Did you run away and join the circus? I did. At least that was how it felt. I met Robert Wilson (Bob) while I was still in high school. Some friends took me to a “happening” at New Providence High School. A rope was being dropped interminably from the ceiling, making a gradual pile of rope center stage. A man in a fur coat was bouncing on a board suspended between 2 pails. People walked aimlessly across the stage.
Some in the audience huffed and walked out. Others joined the performance and walked onto the stage and sat down, becoming part of the performance.
It was the late 60’s.
I was 16 and happened to be the baby sitter of the daughter of Mary (aka Lady Purple, as she always wore purple) a woman who was in Bob’s early work, Deafman Glance. They invited me to go attend the performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and I was hooked.
Bob created theater like none other that had come before. It was slow motion, dreamlike, more concerned with light–the color of it, the amount of it, the timing of it. Every aspect of light was specific. What the actors did on the stage was important as far as what was the story their bodies told. How was an arm lifted? How was the head turned or tilted?
I began college in confusion. What was I doing there? I felt like a fish out of water. Again, synchronicity. Bob Wilson showed up at a neighboring college. Mel Andringa, one of Bob’s colleagues, was doing a workshop at the college and the entire group was there, the group that worked with Bob, called the Byrd Hoffman School of Byrds.
I joined them for the week of workshops. Then one said to me, “Bob is invited to perform in France at a theater festival. Do you want to come?”
So I ran off to join the circus. I was on the plane a month later and performed with Bob Wilson and the Byrd Hoffman School of Byrds for several years after. We toured Europe together and made 2 trips to the Festival of Two Worlds in Iran (when the shah was still in power).
I see now that I have lived a charmed life. This magical experience happened to me and to our group The Byrds. Bob was the visionary and we added our dreams.
The center of the Byrd School was Bob’s loft at 147 Spring St, NYC. We met there for rehearsals. Rehearsals always included open dancing. This meant discovering the individual unique movement held within each person’s body. The cast included children to men and women in their 70’s and 80’s. That was a lot of unique bodies to enjoy, to watch grow and become more confident in their own uniqueness.
Bob encouraged everyone to create plays and dances on their own as well, and perform them in the Byrd loft performance space that was created on the ground floor. So when we had a reunion, almost 40 years later, on Saturday and Sunday, August 7 & 8, I saw photos of my early performances at the Byrd loft.
I choreographed flights of fancy, dancers as miners emerging onto the stage from a well, children climbing ladders to nowhere, gods and goddesses dancing together in swirls of white fabric.
I enjoyed being reminded of this special time. Even though we hadn’t seen each other in almost half a century (WOW!), it was easy to pick up where we left off. Bob Wilson was a gracious host, showing us around his facility in Watermill, Long Island, where we all met and spent a beautiful day.
Bob is recreating those playful times at Watermill. He’s built an exquisitely beautiful structure to house young artists who come in the summer to experiment with their art, collaborate with Bob, and grow. There are stages, performance areas under the trees, workshops, gardens, sculptures, art and artifacts from ancient times to modern, pottery, all types of art housed, protected, enjoyed.
It was exciting.
Ann Wilson, senior recorder of all these events, just sent me a questionaire. This blog attempts to answer her questions. Her questions are below in quotes:
“a list of what you all did on stage”:
I began as the turtle in the 12 hour play The Life and Times of Sigmund Freud that was performed at the Nance Festival in France. I was under the turtle shell crawling super slowly across a beach of vermiculite. It took me about 45 minutes to cross the stage from right to left. When I was center stage, I released an apple from the mouth of the turtle which floated, suspended by invisible thread, to the sky.
During that show, I was also an ostrich and a dancing Aunt Jemima, in a chorus of @ 30 dancing ostriches and @ 40 dancing Aunt Jemimas. Sometime during that tour, I blossomed as a dancer and had key dancing roles.
“and a description, mood, feeling, sound, action of your favorite part on stage, when and where if you can remember.”
I can certainly remember my favorite parts onstage. Charlie and I did a duet through a magical woods, as the moon crossed in the sky and Alan sat at the piano stage left and played the moonlight sonata. High above us, in the tree branches, Raymond was suspended on a swing. Women in white dresses followed us, dancing slowly. The mood was ethereal.
Another favorite part was when Bob and I did a duet in front of the pyramid in The Life and Times of Joseph Stalin. Bob was dressed in his white Stalin suit and I wore a white skirt that was fairly transparent, like a cloud. It was always spontaneous, a mad dance of 2 opposites, a slender girl and a tall gangly man. It was a dance of explosive energy and the feeling was as if being carried by a storm, and landing as a leaf on the water at the end.
I have a memory of walking along the desert mountains when we performed KA MOUNTAIN AND GUARDENIA TERRACE, outside Shiraz, Iran. I can feel the warm breeze on my face, feel the sand like soil of the mountain under my feet. We performed continuously for 7 days and nights. Each day the performance moved further up the mountain. On the 7th day, we were at the top, where Noah’s Arc perched.
“Then I would like a brief description of the highlights and wonders of your lives since Byrd days as we are a wonderfull group that has made many contributions to the lives of those around us.”
My life continued to be blessed.
There is no way I could make a list of my life’s highlights without starting with my daughter, Catherine. I don’t believe there has been a greater joy in my life or in the life of her dad, Michael Galasso. Catherine has become a choreographer and film maker and looking forward at her work sometimes feels like looking into the past at the exciting time we lived. Her work of course is different, yet some things are so strikingly similar, that they startle me.
I have been blessed with great teachers and mentors. I had the privilege of working closely with the artist, Les Levine for many years and we have remained close friends.
He introduced me to the Tibetan Nyingma teachers, H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche and Dilgo Khentse Rinpoche. I then became a student of the late Khenchen Palden Rinpoche and Khempo Tsewang Rinpoche.
I was able to study directly with Dr. John Upledger, the founder of CranioSacral Therapy (CST) and that study guides my professional life today. As founder of Well On The Way LLC, a holistic healing center in Westchester County, NY, I am grounded by CST. It is the center therapy around which my other tools developed.
I grew in my therapeutic work, adding many manual specialties and learning them directly from their originators, Dr. Bruno Chikly and Lymph Drainage Therapy (LDT) and Dr. Jean Pierre Barral and Visceral Manipulation Therapy (VM). Judith Aston revealed the mysteries of the body’s mechanical movement to me, how to balance it and create harmony.
Lastly, I have added nutritional work and have the honor of representing the great humanitarian and scientist, Dr. Myron Wentz, and his ground-breaking products. Dr. Wentz won the coveted Albert Einstein Award for his contributions to medicine. He has built 3 hospitals, including an Aids Hospital in Uganda and another in Cambodia.
I wonder sometimes what the universe is preparing me for, as it seems to educate me in these various disciplines, always giving me the best teachers, men & women far ahead in their fields. What plans does the universe have for me, that it is preparing me so well?