One of the great pleasures of my life is living in NYC.
I really like this city. I always have.
I first visited the city in my first year of life in 1964. To put it mildly, NYC has been through some changes since then, but despite many things about it I hate, and wish were different, I’m smitten. This love is, undoubtably, aided by the fact that I’m not always here. I go away from time to time. And then I have the wonderful experience of catching sight, after an absence, of the Manhattan skyline. It’s cheesy but there is part of me that still sees it in Woody Allen’s black and white, and hears Rhapsody In Blue in these moments. I like feeling Melville’s ghost brush past me as I bike along the Westside piers of “the Manhattoes.” But it is also that when I wander through the sensual hurricane of Times Square, the tiny streets of Little Italy and China, or listen to the candidates campaigning in my neighborhood for political office in the Dominican Republic, I feel a connection to the world, and all of the big cities. I cannot look into the diversity of New Yorker faces and not be reminded that we live on an entire planet here.
I am profoundly nomadic in my heart of hearts and have a very abstracted and perhaps unusual sense of what home means. But I have now lived here for longer than in any other place, and in recent years I have enjoyed calling NYC “home”.
When SITI Company first started thinking and dreaming about the idea of having some kind of program like what has blossomed into our current conservatory, one of the most important values of it that we talked about was how it could potentially give the company itself a sense of practical continuity through the year that we had never had and always wanted. For me personally, this always took the form in my mind of wanting being a SITI Company member to be a full-time job. Being in SITI Company, it is impossible to keep the personal and the professional separate. This is not accidental or a bad thing. I think we all believe that what we are doing is personally as well as professionally important to us and we are willing to make sacrifices for it, both personal and professional. So in a spiritual sense it has always been a full-time vocation. But this has not always been met by the practical realities.
In the last few weeks we have had a situation on our plates that was something that we always talked about and worried about in creating the conservatory. It was the question of what happens when the company needs to perform or tour its work while the conservatory is in session. We had the logistics of this worked out and we had our bases covered, but it was difficult to predict how we would feel about it and how it would impact us in our hearts and our bodies.
So in the first week of October we went back into rehearsal with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and then performed A Rite in the Opera House at BAM. The conservatory students were able to come to BAM to see our invited “dress” rehearsal the afternoon that we opened, and many of them also saw the performance during the brief run. This meant that they all had a very direct connection to what we were doing when we weren’t in the room with them, which I think was very valuable the next week when we flew across the country to do the show at the Yerba Buena Performing Arts Center in San Francisco.
This was followed this last week by a trip that Anne, Ellen, Stephen and I made to the Krannert Center in Champagne/Urbana Illinois to begin work on a new project there.
Anne, Tom, G.M., Kelly and Megans (both Carter and Wanlass) kept the fires burning in the studio and I think I can report that there was no dip in the quality of work. Nevertheless it was a weird feeling. Every time we work on something we try to bring our whole being to bear on it. Does that mean that we remove our whole being from the Conservatory when we leave?
Our first full day in San Fran, was the day that the Composition groups presented their work in class back in NY. I am always in a heightened state when compositions are presented, but this time I was so nervous it was difficult to stay focused. It wasn’t that I was worried that things weren’t getting taken care of. On the contrary I had full confidence. My “substitute teacher” was Anne Bogart after all. I just had an intense desire to see the work. To see where they were. And I wanted the work to be good. I called Anne as soon as I could to get the report.
In between each of these times away, I was able to get into the studio for at least one day of contact with the Conservatory. Enough to know that things were proceeding apace, but not enough to be fully nourishing for me.
The sense that this has resulted in has been somewhat unexpected for me. It is a sense not that the studio is the workplace for a full-time job, but a sense that it is something else. In a way that I have never felt it before, it is beginning to feel like a home.
What this home is teaching me is that a home is not the ideal place or the perfect situation. It is a place that requires work and attention. It is not a place where you aways are. It is a place that is a base. A place from which you can sally forth, only to return.
But it is not a place that stays static when you are gone. It is alive.
And it is not just mine. It is shared.
It’s been a hard few weeks. There are more ahead. I’m tired. But more than that, I’m excited!
Hmmm… I wonder what’s going to happen?
P.S. As I finish writing this the word is on the streets of the loss of one the most seminal poets of this wonderful city. I don’t know what to say about Lou Reed’s passing. His music had a huge personal impact on me. He wrote a song that I consider to be as close as anything to my personal theme song. I think I share this kind of feeling with a great many people so I won’t claim to have any special insight into him. I was lucky enough to meet Lou Reed. I got to thank him for writing “my” song. He was apropriately cool about it. It was actually on the day he and Laurie got married, and my heart goes out to her right now.
R.I.P. to the Transformer…