This blog is for performers and audience members of Carrie Ahern Dance’s SeNSATE to use. A chance for more interaction. Please post thoughts, inspirations, photos, sketches, links to sound, audio. You are free to post what you like.

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4 Responses to SeNSATE

  1. Carrie Ahern says:

    “We have been repeating these rituals everyday for a long time. These are acts we’ve never seen but we know them, and we know we need to keep this part of us alive until they find us down here. These are the things that keep us human: the birth, the hunt, the battle, they are all things our skin remembers.” –Anne Hege, composer, performer SeNSATE

  2. some love ramblings… stream of consciousness from the inside

    I feel like I’ve entered hell or sometimes something post-apocalypse–sometimes I think of The Road. I feel solitary worlds of repetition, a bit like Sisyphus. People involved in extreme physical tasks perhaps because they have to — pushing body and breath in order to know we’re alive. The more I watch, the more I enter the world and it starts transforming into something beautiful. I see a few things more than once and they seem more beautiful and I don’t know if this is because the movement has shifted-or I have. I start reveling in the physicality of women. legs, arms, bellies, I feel like we are in a world together without time. I think of trance and ecstatic practices and meditation, and then I also don’t think of those because in a way I have entered them with you. I feel like you have lost awareness of the outside and are involved with very particular tasks and physical experiences in such a deep way that rules start to fall away and as I watch this, my body starts to resonate. My brain has let go and I am in a physical, sensual –the most kind of real sensual which is not fake and not only pretty but intuitive and sweaty and encompasses everything- space. I curl up on the floor, I relax into the experience of seeing some movements and then having some obscured, only hearing them… I don’t move because I don’t need to DO. I am Being with you. The whole thing feels like an invitation to Be rather than Do. And it’s very important that I am free to leave. Because I am free to leave, I don’t want to. At 9pm, I feel like I’m just getting started. I could stay for hours more.

    thank you.

  3. The weeks leading up to performing SeNSATE at 14 Wall were difficult. There was a lot to do: laying the floor in relationship to restaging the choreography; building new set elements for downstairs, Anne Hege picking up (from 3 different sources) and placing the speakers for 2 levels of sound; taping the floor; picking up the lights; picking up the dimmers and cable; running endless amounts of cable; taping endless amounts of cable, not to mention rehearsing the dance itself. It was hard to believe how much I took for granted performing in even the most primitive of theatre spaces.

    Yet, even with all this, I felt almost as if we had too much time in the space. It is disorienting without natural light for so long, the air is stale, you lose track of time and forget how to manage said time. I could be downstairs and Anne or one of the dancers would be upstairs and we would not know it. I had to institute a rule that when trying to verbally communicate we could not be more than 3 feet away or else speech gets lost. It felt difficult to feel each other both with the disconnection of the rooms and the reinforced steel walls. Everything we did in there felt like it was getting trapped and not moving very far. Even though we had rehearsed at 14 Wall for so long, preparing to perform there was a different beast. I started to become afraid that we would not be able to bring the piece to life again.

    That last week before the show, all the performers started to come to terms with our own expectations about the piece from the previous run (at the Brooklyn Lyceum) and accepting the very different feel in the new space. We talked about how it felt harder to be human in the Vaults. How we had to try harder. Anne mentioned something that has stayed with me: she said it as if we are modeling here in the Vauts: modeling for when there is no air of light left on the planet. We all will have to live in space stations and work that much harder to preserve what it feels like to be human. Perfect.

    And then: Two days before opening night I got a bad touch of vertigo running the piece–the room started spinning with my head in certain positions. Just when I was starting to enjoy SeNSATE in the space, everything turned upside-down.

  4. 14 Wall:
    Upstairs Vault: a safe: blue metal, small, hot and close. Exposed people. Exposed sunlight. Only 2 strange seats available. One inside a cabinet. One in a far corner. Both look like they are bad seats, but offer a special bird’s eye view.
    Downstairs Vault: Vast, low-ceilinged, disused, stained tile floor, peeling metal walls, hanging cut wires, protruding sections of dance floor, protruding pillars, plastic set pieces, rough, noisy wooden ramp shoved up to the ceiling, glowing square light box hidden behind a pillar, fluorescent haze, light breaking through slits in the plastic. As if we had set up a makeshift shelter to shelter us from a weak and over exposed sun. Disorienting, impossible to grasp the entire picture at once. Exposed people.

    First weekend—

    SeNSATE Opening night Sept 18. I was not prepared.
    I thought I was but I was not prepared for how many people were taking photos and videos without my permission. It felt as if the open structure of the work made our vulnerability open for consumption—or perhaps the audience’s vulnerability. It was more exposed, less theatrical in the Vaults than at the Brooklyn Lyceum. A power struggle? Forcing the audience to be exposed so they fight back with exerting boundaries and control in the form of a device. I can remember thinking: Are you really going to view that later: really?? But we are right here right now, in the room together. Now. The difficulty of that—the now. And that other difficulty–Being in a room together is probably the hardest place for two people to be.

    Opening night it felt as if people were bucking being present like a bull in a rodeo. Unruly. How long would they stay on? —60 seconds, 30 seconds, 5 seconds? This is only human. We were struggling to stay present as performers too: but we have more practice, and would have more practice and were dedicating to that practice.

    Sometimes I felt myself performing for the camera in a different way than I would for the person themselves. I had to catch myself—was I placing more value on that than on the live? Trying to turn on in a different way and adjust for the camera? Presenting my best side? Stop.

    Going back—In making the work the more boundaries were broken, the more new ones would appear. Or new containers. This happened over and over again in the studio. Then I started reading about Tibetan mandalas and how these were often created as a sort of personal protective device. This is something Jung was also coming to on his own in the West.

    Going back–The first time I experienced the free format, come and go in two rooms, as a performer—at the 92nd St. Y in June 2009—I knew in my mind that I needed to be prepared for people to walk out on me while I was performing. It was what I wanted. It was my intent. But that moment when David and I were doing our duet and some people walked away—at first it felt like abandonment—I began to fret! and to lose track of my task, the choreography, my relationship with David—it started a tailspin. I told myself—you better f***ing keep track of what you are doing and then I reminded myself –this is what you wanted. Ah yes—and at that moment I felt an incredible freedom—freedom from my own and the audience’s expectation, freedom from an idea of control, freedom to surrender.

    Going back–The first time we did the whole 3 hour shebang—Nov 17, dress rehearsal at the Brooklyn Lyceum—I knew I needed to be prepared to do the entire 3 hours. 3- 1 hour cycles -3 times. I kept thinking that I had to make each cycle new- keep it fresh, keep it interesting, keep exploring, etc. Then I realized that without even trying: it was always new, that every moment was new; we are usually just dulled to seeing it that way.

    Sunday Sept 19.
    If memory serves me (??) I would say this is the performance that I started thinking about SeNSATE less as a performance and more as a practice. A practice that had a lot to teach me about myself and others in the room. Neither good nor bad, but worth doing. Less theatrical, less presentational, more honest (or maybe just searching for and not being afraid of honesty) more chaotic, less. I became satisfied with less. I started performing for people less and looking at them more. This was true between the performers as well as the audience. SeNSATE is a work filled with difficult tasks that can feel thankless. I stopped looking to be thanked (especially by the third cycle) and just did it. Doing it became thanks enough. And doing it with these people became thanks enough. Most of the time. Well, some of the time. Often I felt filled with childish hopes and illusions and felt alone and abandoned even within an embrace. And I felt angry and tired and like it was not possible to go on, (and why bother!!!) Why was it so hard, why did I make it so hard for myself and everyone else in the room? Why did it have to be like this? Then sometimes I would look at one of the audience members and feel buoyed by sorrow or compassion or something that is difficult to name. And I would carry that for a while or they would carry it for me.

    It was still unruly that day—and there were several young kids, who were both wonderful and well unpredictable and told you exactly how they felt moment to moment. I was told later that the 3 of them had gone into the room with the strobe and ripped open a bag of paper and started throwing it around. Crazy like. In a room with a strobe, please remember. I wonder how many adults wanted to do that. The 3 kids kept saying “ it’s not garbage it’s just paper. It’s just paper.” Shredded paper. There is a special truck that takes away the shredded paper.

    Weekend 2
    Sat Sept 25—Benefit night
    That first hour was quieter as many were coming later for the end cycles and to support! And drink! I was prepared for that, I think. Or perhaps relieved as I had been running around prepping for the benefit pre-show. It was nice to have some quiet that first hour.

    Things had already settled from weekend one and felt more -well settled. I like settling. I like time. I like a drop in expectations. I enjoyed how people moved around the space that night, more relaxed than I had assumed. I can remember Rosalind being there a long time and watching and writing and writing and feeling as if she was supporting and containing us by writing us.

    I can remember the supreme irritation I felt when David and I were performing in the foyer next to the cage. People were rustling around in the other room. Then I realized that we were in a foyer, an interim room, and in-between space. People were naturally going to treat it as such. Rustling was appropriate and desired in context. Maybe context was everything, who knows.

    I can remember a friend who said at the post show party that night that I was like Sisyphus and the rock and all. And that someone had to do it. I remembered somewhere that there was debate about whether Sisyphus enjoyed pushing the boulder sometimes, if it was not without its pleasures.

    Sunday Sept 26
    I don’t want to write about this performance. I dread even thinking about it too much, as if it will pull me down somewhere to some kind of vortex…

    It was the quietest of all the performances, as I thought it might be. The dancers and I had always talked about that we needed to be ready to do SeNSATE for 1 person or for no one except each other. The format was such that it was likely to happen. But it hadn’t really happened yet, and then this time it did. But I was not prepared. The first hour was so quiet. The first 15 minutes there was no one downstairs. 25-35 minutes in there was one!! Only one!! man downstairs and he was not altogether right. He often talked to himself and moved oddly and unfocused from one place to another. Who was he? His talking to himself was filled with sssss ‘s. I became more and more upset. I started to think about calling the show off, stopping it, even though I said I would never do that that we would keep going. I thought I was above it mattering to me but it mattered.

    By the time David and I got to the small upstairs room to do our duet, there were about 5 people in the room. I was in such an emotional state by then that I ended up openly crying during the latter half of the duet. By the time the duet was nearing a close and I am sheltered by David’s arm I was almost sobbing. I sensed and still sense an unspeakable contract between me and everyone who was in the room for that cycle of that duet on that day. No one walked away.

    This might have been my best performance. Who knows? What is best? And at what cost?

    And then I completed 2 more cycles that day.

    Last weekend
    I was committed to enjoying every minute of the last weekend. I was going to try to feel everything going on upstairs when I was down and vice versa.

    Oct 2

    I think I did the best with the above statement this day. I enjoyed it. Was it easiest because it was winding down, ending but not yet ended?

    I was sure I could feel the other space. Good flow, good support.

    I am glossing over the moment-to-moment trials and tribulations —of course. Not at all!

    Oct 3
    Busier, harder, my resolution fell partly and therefore completely apart. Somewhere as I was struggling to get through the last show I had a gloss over it in my mind that I was completely and utterly enjoying it. I was not sad that it was ending, or maybe I was, which is why the other feelings showed up.

    But I remember—it was the last show so it was busy with people showing up at the last minute and most often it is the case that with SeNSATE you either have to shift and change as an audience member or you will leave. I could feel that shift happen and it was especially clear to me this final show. It is a wonderful thing to sense that shift change, what people have to do to meet the work and vice versa. Changing their sense of time and what you were trying to “get out of it” and letting it instead work on you and not you on it.

    I loved the camaraderie of strike that night.

    Certain feelings are still preoccupying me

    1) I don’t know if it was like this before, I don’t know if it is because I looked at people more, I don’t know if it is the place I am at, but I was and am convinced that most people in our audience are filled with sorrow.

    2) SeNSATE created a container for that sorrow (or whatever that feeling is) and now that it has ended I have less placement for it.

    3) The piece is more honest than I am willing to be.

    Question: Why does it have to be this way? (audience member question)
    Answer: If it isn’t this, it will be something else. (This answer is provided by Kelly Hayes)

    4) Logan Leabo helped me articulate this: Listen: The last thing I wanted is for anyone to feel that they needed a PHD to view SeNSATE. Every audience member that walks into the room will feel uncomfortable, self-conscious. So does each performer. It is that humanity, sense of shame? That connects us.

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