Addiction is serpentine. It weaves in and out, under and beneath, through and within. It chokes one person slowly and deliberately, while it drifts past another leaving ghost lines on the sand.
Red paints me is an exploration of dependence.
The idea came to me first in contrasts - light and shadow, white and color. I was in Madrid on maternity leave and re-training in flamenco dance. Immersed in daily dance classes, resonating with the unison of flamenco shoes pounding the studio floor, catching glimpses of my reflection on the steamed-up mirrors from the body heat of the dancers, I found movement in my body after years of not dancing. I walked to and from dance classes past the fish, fruit, vegetable, and olives lining the aisles of the Amor de Dios market. I fed my daughter cereal for the first time.
I had never choreographed a single dance piece in my life. The idea of it was daunting, unreachable. I reached out to Karen Lugo, a Mexican flamenco dancer resident in Madrid to mentor me. I loved, and continue to love, her artistry. She is immense on stage. We met in the neighbourhood Las Embajadas in a coffee shop serving stale tapas. In person she is petite, and unassuming. We shared the story of those in our lives trapped by dependence and addiction. A grant application followed. The dance started taking shape – insecurely, in bursts, and spurts. Karen was patient, generous, nudging me towards my creative self.
I clashed against the limits of flamenco, those same limits that I love to be a part of, but that called to be distorted for this piece. Don’t expect tradition in Red paints me – it pushes the boundaries in movement vocabulary, musicality, and aesthetics.
Red paints me became imbedded in a larger production and choreography called “B-side: Looking In” which was showcased at Harbourfront’s Next Steps festival in 2018 and at the Winchester Theatre the following year.
It wasn’t until I met Holly Small, a dramaturge, when I finally gave myself the permission to live in this choreography. I remember being petrified as I started connecting to the piece, sweat trickling down the curve of my back while chilled to the bone, yawning, yawning, yawning after one of our first sessions. “I am sorry I am yawning so much”, I said apologetically not understanding my reaction to the piece. “Yawning is just fine,” said Holly. “You are connecting to the piece.” One day she stopped taking notes and simply watched as I danced the piece.
Red paints me is at the same time personal, reticent and rife. Rife in the reverberations of dependence in our society. In consumerism. In the addiction to social media. In polarization and criticism. The addiction to self-image. To technology. To innovation for the sake of innovation. To fast food, fast fashion, fast schedules, fast turnover. To plastic, to building more buildings, cutting more trees, buying the next iphone model. Disparaging and hollow.
Reticent in the red. What is red? Red is the opposite of blue. Crimson, scarlet. Blood. Anger-blind. Red is being turned inside out. Raw. Pure. Alive. Red is stop! you are breaking the law. Danger. At your own risk. Stay behind the line. Red is a rose. The symbol of love. Passion. Abandon in flight. Red is Valentines. Consumption. Love turned into chocolate hearts. Money buying your love. Red is blind. Eyes closed in the sun. Warmth. The surprise. Red is womanhood. Puberty. Fertility. Life.
What is red to you?
I am so grateful to dance this piece at Dance Matters. With all its vulnerability. My red. Personal.
Photo: Nazanin Meshkat, Photographer: Michael Zender