Reflections: Blind Date concert, Nova Scotia 2011

First of all: beautiful!

Nova Scotia continually reminded me of Penobscot Bay in Maine, where I spent many childhood vacations. So many features were identical: the rounded-stone beaches, the globular seaweed clinging to boulders, the salty air, the crabs and gulls, the mussels and shells, the temperate summer weather (a stark contrast to the blistering DC miasma)…best of all, the constant roll of water to soothe my ears and eyes. It tasted of heaven.

Halifax is also a cheery city, with many green spaces, much good food, a thriving harbor, and modest buildings. The massive grassy banks of the Citadel serve for orientation. We spent the first day, Wednesday, in town, trooping through the Museum of Natural History, in which Maya found a stuffed skunk that tickled her fancy, then over to the playground for fun and exercise. We had fish and chips at the harbor, then over to the capoeira studio with Susan Cook.

Dick Bell, Karen Bradley, Amanda Abrams, Jennifer Mueller, Maya Shute, Alex Shor

Susan is a strong mover! She likes to fly in contact, and she is clearly a veteran performer. She led Amanda and I into her capoeira studio and we "played" under the sure guidance of Mestre Ross. The class was fast, challenging, and fun! We finished by practicing our singing in Portuguese. We headed home sweaty and tired, but happy.

We were accompanied, over the course of our trip, by Karen Bradley and Dick Bell. Karen was my mentor at school, and the architect of this performance. We spent Thursday with them at their lovely house on the shore at Musquodoboit Harbour. Their house overlooks the water, and gulls crack open hermit crab shells on their road like divebombers.

We played on the beach that afternoon. I had the privilege of experiencing one of the perfect moments in my life, one of the few in the presence of someone else. Maya and I were at the beach, on the boardwalk above the sand. The thick grasses waved in the wind like the shaggy head of a great bear roaming under trees, Maya had her towel wrapped around her head to play Little Red Riding Hood, I breathed in the fresh, salty air, felt the warm boards under my feet, and realized that I had accidentally, as always, stumbled into a brief sojourn in paradise. This happens for me rarely, though on vacation more often than at home. It is a simple recognition of the beauty surrounding me--the beauty is often there; I seldom take the time to notice. I can count on two hands the number of other such Rembrandt-like visions of peace and wellbeing in my life. I consider myself lucky, although I still regret times in which I have been simply too busy to notice.

I was extremely busy over the next two days. We hung, focused, and teched on Friday, plus a 2-hour rehearsal with Susan on our improvised duet. DANSpace-on-Grafton is small, but made a warm, intimate performance space. Our capable TD/LD Matthew Downey put the gear in order and came up with some strong looks for our work, though with few lights with which to play. We had a quick meal, then crawled home.

Along the way, we were unfortunately pulled over by two well-meaning policemen who gave Jen an exorbitant ticket for riding with the shoulder strap of her seatbelt under her arm (where it does not chafe her neck). They were very apologetic, but set our budget back a good deal. At home, I had some audio tweaking to take care of, then some prep for the workshop on Saturday, July 30, 2011. I heaved into bed at around 12:30.

The following day started early and Mary Szegda and I drove on out to Halifax. Amanda, Karen, and Susan were there for the workshop. We were uncertain who might arrive, but the pouring rain gave us hope.

We were lucky! Soon several people arrived to take the workshop and perform in the evening: Susan Barrett, Raphael Roter, Pam Gaines, Bev Cadham, Agne, Brigitte, and Julie, plus the rich support of drummers Chris Cookson and Inti Gonzales. Susan led us in with a pilates warm up, then I led the class in an exploration of integration between core and periphery, along with weight sharing. This culminated in our improv score Volcano. I was ecstatic! Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and found a way to embody the work.

We had a lunch break with Jen and Maya, then I drove them back to the house, a beautiful 2-bedroom apartment loaned to us by Brenda Cook, Susan's mum. Back at the theater, we teched and rehearsed, and I found a quiet place to lie down for a few minutes. Dancing is hard work, but so is teaching--I was exhausted by showtime. Nevertheless, we made a strong showing, performing Odysseus, Icarus, Security Chain, the Volcano group dance, and my duet with Susan, Blind Date. My weariness was apparent to me in my choices: I resorted to lifting Susan during our duet more often than I might have otherwise; during Icarus, I flung myself onto Alex's back with more than usual abandon. It was a solid performance, but not my personal best. Everyone else did beautifully.

I meant to sleep late the next day, but woke up early by accident. What followed was a silly day in which I was grumpy, Maya was grumpy, and, to top off all, there was no coffee left in the apartment. The plan had been to take a nice hike. So, Karen and Dick brought us along a lovely trail that emphasized beach and--mercifully!--included only a short strip in mosquito-teeming woods. Maya was not enjoying herself and, like all 3 year olds, perfectly willing to share her misery, so Jen and I ditched the hike early and just went to the beach. I caught a nap, much to everyone's relief.

Maya Rose Shute on beach

The end of the day was spectacular! Susan brought us to her in-laws for a picnic in their yard by the lake. There was much yummy food, kids for Maya to play with, and the meditative sunset to enjoy.

The last day in town, we spent doing things Maya wanted. We took the ferry into Halifax, a lovely, quick ride from Dartmouth, then played for hours in the Discovery Center. Returning to Dartmouth, we went to a Natal Day celebration in Dartmouth with as many moonbounces as even Maya could wish. It was a lovely trip, with good dance and good friends, the kind of international tour of which I have always dreamed.