SCORES FOR A PANDEMIC is a long distance correspondence between L (Brooklyn) and M (Milwaukee), a musing on how to participate in the passage of day, the necessity of choreographic acts + a platform to encourage each other, share scores for movement, and rehearse their duetted work.
L+M's work has always honored two solo practices cohabiting space, honoring multiplicities of time- the physical action is the action, but it is revealing something else: the pattern of running, the slow crawl- simply shells for maneuvering through time, relationship, spatial patterns. The visible physical action is a vehicle for navigating all the strange and weird and tight spaces* of the daily.
*danielle goldman’s words from I Want to be Ready
SCORE FOR CONFRONTING THE INEVITABLE
Find a space on your own. Walk the perimeter, or the margins. With studios and common spaces closing left and right, this might be your roof, a corner of your bedroom, a spot in your backyard. Outside is preferable, but indoors will work too - especially if you can see out a window.
Find a location. Root your feet. Set a timer for 20 minutes.
Put on a piece of music in
your headphones that is ambient/driving/rageful/sorrowful/what you like.
Begin to rumble.
Feel how this is different outside of a studio. [in my case the roof is uneven, i have to shift my feet]
Let your attention wander. Follow planes/birds/the skyline.
Notice what is blooming.
What is still in winter.
Who has their windows open, who is watching tv, who else is on their roof.
If it is cold tighten your jacket down around your face and let it be cold.
If you are sweating, feel it drip down the small of your back.
Shake off like an animal.
This is a fearful time.
It is okay to be scared. And it is okay to feel things.
If you weep - fantastic.
If you laugh maniacally - fantastic.
Look to the graveyard, to the hill, to the buildings, to the silver of the roof coating, to your busted shoes.
Remember that we have always been here in this moment doing this.
Take comfort in what connections you find, let time become uneven, send your spells.
So this (above) is how i started today. I think I want to do at least our 20 minute rumbling practice daily/every other day if i can (i know that’s ambitious, but if we’re not able to be in a studio for a bit maybe it’s totally practical). There was so much texture! So much to see from the roof. But also so much to remember of our practice. So much under my feet, and lots of wind, lots of shades of grey/blue (this was dusk as well).
The roof is DIRTY. It’s a good reminder of that softening we practiced at Bluestem. Having to be okay getting covered in filth. And really opening my eyes for the uneven walls and bumps. Navigating uneven terrain when I’ve become so accustomed to a flat dance floor (or barn).
After rumbling I did some passes. When I came out of rumbling four pigeons had joined me on the roof in a perfect row. I’ll upload a picture i took of them when i can. I am out of shape. HA. but it felt good to really breathe deeply. After passes I did a short score of “steal mauriah’s material” - but then i felt really uneven on the roof and decided to open up the score a bit more so i wasn’t compromising my body for the sake of the material. Also found myself navigating worrying about the neighbors who were also on their roofs...so i shifted to a place where i felt more hidden. Then went through what i could do/remember of bigger phrase stuff. (actually felt pretty good).
Lay on the roof for a bit and stared at the sky. Watched some birds flying FAR AWAY.
This felt like one of the better rehearsals i’ve had with myself in a while - i think because i didn’t feel like i was starting from scratch in a “blank” studio. The texture of the space had a million scores in it. I think next rehearsal for me is rumbling again (this feels REALLY important right now amidst all the unknown), and then returning to clouds like we did on the roof of the parking garage (if you want to remind me of your language around that again I would love it).
I’ve been thinking lots about that day on the roof of the parking garage in Illinois, and I’ve tried to recover some of the writing I did around that afternoon falling into rain falling into night falling into a deeper understanding of the amount of time it takes to transition work from inside to outside. Both rumbling and cloud watching feel necessary acts, aiding in transition. To transition into this time.
Yesterday, I walked down to the lake and saw this
Participating in the passing of day
Tracking the horizon there + back again
The second line, you know I work with, we work with, but the first- the active choice to participate in these days and then be taken by, time swooping in and we follow it. Slow our walk with it.
I am remembering that our duet work began from a place of disorientation and exhaustion. We had just marched in circles (wind blowing snow into our open mouths yelling) for 12 days, striking for the protection of tuition waivers as graduate students/teaching assistants. You occupied the president’s office for a ridiculous number of hours and I sat dazed,propped against a wall, visiting you with snacks, just returned from touring an intense work in New York. Then, the strike was over (we won) and we were back in class grappling with assignments we couldn’t figure out the importance of- having just been so deeply entrenched in both touring a rigorous work and in the intricacies of choreographing effective and sustainable picket lines. So, when we had to show work in our comp class, you laid down on the ground, till you found rest. I knelt on a stool, facing southeast, and wept. Noses runny, tear stained shirts, we eventually found movement, found each other and began to partner. You kicked me in the nose and I finished the score with blood running down my face. We enjoyed it all. That dance was not important, but the work ignited a desire to continue working in this duetted manner with everything every fucking thing that was being presented to us.
Can we sing a duet to each other, long distance?
I’ve been singing lullabies as I walk, to the earth, to the little greens shooting up around the city, to calm my internals.
Which reminds me that I want to challenge you, when you are ready, to move into rumbling, headphones off, experiencing the sound of today.
I just understood where I will practice your score today.
SCORE FOR CLOUDS
comes from both Simon Whitehead and Jennifer Monson. Simon’s language around cloud watching centers around the question, what would it be to let yourself be immersed by clouds? There is the focus on the expansion of the lungs. (Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen used the phrase lungs like wings and I’ve been teaching with this phrase quite a bit.) So to begin we let ourselves breathe. Partner’s hands, or your own hands can remind us physically of where our breath is, or isn’t. The eyes soften, the world comes to the eyes (thanks elder from Sankai Juku) our breath begins to meet the air, the air is the clouds, the clouds come nearer and we are breathing in the clouds. Movement comes when we are ready.
Thank you for the clouds words - and for the reminder of allowing hearing the world around me into rumbling. New York City has SO MUCH sound and visuals that I think maybe it might be interesting for me to do rumbling limiting different senses. What would it mean to rumble with eyes closed just letting sound infiltrate? (as if music was silence….ha. But you know, the limiting of what is around me by what means are available).
Here is a photo of my new practice space (I know you have been there in summer, here is how it looks mid-march):
And here are my new practice partners:
Yesterday and today I did no roof scores. After practicing two days ago and COATING myself in roof dirt/pollen, I remembered that I am a tad allergic to things like pollen and dust. HA. in light of anxiety around every cough I think I’ll limit my roof scores to those a little less rolling-around-on-the-floor. But rumbling and clouds tomorrow.
Yesterday Em and I went for a long walk in greenwood cemetery. Our entry is only open on weekends, but I want to think of some walking scores for myself in there next weekend (assuming we can leave our apartment).
I would love to sing a duet to one another long distance. How do you feel about hitting record and sending one another voicememos/loading them on here? (I’m thinking that might be the score for greenwood cemetery for me).
What are the lullabies of the time (internal and external) and place (internal and external) you find yourself in in these coming days?
This practice of sharing scores already feels like a lifeline - as that duet of snot, crying, lying on the floor, blood, orange viscera was two years ago (already! Two years! wow).
I love you so - thank you for doing this with me.
SCORE FOR WALKING
Remember that the earth is still rebounding from the glaciers
Let this guide your pace
Knowing your body is strong, supple, true*
Begin to walk
Listen for the rhythm of your walk.
Follow a path to its end (a riverway, a sidewalk, a spray painted line)
Collect 20, 30, or 40 of something.
Climb to the highest place, trace the horizon, or cityline, or treeline.
Hum a lullaby towards home.
*strong supple true: These three words come from french artist/healer Miranda Hopwood. Recently, I joined her in southern France. We spent two days walking the mountains, sharing scores for working, words for being. The cadence we developed together both in walking and teaching (she translated my teaching words for two days) is very dear to my heart.
I’ve been running (okay jogging), because i need to feel my lungs expand, i need to sweat, i need to feel my body pass through threshold, instead of just holding on, maintaining, staying calm. I am remembering what it’s like, in our duet work, to reach the edge of something and have to decide, to push forward, or to stop. (I love that we built this into the duet- a constant choice making, of how far to push into, or back away from, a score. The work supports both choices.)
At the end of the running, I find the woods and step inside. From here, I can see the city, lake michigan (could be the ocean), the sky (sun already falling). I RUMBLE, as your first score proposed, as we have done for a year, together and apart, all over the country. In front of me: twisted wood and branch and bramble, then there is blue (sky/lake). As I rumble, I am imagining the difference between Midwest rumbling and NYC rumbling. The land is quiet here, spacious, flat. No one will notice my score practicing, even though I am a five minute run from downtown. There are no pigeons, the air is clear and I inhale often, deeply. There are no trains rumbling over tracks, no one will walk into the space I am working. But I see you, in front of me, the way we rumble, 12 inches apart, I see your face shifting in response to internals shifting. I know how your mouth opens and your eyes widen chin juts forward, then relaxes, your right side takes over the rumbling jittering and your fingers contort just a bit then relax, your gut unclenches as your quads- right where they contact knees- clench and soles of feet are active. I know you. And this reassures me that we continue on, in our practice, in our relationship, in our commitment to each other to this work of investigating proximity and distance and relationship and threshold.
I am overwhelmed by this knowledge of you and i stop rumbling. I look down and at my feet- there is green, just starting UP. I jog up a steep hill, heading southwest, away from the lake, back to the place I am calling home at the moment. I text my sister, my future sister in law, the lovely human I am seeing at the moment, because rumbling has reminded me I must tend to the relationships given to me. Is this what our duet work asks me? To attend to those around me with care?
I sing to you, a 296 hour walk from you (sayz google),
Everything has come to a standstill and yet I am still working. Biking to the city to buy groceries/meds for the elderly man i work with (whom i adore). Still gardening for now since my boss and i can keep 6 feet between us (I imagine this will have to stop soon too). The biking is really good for me. For my sanity. Yesterday i biked from my place to central park west - seeing the city in a completely new way.
And yet there is a lot of anxiety for me with leaving the house in this manner - even for necessary carework that I know needs to still happen. The score of biking gloves, to rubber gloves, to clorox wipes, to so much hand washing my fingers are starting to turn to leather, to elevator buttons, and grocery stores, to clorox wipes and more hand washing.
This morning (since I need to get on my bike soon), I decided that an inside lullaby to my growing seeds felt more calming than navigating the roof. I am reminded of you rescuing plants from the dumpster and singing/watering/nurturing them back to life. How i loved this idea and sang to my own succulent in a plastic cup for that solo assignment. Now i am singing to my baby lettuce and melon and kale and cilantro seeds. Trying to take the time that i am given now to care. Hoping that my care is enough to carry them through. I forgot how inwardly curled and fuzzy they are as they start out.
Knowing that you are an exact amount of walking hours (296) away calms me down. Measurable. Exact.
Even while I have sat here to write this to you, new seeds are moving closer to the surface! They’re so fast when i slow down enough to observe.
The score for today is simply:
SCORE FOR SEEDLINGS
sing a lullaby to something that is growing.
Think of nothing but your voice to the tiny shoots.
You already know the melody.
MAURIAH 3.21.20 2:42AM
I’m wondering how we dream right now. Maybe we don’t.
Dreaming is a luxury i’ve grown up with as an American, an American olympic athlete
(if you can dream it, you can do it i tell past young self as i step into sweatsuit of red white and blue heart beating a bit too fast in my chest.)
Maybe instead of dreaming, we grieve, for a bit.
I remember the first time I keened, living in Taiwan, bent over at hips, huge mountain sobs. Then, the aftermath of grief: all liquids spent- emptiness, stillness. Months before this first KEENING arrives, I attempt to cry daily for 40 days and document my tears. But I was always crying when I didn’t have my camera and those were the true tears anyways. (Quietly crying on the train or bent over a hot bowl of noodles at a roadside stand while scooters rushed by.) In those moments, I became still and allowed the crying to take over. (I watch my tears drop in my bowl of noodles and repeat to myself, over and over, all the Mandarin I knew: yī xiǎo wǎn lāmiàn yī xiǎo wǎn lāmiàn a small bowl of noodles.)
I’m thinking about the long section of our work, DESERT. I’ve been dreaming of the desert again, and you know, for me, much of this section of the work comes from wandering solo, on foot, on train, on bike, through the southwest. Outwards, the desert is quiet, slow, unchanging. Much is hidden from plain view. Upon closer examination, everything is always shifting, one long moment leading to the next. DESERT is how grief feels to me, jagged peaks away at a distance. Hollowed out feeling is also distance; this is what I sense with my first steps into Arizona, New Mexico- the sound of the desert: train gate lowering, cicadas screaming metallic in the desert, wind yelling between pylons, clatter of dry flowers rearranged in dirt. The land here is improbable. Desert is about not knowing the precise nature of my destination- only its remoteness.*
I am remote, far away from you, in this current arrangement of your home, mine. I am attempting, like we do in DESERT, to ground myself in a passage of time that is wrapped up in tracking the shift of light, the tidal wave of sounds through the day that cuts out to low rumbles, all that is passing in the space around me.
I’ve wanted to write something about grieving practices, especially in the arts, for a long while- we spend so much time teaching/crafting rituals of beginning- pre show, warmups, body and mind ready to perform, opening remarks in show bill, for an audience. We know how to begin. But the ending parts- how do we recover from post show- a separation of cast members, a separation from rehearsal space and performance space, we don't teach this.
The grief of all this bawls me over- but it also isn’t pushing me in a direction of rushing to offer online classes, or joining in to online practice. There is something else to learn about being here, for me to learn.
So where do I begin? I think by practicing the score I wrote to you. I didn’t practice it.
Will go now, and do that.
*Don Delillo, Zero K
Yes. this is what i started thinking about our first semester of grad school when i did that running backwards practice for jennifer’s class. This idea of endings. Of how we let things go. Of attending to endings.
What does it mean to attend to the dissolution of a thing as much as the making of it?
On a webinar with Frank Ostaseki for my Thanatology class on wednesday he asked this question: how do you attend to endings? How do you end your day? A project? How do you leave a party? How did you learn to do this? Who taught you? Is it working? How you end something determines how the next thing begins.
Practicing endings on a small scale.
SCORE FOR EVENING
When the sun goes down.
How do you greet the ending of this solar day?
Take a minute (or twenty) to transition into the absence of daylight.
Light a candle, or pull a tarot card, or sit quietly and watch the light remove itself.
I think there is a reason our duet practice happened so frequently at dusk.
We spent almost a year moving in falling light together. I want to remind us of this now - when we can attend to this sense of time again, in a new manner.
Some other thoughts:
Yesterday i didn’t have to leave the house. My anxiety went way down, and i went up to the roof (where it was sunny and 65 degrees). I did some yoga/stretching. But then i decided to do a cloud watching score. At some point I realized my neighbor had come on the roof with her dog, and since Aji was up there with me off leash (and her dog doesn’t like other dogs), I ended up staying in our small hidden corner of the roof for much longer than i anticipated.
I lay on my back with my dog and watched the clouds.
At first the sky was so sunny and the clouds so bright that I could barely look.
They were moving quickly heading southeast. And as I watched they dissolved.
I thought about my lungs and the clouds expanding. Allowing their expansion to expand the spaces around my alveoli.
The blue sucked me in.
And then, quite quickly (though not as fast as in Miami), the clouds changed.
Dark grey, deep slate blue, a mass.
Crepuscular rays pouring through, down over the Verrazano bridge.
I felt the heat of the sun change, and the wind on my face.
I could hear my neighbors’ facetime conversation, and smell someone starting up their grill.
There were some bird sounds, and the vent from the laundromat constantly whirring.
And everpresent sirens. This is now the dominant soundscore of the city.
It is shocking how quickly my ears have adjusted to this new normal.
Of course, after this beautiful calming time, I then found out that i had been potentially exposed to coronavirus almost two weeks ago - and was just now hearing about it. Immediate fear about being an asymptomatic carrier and having worked with my elderly client for the past two weeks ensued.
So a bit of screaming and rageful melt-down is perhaps a part of the score of this time too.
Learning about control (and lack thereof) in a real way.
I’m remembering performing with you in Durham, in July. The way we rumbled, as audience didn’t come into the space- we didn’t believe anyone was going to show up. So we rumbled on and on and we were just holding each other in the carved out space between our bodies (a holding pattern, a long wait our bodies wishing wanting the next moment to fully tip over in-to-the-next-but we waited). Much later, folks entered, beautiful folks from your past, from our present. THEN! Our rumbling ramped up and the rest of the work spilled out.
I am holding that space, for you, over here. I will rumble until we know, until you know, what’s next.
After we performed, we spilled out onto the street and a wild storm blew over the city. We traced it down the railroad tracks, running back to the car as rain splatted on the windows, the roof. Spent from our duet, we sprawled out in the car, ready, fully expecting frogs to pour down, or a plague of cicadas Old Testament in ferociousness.
No score to report, today. M