lily [bloom in my darkness] & LUNG

 Photo: Arthur Allen

Photo: Arthur Allen

From Karin:

In the winter of 2017 I created and produced Record of the Anthropocene Movement. After my work in 2016, (re)MOVE: Back Toward Again the (re)TURN Facing — a work of personal exploration through religion, science and lineage to examine separation within and violence upon the earth and the female body/spirit — I had wondered if I had said enough through my own performing body-voice. In this work that explored the idea that like a palimpsest — a term I learned in my research from Coll Thrush’s book, Native Seattle — the land and our bodies hold layers that have been written upon them by the movements of good and harm, I did not perform.

For years I have been perplexed how I have been compelled in a decades-long personal journey to examine, to move through and to surrender the grief and fear held within my body. Perhaps grief and fear goes back centuries in my tissues, as part of the collective conscious. I have come to recognize I have begun a journey: to transform pain into purpose so that I may join the birthing of a new time and space for love and mercy, within and between our body-selves, with the earth, and with all that is.

It has been a tremendously lonely journey…until this year. A tribe of artist women has arisen around me speaking the same examination and seeking release from grief and fear in their own lives.  The artists in these two works bring full breath to their lives to speak exhalations of truth, a truth that has the power to transfigure the multiple layers of harm and return us to the source of love: always there, facing us in fullness, patiently and mercifully waiting for us once we choose to do the challenging work for each other.  

Kaley with sound; I with movement; Collaborating artists with their unique contributions — we want to rekindle the fire in our collective heart for speaking together, moving together, healing together, building together a world that makes us one.  

Lily [bloom in my darkness]

From Composer Kaley Lane Eaton:

Lily [bloom in my darkness] is a 35-minute electroacoustic opera for voice, live electronic processing, harp, cello, viola, clarinet, and dance with an original libretto by poet felicia klingenberg. Lily explores the psyche and heart of the my great-grandmother Lily Isabel Bunny, an orphan who fled England at the start of WWI in 1915, alone, age 25. She took a ship to Montreal and then a train, which she rode to the end of the railroad, arriving at Cascade Tunnel east of Everett, WA. Through imagining a dream Lily may have had her first night sleeping in a cabin in the Pacific Northwest wilderness, this work explores her transformation upon entering a new world, and thus explores the experience of migration and displacement that unites our species. The live electronic processing, sensors, dance, and live instruments explore this interconnectedness through constantly influencing one another, transforming the role of each force throughout the work. As an abstract work, this piece does not outline a linear, temporal narrative, but rather uses sound and language to unearth the unconscious and visceral feelings that result from displacement. Using recorded language as social documentary, sensors as portals to the unconscious, improvisation as a reflection non-linguistic expression, and other forms of machine listening and live processing, lily is as much a retelling of a particular emotional story as it is the revelation of our contemporary social situation.”

In the winter of 2017,  the day after my eldest daughter was lamenting to me that I simply can’t be done performing (I’ve never had a smooth love-relationship to myself as a performer/dancer), I received an email out of the blue from Kaley asking me to dance the role of lily for her PhD dissertation final performance.  

We hardly knew each other only having met recently in the Seattle new music circles, yet in lily [bloom in my darkness] her work paralleled two areas I was thinking deeply about.  

The first question was: What happened to Europeans that came to this “new world” and brought with them so much mental disease and environmental degradation that has written a story on this land of complacent and complicit movements of harm that are still blaring and resonant today?

The other: What needs to be done to transfigure white misery within and white misery drawn egregiously upon others? How can we heal our hearts with the ever-evolving movement of the earth, an energy ever seeking more life and beauty for all? Even as “allies”, what is the work we still need to do within our body-spirits to be effective movement makers for change?

From Librettist felicia klingenberg:

"When Kaley approached me with the idea to compose a musical work based on the life of her great grandmother, Lily, I was interested because, as the child of European immigrants myself, I’ve thought a lot about immigration. I also know something about childhood suffering, how it can blight a life. Lily suffered. Yet she had enough imagination, hope and strength left to undertake a massive one-way journey to a new land and a new life. I could imagine how terrified she must have been, and how that terror might have peaked the first night she spent alone in an isolated  cabin in the Cascades. I felt that situation would either break her or transform her. I chose to give her an experience, in a dream-state, that would open her mind and her heart so that she could be an exemplar of the courage and openness that allows strangers to unite to create something new. There's a long tradition of people recording such visionary moments. We might label or explain them in different ways, but they are always profoundly life-altering. They always help reset our path on the human journey, and sometimes one individual's vision leads to an entire community's rebirth. Without this capacity to touch and be touched by something beyond the material world, I'm not sure the human race could survive."

It is too late to come to this land that is now the United States of America and create a “new life” for transfiguring the pain of what came centuries and centuries before. We must GRIEVE and atone and be transformed for another future.  Underneath every layer of every city and state of this country is ancient land and people of the whole united earth waiting with open hearts of fire and drums beating patiently for all of us to open and dance renewed dances for democracy.   

Like this imaginative story of lily, I wish a transfiguration could happen for me and for us in a night and that the dream could be realized today, but I choose to continue to dance the often ugly and painful truth to be an “exemplar of the courage and openness that allows strangers to unite to create something new” that heals the body of this nation.  

LUNG


A Breath,
a Seed,
Amelia and Me.
Two that came from one source,
their union of mind and heart and personal story  
speaking from beyond what has been
vulnerability toward abundant howling truth.

A Composer and
a vision of beyond me too.
A collaborative journey birthed in honest  
Exhalations
of Grief
stuck in the heart of our collective beat.

A Choreographer and
an Art made of surrender
to love.

-Karin

A response from Costume Designer, Sarah Mosher, in rehearsal during a practice of Movement 2 with the wind players:

“As I watched last night, my whole body and soul were engaged and I felt the work extracting dark, primal psychic pain from my core.  It was like a thread being slowly drawn through me gathering pain as it went and releasing tears. It felt so societal, and global abuses of all kinds rose up from the deep in my mind. It felt like the essential core of pain, both self-inflicted and what we inflict on others. It was so raw and so consistent that it unlocked my chest gently and with compassion. I am so abusive to myself in every area of my life and the lack of mercy for all of my judgements and expectations about not being enough melted away as I was able to experience the truth, the communal and the personal in the work. I could feel the way that everyone was invited into the process and creation of this work. Watching it was magical and healing and painful.”

A response from Clarinetist Rachel Yoder:

“After giving birth to two kids, and coming back to playing the clarinet more and more last year, my body just wasn’t feeling great. I had some uncomfortable physical symptoms and often felt as though I couldn’t breathe, especially in stressful moments. I had (and still have) very little time to exercise and had the added physical stress of caring for two small children, putting kids in carseats, baby wearing, etc.

Through physical therapy over the past few months, I was able to relearn how to use my body, and how to play the clarinet. Among other things, I learned how to support my body by strengthening my core muscles that had never really returned postpartum, which allowed me to expand my ribcage, improve my posture, and BREATHE.

It just so happens that Kaley Lane Eaton’s new piece LUNG starts with the breath. Twenty-four breaths, in fact, make up the first movement. With this work, Kaley has tapped into some very intense feelings and sensations that have turned out to be particularly poignant to me and many of the musicians and dancers involved. I invite you to come experience this performance and explore what it might mean to you.”

LUNG MOVEMENT 4:

air is made of oxygen and nitrogen

carbon based life can't exist without it

air is necessary

it fills up our lungs and helps us speak

breathing calms our nerves

breathing activates sound

breathing together makes us one

speaking happens as

exhalations vibrate

sending out grief that is stored in the lungs and heart

what if we all exhaled together

spoke together

sang together

moved our bodies in accordance with our lungs

-Kaley








Karin Stevens Dance