Special thanks to Lynn Huang for writing and contributing this post to the Murakami conversation. Lynn is one of the four talented performer/collaborators in Hotel in a Bottle, which opens next Friday!
“Portales! We’re doing portales piquitos and then portales grandes, right?” Erin asked. “Si! Si!” we replied in turn. Despite the fact that none of us actually speak Spanish, in the context of our rehearsals, we did. The five ‘portals’ scattered around the perimeter of the stage in our structured improvisation became ‘portales.’ We had slipped into another language, just as we slid down the oil ramps of our ‘portales’ to enter into a new state of being where we had no skin—just blood, bones, and muscle exposed to air.
Breaking out into a foreign language was the perfect metaphor for dancemaking, which is essentially learning to speak another language. It was easier to put it in another language; that way, words, movements, and concepts were expectedly unfamiliar, and therefore liberating. Speaking Spanish in rehearsal was novel, just as the ideas we were working with were foreign. We were creating a new language through our bodies, embracing and reveling in its inherent strangeness.
We fell into the varied landscapes of Murakami’s novels, shimmying down to rest for a moment beneath their skins. Taking a line-by-line approach, we held photocopied pages of his text in our hands as we stepped onto the smooth studio floors and allowed his words to direct our movement. We climbed across ladders on the painted white wall of the stage and constructed wells within our minds. I felt the cold on my skin and the blackness around me within my own well. The darkness was total inside and outside and in that moment, I could not remember the shape of my face. We translated our internal landscapes into physical movement.
And then the movement ceased to matter. We had been transformed. The piece developed a life of its own, with its flickering walls, the projected images that would engulf us or replace us. We became its willing or perhaps unwilling inhabitants—isolated, observing, waiting.”