I tend to believe that human beings in their general nature are lazy, as such we tend to stay in our comfort zone. A comfort zone can be physical, emotional, mental and even spiritual. it takes something extra to push ourselves beyond the safe and known. I believe that extra something is an impulse from our soul.
When we do manage to extend ourselves that bit further, in whatever way, there is usually some benefit or reward. This can be as simple as we feel good about ourselves and hey that’s no small thing. when that pay off as greater attraction than our resistant to doing whatever it is, we tend to keep doing it.
I began performing on stage when I was around 17 or 18, possibly it saved my life and certainly I fell in love with it. I can still remember walking off stage after my very first public performance feeling like I was walking on air. The stage gave me the opportunity to be somebody other than that angry young man that I was. It was a kind of freedom.
It wasn’t long before I became strangely attracted to dance. I’d never really seen any but something in me started pushing in that direction. I really came up against my laziness when I started to dance. Dancers train really hard to make it look really easy when they perform, hours and hours and hours of training. obviously to be a dancer and passion and love for it is greater than the efforts of all that hard work.
Pretty much from the beginning I was interested in exploring the body itself as the site of human experience. Then when I was 25 the healing ability showed up and added another dimension to my exploration.
When I’m actually going with all of this is June 29th 1996. At 6 AM on that Saturday morning I began a 36 hour performance entitled “36 Hours In-Quest-ion”. I’d been wanting to do something like that for some time beforehand, and at this time the time was right.
As much as anything it was an experiment on myself, I wanted to see what would happen, I wanted to see where it could take me. So I decided to fast as well. I had a meal on Friday evening after teaching a class, went to the performance space, did my final preparations and went to sleep.
It’s probably important to say at this point that in the evolution of my life in the performing arts and in dance I had become a Butoh dancer. and within that obscure area of dance, I was on the outer reaches as a spirit dancer, meaning when I danced I was active not only on the physical level but on subtler invisible levels, my body became a vehicle for the direct expression of ‘spirit’ in the physical.
So why would I do this? At that time dance was for me generally a great joy, in which I came close to and sometimes touched, my life quest for absolute freedom. With no specific objective in mind other than an experiment in the pursuit of freedom, I could not fail, I could only experience.
At this point some of you might be imagining some kind of marathon event in a Guinness book of records type feat of endurance. It wasn’t. I danced when I felt moved to, slept when my body took me there and interactive but the audience if they initiated it. People were free to come and go as they wished, some of them thinking they’d stayed for an hour and four slipped past, others stayed half a day or more.
It was a journey for all of us. For me it was a journey beyond time beyond the physical realm, it was a journey into everything I believed it was possible to reach as a spirit dancer. it took me until the Sunday afternoon to be there, to somehow slip beyond the constraints of my physical body, beyond time and space into a realm of expansive and fluid freedom.
I was time now and another time existed in the outside world which I was unaffected by. Throughout the length of the performance I was working on generating an energetic environment in the space that formed a kind of energy bubble in which something new might take place, in which the event could be experienced by those witnessing it and not just seen. Some people were not receptive to this, or possibly it caused a kind of irritation in them and other people found themselves still absorbed six hours after they intended to leave.
My body seem to take on another consistency like smoke or water, something that moved without edges and lines. Images and worlds seemed to live in me, through me as if my body was an epic story being told. I felt myself expanding into the cosmos beyond anything that has been named.
I no longer knew where I was in time regarding the 36 hours but the dance drew me back into myself and I stood in my everyday body and the dance surged as feeling within me. Now suddenly it was an effort just to stand, I could not straighten my legs and was afraid that I might fall, but I stood I fought for stillness and to contain the experience, still in it’s grip. I don’t know how long I passed like this before the end came and I was once more just my little self, I tried to return to my chair and found that I could scarcely move my feet, my legs trembled as if my body had suddenly aged seventy years.
This moment was dramatically caught by one audience member in their response to the piece…
“the end…. you were emptied?….from a spirit you were a shit, something very weak and more like an insect. The human, from the God to the shit, everything to anything, all to nothing.
… quite inefficient to walk, you who were flying 15 minutes before. A human.
Your glance was astonished, I was astonished and grateful. I don’t know what I felt but it was great.
….you can work all your life around this experience. I cannot imagine you could go further. I don’t know you but where you could go – I couldn’t imagine – too far for me – I was so high this day.”
I felt so many things as I sat down, I knew something special had taken place I was elated and content that much of what I hoped for from the performance had been realised. The silence in the room was dense and sweet I saw that there were more than a dozen people present, more than at any other time, “in to see the death” I had joked to someone who had said they would come just for the end. It was as if everyone there was unconsciously holding their breath, becoming embalmed, “it must be 6’o’clock by now” I said wryly and we all exhaled.
An unforseen result of this personal experiment was the consumption of the passion that drove my creative work in dance. After this performance my life as a dancer ended and within six months I was in India beginning a new phase of life solely dedicated to spiritual practice.
In leaving I was following my souls call. Many things transpired in the months between and I felt I would die if I did not follow the only directive that arose in me, to go to India. It was in the end a choiceless choice, but I left just as the years of hard work was beginning to pay off. The previous year Time Out magazine called me “our leading exponent of the radical dance style know as Butoh”. I was being asked to teach, invited to perform, it was everything I had been working for…. it was not my souls plan.
If there is a point to this story, perhaps it is this. We don’t know. Our destiny path unfolds right in front of us only as far as the next step, we simply need to be willing to take that step, especially when it is a leap into the void of the unknown.