Rise

When I was contemplating what I might call the most recent incarnation of my signature aerial act, (“Zita Begins” doesn’t really fit, now that I simply perform as myself without a persona) I thought about what the act represents for me at its core more than anything.

These are the things I realized (and a lot of it probably won’t make much sense unless you’ve seen the piece):

Over the years, though the details of them have changed, the representation of the clothing I’ve worn as I begin this act has not. The clothes are always an elegantly dark shroud looming on me, silently weighing me down with their familiar dormant comforts. They are like hibernation, or a warm comfy bed during a depression.

The silks, however, have represented something different every time I’ve done this performance and often shift when I just envision what I’m trying to convey with the piece. Relationships, people, salvation, my sexuality, hope, the future, my common sense – all things the silks have been for me. And that’s just for this one act I do – or, as I’m starting to view it, the music I perform to.

I came to realize when I was thinking about this that I only do this piece every year or two because that’s only as often as I’ve been meant to perform it. The opportunity to present the act (which is rare because this country is stupid and I happen to use nudity to convey the raw vulnerability of the performance) usually comes along on the tail end of a great transformation in my psyche, usually from life transitions or times of trauma.

I chose “Rise” for the working title, having had no recollection of the last relatively awful Batman film being named “Dark Knight Rises” (I perform this act to the Batman Begins score) due to this recognition: I don’t own this silks piece. If anything, it owns me – We are each other. It ascends as I ascend.

After the show, I received many wonderful compliments about the act from guests and peers, and feedback from staff about how the audience reacted to it, both as I performed, (they were stunned, and a lot of them were in tears) and as guests were leaving the venue talking about it, (she said they “raved”, actually. figure out how to stop diminishing your compliments you boob.)

Seems I have a hard time talking about myself lovingly even when it’s the words of others. I think maybe I have a problem with that.

For now I will say that my sense is that it was as good for the audience as it was for me.

What a fucking performance! That felt awesome. It was real!

And it was real. That act is my rite of passage ritual. Whenever I perform it, it represents something real that’s happening for me in my tiny yet somehow epic life. Something big. Something hard. Something soft.

The rehearsal process is almost non-existent, I don’t run through it full on, ever. It’s like a scaffolding for my personal growth that I fill in that night while on stage with the audience.

Each time I’ve done this act before, I knew it as powerful; I saw it that way because of how vulnerable I was, how sad and small and struggling, like beating my tiny fists into a fresh, 3 foot thick wall of marshmallow. Telling myself the same story over and over again, trying to wake myself up. I saw it that way largely because of the massive waves of debilitating emotion that would crash over me after I finished, shaking and sobbing in the green room.

Those performances map like flights of stairs I climbed when I look at the timeline from a wide lens. And they were. In those performances when I went back to the silks, my perception made a stair – I looked directly cross the stage at them eye level, watched my hands clasp around them in front of my face and then looked up the silks to reach for the final climb.

This time, my eyelines made the shape of a plane taking off. My vision swept up the silks to the goal above as I walked to them and for the first time ever I knew what it was I was climbing to.

This performance was powerful, because I am powerful. Both sides of me, both brains, both personality genders. I was imperfectly flawless. I had just the right amount planned and just the right amount not planned. I did a few simple changes that I haven’t done before that I will probably not do the same again, and I picked up some things I definitely want to keep. A few things even went wrong in just the right way.

And I learned about myself, by how it felt. By how IN it I had to be in part due to blocking changes and lighting. How I was so in my body, noticing how moving felt, connected to the silks like an avatar, and that one moment I took to just hang and watch the ground as I spun up there in my footlock and BE in the air just sitting with the wowness of it. It was really something.

I was under a warm but bright white light that was unable to be turned off, the most exposed and raw I’ve done this piece. I’ve gone from using active lighting changes and colors to always on – and it was brilliant, at least this once.

Even more, through this process of training and restructuring my relationship with fitness, aerial, and how much my body can take, I know what aerial is to me now, why I find a way to stick around it even when I’m not performing as opposed to my other artforms that I drop in and out of obsessions with.

As the images betray; the silks are my muse. I have a relationship with them, a trust in them. They are an important part of my life and my progression as an artist AND as a human being.

They challenge me to improve my self care, both understanding my bodies limits and attributes in my interactions with them, and how to keep from hurting myself while becoming stronger. They allowed me to show my softness and to emote with this artform when the spectacle of rope had ravaged my body as much as I could allow it to.

And what better teacher than the silks, really? Even the way I eventually came to them after hating them years into aerial at one of the most stressful times in my life (when Josh died).

I know this probably sounds totally loony, but honestly, I just don’t give a good god damn if it does. When I look in my chest, I see a circuit of numerous stray wires that got completed last night. Something that was searching for closure feels quiet and at rest.

Was a really good night. I am deeply grateful to everyone who made it possible and all the lovely things that were said to me because of it.

Level Up: Complete.
courtnee@localhost ~ $

Photography from the “Red Room Masquerade”, a fund raiser for the Foundation for Sex Positive Culture, by Adam Harrison



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