And here we begin our second performance of Ravel’s Bolero with six spanish thoroughbred horses that circle, inviting, hesitating and eventually urging the dancers within to emerge. The previous evening – a premiere of many sorts, including the Equus component to Lost for Words - the tension cut knife like through the communication between horse, rider and dancer so that what remained were merely fragments of a wish to explore the many arts of conversation. This time, however, we wordlessly alter the warm-up after a dancer has completed a short barre within earshot of the sound of wind that makes an oak tree sing as swallows above weave figures of infinity that I occasionally look up to register for later use. I wrestle with finding something innate to a piece of music that has been set to perfection by Maurice Béjart as I have been wrestling for some time now to find anything whether through music, movement or a mere gesture that is inherently beyond artifice. It is as I threaten to remain, impossible. As I finish my barre, the curtains of doubt are drawn aside so that I may once again face breath shortening fear, wishing once again that I had stayed home with a good book some place, any place else than where I currently stand. I am looking at the riders saddle up the horses and I see a sunday afternoon at a country horse show where children barter with parents for ice-cream and pony rides. I suddenly remember an interview I read in the New York Times some days earlier with Mark Morris who said that, “And so as soon as I was choreographing other people besides myself, which was very early on, I was making up stuff that I wanted to watch, as opposed to what I wanted to feel like.”
Giancarlo Biagiotti of Il Felcino has choreographed the horses in such a way that permits me to engage with them as I wish. I may ignore them, I may mirror them, I may take off my jacket and explore how I may encircle them, as a portrait mid-air with the serenity that militates against them taking fright. In the field where we warm up together, some of the horses freeze when I use the jacket as a cape; it would have to be a horse called Artista that stops in front of me as he starts to jerk his head back to rear. Both rider and dancer, however, insist and even though his ears flick back for a moment, we continue as we were saying…I should be terrified, as I was the previous evening when one of the horses did exactly the same thing. Then, we were both put off when the horse stepped onto my wooden platform which is centre stage and froze as I froze and then we both flinched and stepped aside with perfect timing, as we mirrored each other’s fear. This evening, however, I want to use the dressage coat as a cape, or at least have that choice. And so, as I wave it even higher, though a little more slowly, to accompany Artista as he eventually trots by, I find the words that will make sentences out of the story I want to tell.
I remember standing in the middle of the stage on a wooden platform as the music started. I remember facing a line of six horses as they walk towards me in double file that parts around me as I follow the movement with the first rond de jambe with my arms tightly clasped behind my back with my head bowed beneath a top hat. I remember knowing as I released my arms gradually that nothing mattered more in that moment than simply allowing for the possibility of a dance as a pas de six that is worth sitting beneath a heatwaving sun for. I also remember deciding to take off half of my jacket as Artista strolled by and sensing the ripple of the adrenalin in his flanks, and knowing that neither of us may allow for but must dance our fear. Most of all, I remember the silence as I began and continued to dance, sometimes alone, sometimes accompanied as I realise that there are some dancers you need to see for yourself.