Every body is perfect for dance. My concern is the
preference for one type, and how extreme the dance world can be about what a dancer's body
(should look like). I was hoping after 10-15 minutes into the piece, people would begin to
transcend their issues and end up seeing the beauty of bodies, these works of nature
moving. I tried to get many body sizes, shapes, colors among the dancers. I was hoping to
provoke some thought and growth about getting away from nudity always being seen as a
sexual thing or about objectification and go to this place where once could see just the
naturalness of being naked. A running theme for many of the dancers is that despite their
discomfort this is a good challenge for all of us, and the fear indicates we're on the
~ Eric Kupers
One Corpse Too Many
After seeing "The Reckoning" last night, I was ready for a bit of Cadfael medieval murder mystery.
BARE NAKED LADIES (AND GENTS)
24 April 2004
Yesterday, I interviewed a choreographer named Eric Kupers, whose work, Night Marsh, described as "the culmination of the Undressed Project, a vibrant ecosystem of naked bodies, challenging cultural notions about body image, beauty, and death," will be presented at UC Davis Mondavi Center Studio Theatre in 2 weeks. A few weeks ago, when I interviewed David Grenke, who is the director of the universitys spring dance workshop, I asked him about rumors that there would be nudity in that show. He squirmed a bit at the notion of censorship and admitted that one dancer exposes one breast briefly in her dance (I guess in honor of Janet Jackson!) and talked about how they had to put warnings in the program and in publicity and would not be able to perform that part of the dance during the presentation on Picnic Day, when there might be children in the audience.
In light of Grenkes statements about this brief partial nudity in Spring Dance, the idea that there was going to be a totally nude full dance presented on stage in the universitys most prestigious theatre was big news indeed and my editor asked if I wanted to do the story. I did.
I met with Eric Kupers and was so intrigued with the project that I asked if I could attend a rehearsal so that I could use that experience in writing my article, which is due on Monday. He had explained that his company (17 dancers) range in age from 18 to 50 and represent all ages, colors, sizes, and even included a dancer with a prosthetic leg. Unfortunately, the company is still rehearsing in San Francisco, so in order to go to a rehearsal, I had to go to San Francisco, which I did today.
It was quite a day, from start to finish. (This entry will be long; sorry!)
It started at 9 a.m. at Blood Source, where I went and left a pint of my precious bodily fluid, had a donut and some orange juice and then got on the road headed for the Bay Area. Parking in the area of the dance studio is so horrible that I decided to leave the car in a BART lot and ride the metro in. Since our car has been stolen out of BART lots twice, we now travel with "The Club" and I had my club in hand.
One thing about the freeways in the Bay Area--they clearly mark which offramps lead to BART stations. So I got off in Concord, what I thought was the end of the BART line (they have since extended the line and added a new station, a fact which became significant later in the day). The exit off the freeway was clearly marked, but once I got off, there was no sign anywhere which told me what to do next. I ended up back on the freeway again.
Next stop: Pleasant Hill. I got off there, again at a BART station sign, again with no sign of a BART station. Though I had allowed plenty of time to get down to the city in time to have lunch with my friend Susan, time was flying with all these missing BART stations and then town traffic trying to get back on the freeway again. I decided to head for the Orinda BART station, the next one down the road--a station I was familiar with and could find without problem, but after getting caught by several stop signs trying to get back on the freeway again, I turned a corner and what did I see? The BART station I had gotten off the freeway to find.
The parking lot was, of course, full, and after Id checked it out thoroughly, I once again decided to go on to Orinda, but then passed a second lot and think I probably found the very last parking slot. I took it, locked the car, attached The Club, and walked to the station, boarding the train for San Francisco.
I had a lovely lunch with Susan, whom I had not seen in several months, so we had a lot of catching up to do. When I left her, I got the city bus and rode the 12 or so blocks to the dance studio.
Eric buzzed me in and met me, wearing a thin flowing sort of pantaloon thing that he kept on while we were in the exposed--so to speak--parts of the studio. He led me through a dark hallway into the dance studio where I was met by 17 naked people. I expected to feel uncomfortable, at least initially, but nothing could be further from the truth. It was the most natural thing in the world to be standing there in the middle of these dancers. And what a group it was.
The first woman I laid eyes on was probably larger than I am. And she was beautiful. Beautiful because she was so totally and completely at peace with her nudity. I spoke with her after the rehearsal and learned that in her professional life shes a psychotherapist who deals with people with body image issues. She said shes been dancing since age 4, at all sizes, but had always been told that she could never progress beyond a certain point because of her size and yet here she was. Baring it all and such an impressively beautiful woman. I couldnt take my eyes off of her when she danced. She told me it had taken her awhile to get to that point and she still has some issues that come up now and then, but mostly she has found it a freeing experience.
But thats the whole point of this company--the freeing experience.
When the rehearsal was over, I was going to take publicity photos for the newspaper and was very excited about my first assignment as a photographer as well as a reporter. I was a dismal failure. Apparently I did not, as I thought I had, put new batteries in my camera and when I went to take the first photo, the camera would turn on, but would not take a photo. I was embarrassed and frustrated, but I also had a back-up camera, so I took out my handy dandy little Casio and managed to get a couple of (not very good) photos but then saw, to my horror, that the battery on that camera was dying too, so I had to call it quits. I had gone there prepared to take lots and lots of photos and came away with almost nothing.
It was 3:30 by this time and I still had to get back to the car and get into rush hour traffic. The trip back was a nightmare. We all know, now, that I cant be trusted to find my way anywhere on the freeway, but youd think that since I was riding public transportation I might have a better shot at it, wouldnt you?
I walked down to the Civic Center BART station and descended to the train lines. Now remember above where I said they had added a new BART station since Id last ridden the metro line. Concord used to be the end of the line. Now someplace called "Bay Point" is. I didnt know that. "Bay Point" is also about the farthest you can get from the Bay, so Im not quite sure where the name comes from, and certainly didn't think it was the direction in which I should be headed. In fact, I think in my mind I was thinking if "Bay Fair," which is in the opposite direction.
The Bay Point line was arriving as I got to the tracks, but obviously that wasnt where I wanted to go. I was sure I wanted to go to Pleasanton (forgetting that I had stopped at Pleasant Hill, not Pleasanton). I waited 15 minutes for the train to Pleasanton and was 2 stops before the end before I checked the map and realized I was about as far from where I wanted to be as I could get on this train.
So I got off, went downstairs, crossed over to the other side and got back on the train heading in the direction of where I wanted to go.
This involved a change of trains at the Oakland Center and when we arrived there, they announced that you could catch the train for Bay Point (by now I had seen on the map that this was the train I wanted) on Track 3 and then something about going downstairs to the next level to catch the train. I missed the little point about how "downstairs to the next level" took you to track TWO, which was going to San Francisco and not where I wanted to go. By the time I got to track 2, they were announcing Bay Point on Track 3, which was just a few steps from where I had arrived in the first place, but of course I missed it because I was wandering around downstairs on track 2.
I was starting to hum the song about Charlie on the MTA.
Well, another 15 minutes and the Bay Point train finally arrived and off we went. I wasnt sitting where I could see a map or I would have realized that despite what I thought, I wasnt actually parked at Pleasant Hill, but in Lafayette, off of Pleasant Hill Road, not the town of Pleasant Hill. I actually discovered this as we were pulling out of the Lafayette BART station, headed for Pleasant Hill, and I could see the parking lot where my car was off in the distance.
The next stop was Walnut Creek and I got off, crossed over yet again, got back on the train yet again, and went one stop to Lafayette. This finally was the right stop and, miraculously, my car had not been stolen, but was sitting there waiting for me when I finally dragged myself across the parking lot and found it, just in time to hit rush hour traffic on the freeway the rest of the way home.
So today I have
It's been a very full day and now I have to transcribe the interview with Eric, write the article, and hope that SOME of the photos I got will work as an illustration.
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