Saturday, September 27, 2008
On Thursday -- while standing in awe (as always) in that cathedral-like expanse of the Craneway of the venerable historic Ford Building ...
I envisioned an event that's been forming in the recesses of my mind for a very long time now.
The Craneway is such an awesome space; one that invites imaginings of places I've seen only in art books and dreams but have treasured since childhood; places like Chartres, the Sistine Chapel, or the Louvre. I'm at such a late stage in life now that any thought of actually seeing such wonders has slowly evaporated into a void -- well beyond the realm of possibility. But this Albert Kahn-designed magnificent cavernous daylight-filled 400,000 sq. ft. architectural wonder captures that little girl sense of awe and it's all I can do to slow my breathing and keep my jaw from dropping each time I find myself standing in its towering vastness.
Recently there was an announcement by the developer of the recently-restored Ford Assembly Plant that the legendary choreographer, 90 year-old Merce Cunningham, has come out of retirement long enough to create a site-specific piece created to celebrate the public launching of (newly-re-named) Ford Point. It's being co-sponsored by Cal Performances and (learned from a disappointed dance enthusiast) is completely sold out! (And I neglected to order tickets!) The performance is scheduled for early November.
On impulse I dashed off an email to Eddie Orton, the building's developer and a casual friend, with a suggestion I would never in a million years have made before Octogenarianism became my new religion a few short years ago. "Eddie, Merce Cunningham is an inspired choice -- but I'm anxious for you to see the work of choreographer Joanna Haigood of Zaccho Dance Theater for the next big one. Look her up on their website and tell me what you think."
Each time I squint through eyes cast skyward while standing in the Craneway I imagine Joanna and her daring dance company suspended on a web of cables performing their aerial act -- using the full dimension of the emptiness of that huge structure and giving life to the totality of the air space in the beautiful ways that aerial dance inspires. I'm breathless just thinking about it! (Yes, that's Joanna suspended from the face of the old Ferry Building clock in San Francisco - 1995.)
His email response was almost immediate (surprisingly) inviting me to raise the possibility with the Craneway's manager, James Madsen. I couldn't tell whether there was any real interest or whether this was his "don't call us, we'll call you" response. It turned out to be quite real. Had a brief whispered exchange with James yesterday while in the building with a small group to discuss sound requirements for the upcoming Home Front festival, and learned that he'd gone to Joanna's website as suggested and saw the same potential that I see there. He suggested that we get together to talk about possibilities. At the moment Joanna is on a plane bound for New York for a performance in a dance charrette with "Dancing in the Streets" next weekend, but was reachable by email and responded magically within moments with enthusiasm!
Do extraordinary things happen in this crazy casual way at times? I suppose so. Maybe they happen when we get old enough to speak out for the things that matter to us with less of the hesitancy of youth and a sense that -- if we're going to make a contribution -- even when they're purely whimsical -- we'd better do so right away or it may not happen -- ever. Maybe -- if we don't -- the unique gifts that each of us one-of-a-kind people brought with us into the world at birth may be lost for all time.
Besides, people listen now in ways that suggest maybe we've earned the right to be heard.
I do plan to be around to see Joanna and her company defy gravity as if propelled by silken wings through that magnificent space -- in a show that will rock the dance world and fulfill my every childhood fantasy of soaring above the earth! And to do so as if I'm not too terrified of heights to board the elegant outside elevators that look down on the Atrium at the Embarcadero Hyatt Regency!
Might we call that vicariosity? If this isn't a word ... it should be. It's surely as descriptive as Dorian's disastrophe.
... and I've forgotten to tell you that after one reaches the age of 87 a body is entitled to create one's own vocabulary, too.
Photo: Photo from "Main Frame," a recent piece created by Joanna Haigood. To read her statement, click on this image to enlarge. Use the Zaccho link under my photo on the left to reach the website for more information. By way of explanation; I once served briefly as a member of Zaccho Dance Theater's Advisory Board.