartre play, No Exit.

I was not disappointed. Although I'd never read the play (bad Shan--not doing the research before seeing the dance!), I have a passing familiarity with Sartre's works and philosophy. And I certainly wasn't sleepy during this performance.

The performance has no dialogue, but the story-telling is visceral. Three individuals die and go to hell: a small room with three chairs, a table, and a knife. The mood is oppressive and crushing. Sasha Ivanochko's character is Inez, hate-riddled and malevolent. Miko Sobreira is Garcin, traumatized and neurotic. Rebecca Hope Terry is Estelle, sexually desperate and unappealing. The three interact in an ugly romantic triangle, reaching for one another in cloying, violent desperation before turning on themselves and one another.

Hell is other people.

Performance-wise, my eyes were constantly drawn to Ivanochko. Her face, body, and movements barraged me with palpable waves of emotion. It was hard to pull my eyes away from her to the other dancers. That being said, the others were also very strong performers, but it is difficult to share a space with such an incredibly strong stage presence.


Afterwards, I left to walk back to the bus station. Perhaps influenced by the dance shows, I still felt a mood of oppression and doom. Although it was a Saturday night in the largest city in Canada, the streets were very empty and dark. I walked through ill-lit streets and past construction sites. A few homeless people were preparing for the night, setting up sleeping bags on street corners. A rifled-through purse lay abandoned on the sidewalk. I kept a lot of space between myself and the shadows, striding with purpose close to the street and with my peripheral vision on high alert. One man asked me for money. Another asked me for drugs.

By the time I got home, it was 1:30 in the morning, and I collapsed in bed thankfully.
shanmonster: (Spasmolytic)
I've linked to today's dance clip a few months back, but I think it's worth showcasing again. These are excerpts from The False David by butoh performer Imre Thormann. I'm impressed by his strength and utter control, both of gross motor movements and tiny, precise facial expressions. Ugliness is beautiful, too.

July 2017

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