The Sleepy Acrobats
Last night, Emmanuel arrived. Celebration! Champagne! Boxed wine! Storebought cake! Pinterest dessert!
Not much sleep.
This morning, we trained together for the first time. I arrived to training at Mascher Space feeling frazzled and cold, having stayed up too late the night before and struggled with Lyft to get there through the temperatures that had sharply plummeted from Thursday’s balmy 65.
What I found was a pile of sleepy acrobats.
Ben, Emmanuel, and Lauren, bundled in sweaters and socks, were moving Robin about the floor. With her eyes closed, Robin accepted their directions as a ragdoll, moving only as they moved her. It was a gooey combination of massage, cuddling, and stretching.
It is easy to forget what a feat it is to relax one’s body. It is something that we are never called to do in pedestrian life except when asleep. And to do it when being touched – lifted! – by another person, in a non-sexual encounter, is truly bizarre. Especially by a person one does not know very well.
Soon after I joined the exercise, Emmanuel pulled me from the group and asked me to close my eyes and relax. He began to move me as Robin had been moved. Wrapping my arms around myself, taking my weight on his chest, elbow, thighs.
I found myself a ragdoll, without sight, draped over the body of a person I’d met eighteen hours before. Two things were happening in my body. First, my social instincts were screaming no! Put your feet on the ground! Tense your neck! Second, my dancer-brain, which has been taught how to shut those voices off, allowed myself to feel the incredible juiciness of being moved and massaged so fully. It is a trust that I have now become accustomed to, over many years of practice, but that I still sometimes find moving and beautiful when I expect it to feel quotidian.
After Emmanuel had moved me for a while, another body joined who I intuit was Ben. With their combined strength, the two were able to move me up off the ground. I found myself, dangling, often headfirst over hard wooden floors, with my eyes closed and my limbs limp. At once both my feeling of fear, of the desire to open my eyes, to resist, to take control, and my dancerly enjoyment of this total release, flared up even brighter as I felt my body being manipulated puppet-like six feet above the ground.
Eventually, we found an end after many minutes of this practice.
As with everything Almanac does, there is a contradiction in our training. Acrobatics demands a very particular use of the body. Abs tight, limbs locked, eyes open and focused. We train our bodies to be muscled, to be tight in very specific ways that allow us to flip and balance and stack.
But we are also goopy and relaxed and sleepy and sensual. We aren’t always in pursuit of the next trick, as Ben had said the night before while discussing the upcoming work on Fronteras. We are seeking something that feels true, that feels poignant, that feels heartfelt or funny or ironic or scary. Daring in a way that we haven't seen before.
Sometimes that is three people standing on each other. Today it wasn’t.
Today, one of our first days, we were sleepy acrobats.