If I am to be realistic, saying that I would write something everyday during the creation process of ‘An Open Letter…’ was a bit ambitious. Originally, I had thought that writing would help me through the process to organize my thoughts and keep my emotions under wrap. However, it felt like the writing was starting to make me more crazy. Or maybe there is no way around it, I’m just going to feel however I’m going to feel. The feeling that I was about to lose my shit, along with not many hours of sleep at night kept me away from the writing pad throughout this past week and a half.
I don’t usually have trouble sleeping at night. Once I am out, I am out. Most of the time the only thing that will break my slumber is my cat reminding me that “it’s feeding time….” I do have the disposition of not going to sleep at a sane hour. I’m usually up till 1 or 2 in the morning. I found myself really giving into that natural desire to stay up way past anyone who is a productive human being, or not on drugs will. I don’t do drugs anymore, but for quite awhile I used to partake in the ones that would keep you up for days. Real drugs. Never was really into smoking weed. I would if it were around and people were sharing but I can honestly say that I can’t recall ever purchasing weed from a dealer or anyone else. I know crazy right?? In fifth grade, they told us marijuana was a ‘gate-way drug.’ I guess I ran past that gate straight to the ‘fat rails of cocaine train.’ When I got sober, I cut the drugs out too. They were contributing to the misery and for a long time I thought they were my main problem. If only I did not have to go on these insane alcohol-fueled cocaine binges every weekend my life would be OK. Actually, I just wanted to take the cocaine out of that combination and still have the ‘alcohol-fueled binge’ part. However, it IS that first part that needed to go. As long as King Alcohol was part of the equation, anything that followed afterward was going to stay. Let me tell you, it can get a lot worse than cocaine. I thank God I never got wrapped up in some of things that I was heading towards. I love to say I would never try shooting heroin, but at one point in my life I said I would never touch alcohol, and even after alcohol came around other illicit drugs. At one point, I wouldn’t even let my friends that got down with that stuff into my house if they were partying like that. A few years later I found myself being completely hooked on it. The stigma of drug addiction in our culture has improved from where it was in the early 20th century, however there is still an attitude amongst people who are ignorant, that addicts and alcoholics actively ‘choose’ their life. It’s not that simple. I haven’t met ANYONE who said to me that they woke up one sunny morning and said “seems like a nice day to become a homeless junkie….” or “gee, I really think I ought work on my cirrhosis of the liver….” It doesn’t happen like that. Once you are caught in the rabbit hole, it’s very difficult to get out. So I can’t say that I wouldn’t ever become a needle junkie. I didn’t get that far but, I went from experimenting with alcohol for the first time at age 18 to pretty much full-blown alcoholism and cocaine addiction by 22. I know what it’s like to stay awake on that shit for three days straight and keep going back till I’ve wasted everything on the temporary high. It sucks. Especially once that drug starts working in reverse. The euphoric feeling and numbed up face and mouth is quickly replaced with feelings of extreme depression, paranoia and thoughts of suicide. I experienced this first hand. I won’t get into the science of what happens to the brain while on that drug, but it’s nasty and if you want to learn just look it up on wikipedia or something. So today that I no longer do that stuff, or drink, going to bed a little bit late sometimes is much less consequential than it used to be.
I remember watching the clock when I was on that shit and seeing the hours dwindle away until I had to make it to ballet class or to theatre for a two show day. Nothing parallels that feeling of dread. Having to dance after coming down from a couple bags of Colombian marching powder. But I did it over and over. Today, it makes dancing with a head cold or coming off the flu no sweat at all. Nothing is worse than having to dance with a nasty hangover. People sometimes ask me, “how did you do that??” I always reply, “had to support the habit somehow!!” It seemed like dancing became secondary for awhile, but since I got sober I have been able to tap into my true sources of creativity. I used ride that slow train to nowhere of artistic creativity being fueled by excessive drinking and drug use. Thinking that I could somehow connect with the ‘tortured soul.’ What a crock of shit. Proved myself wrong there. Never needed any of that stuff to be creative. In fact, I don’t believe great artists, musicians, writers, choreographers, actors etc. create BECAUSE of our internal neurosis, I believe we create IN SPITE of it.
I thought of making separate writings for every day and try to recount what I was going through. Put it in chronological form and sort of ‘act’ like I had written it real-time and delivered on my initial promise. I decided not to since another initial promise was that this would be raw; real and honest. How could it be honest if I was bullshitting about when I was actually sitting down to write this? The days kind of molded themselves together and before I knew it I was finishing the ballet. ‘An Open Letter…’ was officially finished in it’s structure on Wednesday, April 28 2017. Of course, I added some finishing touches to it in the following days. I had intended for it to be done the previous day. I thought that there would easily be enough time, but I overestimated. That day, there were a lot of extra things happening that were pulling my focus. I also felt like I wasn’t managing the flow of rehearsal well. What ended up happening was me trying to rush through stuff and not being happy with it. I can honestly say, it was the one time I felt like I was being an asshole to work with. Maybe I was just imagining it but for a second I tried to look at my behavior and thought to myself, ‘if I were dancing would I think this guy is being an asshole??’ Ultimately, I think the source of it was fatigue and the fact that I just wanted the piece to be done. So, after that day of rehearsal I went home and decided to take a deep breath and turn off. I threw on the video games and just did nothing even remotely associated to thinking about the ballet. Had to consume time with mindless entertainment to give the brain a reset. I’m not ashamed of it. Sometimes, that stuff is useful. The next day, went in and choreographed the remaining two minutes within an hour and it was done.
It felt like I could breath again honestly after having my head in a vice for a week straight. Of course, I didn’t truly feel that relief until I had seen the piece danced in the costumes. My goodness are they amazing. My costume designer Emily DeAngelis did a fantastic job. My next writing will feature more in detail about the costuming, but what I will say now is that Emily and I kind of see eye to eye on a lot of things. We see eye to eye on a lot of the messed up shit that goes on this world. Emily is one of those few people that understands that the broader aspects of society connect to her personal surroundings. Too many people live in the bubble where they have their ‘own world’, and then there is the ‘rest of the world.’ They think that their everyday surroundings and interactions are not part of that ‘rest of the world’ and that ‘rest of the world’ is something that only exists on television, in the newspaper and on social media. But I have news for everybody that is reading this that ‘rest of the world’ IS yours too. Everything we do is essentially a product of it. Every personal problem we encounter is one way or another connected to the broader zeitgeist of society. One thing that Emily has helped me with is not being timid about presenting these things through this art. That’s why art exists after all. I think Emily depicted this all very well in her design.
I had that moment while I was watching the first costume run, and then the lighting rehearsal yesterday. That moment, where I ask myself ‘how did I choreograph this?’ Or rather a more accurate question is, ‘how do you choreograph?’ I thought to myself ‘this is it.’ Not ‘this is it, I’m done, finished learning I have arrived at the apex of my life.’ But rather ‘This is it. This is the feeling of fulfillment that I look for in creating this art.’ It was serene. It was serenity that was built from turmoil and anguish.
Today is my first day off since two Mondays ago. I don’t count the other days off since I was working on my own even though they were technically ‘days off.’ Today I didn’t think I had to try and visualize any movement or think of a story, or plot line, or wonder how the heck I am going to come up with a piece that is 32 freaking minutes long. Which is comforting, but I can feel that somewhere out there that this ballet exists. The dancers are at home and they are idle, I am idle; but somewhere out there this ballet is existing. Even if it is only through neurons and electrical impulses in the brain. This ballet exists MORE so than my fake, imaginary, self-image that I will NEVER live up to does. That is what life is about, and that is what makes life worth living. It’s worth staying up late at night to dream about.