What is it to prepare for dancing in zero gravity?
The beginning like all performances requires a strong immersion to the imaginative world except this time I am very aware of the lack of one critical element I have been able to count on from day one of my existence - the pull of our gravitational force. At times I have made friends with it, other times agonized over it's consistency and dreamt of its abolishment on occasion. But I am a realist and it is something I attend to regularly perhaps in a more heightened sense than most homosapiens.
It is my business after all.....peripheral to this large part of the equation are all the other constraints that will exist within the freedom of zero g. What of the spatial limitations, dynamic restrictions (no fast movements or at least tempered due to their implications), what of the interpretation of Jeanne's choreography and translating that amidst a romper room of other flyers present that are there with the singular and most worthy of pursuits: play? There are timing issues, how long a duration for each arc? There is the discovery of the 'drift'.....drifting, drifting...... I am a sizable woman with a seven and a half foot stretch from fingertip to toe tip - expansion - will I be able to expand?
Preceding hopping off to Las Vegas I have read and listened to Jeanne, we have had much dialog and I feel an empathy with her aesthetic. I have a strong affinity with her ideas, her interests and I fall in love with her passion. It is easy to get on board with her and I have total admiration for her commitment and desire to fulfill her vision. I am also honoured that she has asked me to go on this journey with her, long before the zero g flight was even a possibility. From a purely physical/technical point of view there are 2 practices in my life that dominate and serve this work, the Gyrotonic® method and Contact Improvisation. These have followed a lifetime of dance that has seen me engage in numerous practices that have informed my 'body of work'. Gyrotonic® has a spherical 3 dimensional intention, works with arcs and spirals, undulations, while contact promotes a responsivity in the body by constantly addressing a mind/body connectivity and attention to gravity - a hyper inner ear attunement if ever there was one. I have always felt Gyrotonic® and Contact to be complimentary but never knew how much they would serve the zero g space. At the centre of all the elements in the soup and all the preparation with my imagination preceding the flight was the recognition that foremost is presence. We spoke of and worked on choreographed movement but there was always the very real 'but who knows?'
And indeed ambition takes a side seat to presence, not to say the effort to fulfill objectives wasn't present, it was, but assessment in the air came quickly as individuals and collectively and so we pursued the highest objective of space travel, 'exploration'. Wow, did I write that? Yes, it was short but somehow epic and I feel blessed. I hovered into a new year and though I feel firmly rooted back on earth I am truly grateful for this most unique experience of levity - a real physical imprint of what I have only before imagined. Big thanks to Jeanne and Spider, James Sposto and Zero G and all those who have been moved to participate in supporting this vision. In my dreams I'll revisit this land and look forward to more with the Stardance team!!! And yes, Spider from the moment we walked onto the tarmac with Maverick Helicopters nosing into lift-off and circling in for landing I felt my dad - rotors are like a lullaby to me - I call these my Mike fly-bys. nothing like slipping the surly bonds!
Kathleen McDonagh (kosmonaut kate)