Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Pre-Dawn Interview

It was 3:30am. I decided not to wait for the alarm clock to sing. By 5am, Kathleen and I were on our way to CTV's downtown studios to tape a segment for Canada AM. Once we arrived, it was suddenly awfully bright for the middle of the night. (Since the show runs nationally, a west coast segment must be taped quite early.)

A "live" remote interview is a strange and awkward experience. Your interviewer in Toronto is visible to you in the Vancouver studio--but on a monitor located several feet from the camera you're supposed to look at to answer his queries. So you find yourself trying to look in two directions at once, while listening to questions in your earpiece that the person on the monitor asked you several seconds ago, about something that was on the screen then and no longer is. Weird.

Despite the built-in confusion, Kathleen and I managed to survive alright. See for yourself - click here (this links to CTV's footage on their site, tell us if it doesn't work for you.) We remembered to say pretty much everything we needed to, except for the URL for this site....but it did get posted on the Canada AM website. And of course, we aren't hard to google. They used a lot of our footage. They spelled our names right--Spider's definition of a successful interview. (Except on the closed captions, where "Jim Sposto" somehow morphed into "Jim Fastow.")

One of my favorite moments came after the interview, as they were closing the show. The co-hosts were asked whether they'd care to try that crazy zero-G dancing stuff. "Oh yes," one woman said enthusiastically. "Oh my, yes. Definitely." Now that's the kind of response we like...


Footage Added

Hey Folks - I've updated Jeanne post with a new link to the interview.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Explanded Footage

Here's the official press clip used by CTV's AM Canada - it features a few more moments of Kathleen and Jeanne getting used to Zero-G and a few more attempted phrases (notice the drift I mention in the previous post.) The actual interview with Jeanne and Kathleen is linked from the next post.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Stardance II : : Las Vegas Drift

The stillness and perfection of simulated Zero neither still nor perfect. Immensely cool? Yes. Loads of fun? You betcha! Stillness and perfection? I think we will have to be on board an orbiting vessel to experience that. In addition to the noise (see footage, wait for the end) there is "the drift".

First of all: there is a highly competent captain at the helm of Zero-G's 727, and he doesn't just press a button that makes the plane go into perfect parabolic arcs - no, he's a true artist, creating this experience by the seat of his pants. He pulls the yoke back and puts the 727 into a powerful climb, and we fliers (we are called fliers because we cannot legally be passengers, as we have no final destination - no passage made) are pressed into the padding with 2Gs of force - all the time marveling at the Zero-G staffers who can WALK AROUND IN THIS GRAVITY SOUP!

As we approach apogee of the arc we fliers start to magically lift off the padding and float up into the cabin - we are experiencing microgravity, and loving it. Drifting about. And there is the thing we didn't quite expect - DRIFT. Not only does one drift from that measly quarter newton push against the bulkhead that caroms you across the cabin - there is another relative motion effect at work. Remember the captain's job - making the airplane travel in a way that we groundhogs in the cabin experience as Zero G?

You will notice that a Boeing 727 has 3 engines at the rear of the plane - two placed in nacelles on either side of the eppenage, and one at true centerline - shooting straight out the back. As the plane approaches apogee the pilot IDLES the two outside engines, and then performs a controlled stall as the plane glides slightly belly first through the arc - during this entire time he is adjusting the ride by varying the thrust of the centerline engine - more thrust....less thrust...more thrust - artistically keeping the fliers inside the belly of the plane, and the aircraft itself, moving at the same relative speed.

Nobody is perfect, but this pilot comes pretty damned close (sorry Spider) and he does a great job of keeping us in play. But ultimately he must adjust, and from a flyer's point of view we drift. My feet were firmly strapped in as I shot the footage of Kathleen - but Kathleen would find herself floating either toward the bulkhead (away from the camera) or toward the cabin (closer to me) without any apparent motive force.

We will release some footage tomorrow evening that shows this a little more, stay tuned. And speaking of staying tuned - tune in tomorrow morning to Canada AM (I can't since I am State-Side) and see our beloved Jeanne and Kathleen chat about their experiences live on honest-to-god TV. (You remember TV, right?)

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Canada AM TV Interview rescheduled to January 15th

I just got a call from our Canada AM producer.  We've been bumped to next Tuesday, January 15th.  Our segment will be broadcast at the same time -- just after the 8:30am news.  

Apparently this happens frequently in the live tv news business.  Between the NH primary and other stories that need to run tomorrow, she said our interview had to be re-scheduled.  We're now in the line-up for next Tuesday with a tag from our producer that supposedly commits the staff to running our segment.  Let's hope her magic tag-trick works.

We plan on posting our interview for all of you to enjoy.  With any luck, it will be up next Tuesday, before the end of day.


Monday, January 7, 2008

Interview on CTV's Canada AM

This morning we got word from CTV Canada AM producer, Janis Narun, that Kathleen and I will be guests on the show this Wednesday, January 9th around 8:30am.  During the segment we'll be running our 30-second zero-g press footage for the first time.  Hope you can tune in.


Sunday, January 6, 2008

Our mission

Just 7 days ago during this exact moment, the Stardance team was falling freely.   Being free of falling is an unforgettable experience.  For a fleeting eternity, I felt bathed in a delicious, unspeakable delight.  The experience continues to linger in my dreams, and in my wakeful state.

On the day of our flight, December 30th, my Zen Calendar offered a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: "The days come and go like muffled and veiled figures sent from a distant party, but they say nothing, and if we do not use the gifts they bring, they carry them as silently away."

Be assured that I won't be silent about the gift I've been given.  

The Stardance team is on a mission of discovery.  Our mission is to expand the vocabulary of human feeling by presenting us with something we've never experienced before.   With your help, the Stardance Experience will be a large format film that gives us the opportunity to explore the feelings of space travel.  It will offer us the experience of drifting freely in the vastness of space, as we look back at our beautiful blue planet.

Last week's zero-g ride was a breathtakingly weightless step toward the realization of our mission.


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

some of what we learned

The suitcases have been unpacked, the emails answered, and only a few media interviews remain to be done. I've had at least a few minutes to try and assimilate the zero-g experience, start integrating all the different information we acquired in so short a time.

The first thing we learned was that all our choreography presupposed arcs several seconds longer than the ones we got....but much more important, assumed a much smaller amount of lateral drift than we had, with every arc.

You never knew whether Kathleen would lurch left as she went weightless, or gently right....or forward or back. But the instants of total stasis we had been expecting and hoping for just were never an option.

She basically partnered each parabola in a duet with the experience, using many of the preconceived ideas and phrases we had prepared, but adapting them on the fly to the constant change she was experiencing. I think Jim did a truly incredible job of capturing unpredictable movement in a small frame, while keeping track of his own position and his own neighbors' flying feet. Between us, we accomplished what we set out to do: made choreographic discoveries, experienced zero-g kinesthetically deep in our bones, got some images that will help us with promotion.....and I confirmed for myself and proved to others that zero gee dance is going to be beautiful almost beyond imagining, the next great art form. That's a proud thing to finally know in your cells, as well as you always knew it in your mind.

The stars are here....


the (w)rite stuff - 2

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)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Now THAT's a happy new year....

We're finally home from Lost Wages, more or less unpacked, back on our regular reliable internet connection, the email and mail have been....well, glanced at.....nourishment has been taken, and I'm just about to crash, several hours earlier than usual for me. But I do have the strength left to say that I am so proud of Jeanne I could float off the floor myself. She and her two fabulous free-fall friends accomplished something truly remarkable. She's tasted something she's been dreaming about since 1976. Awesome. Before she fell asleep tonight I had the honour and warm pleasure of hanging her blue Zero-G jumpsuit in our closet.

One day, perhaps, it'll be her pressure-suit. It wouldn't surprise ME.

That Prince Humperdinck, he must be some kind of fella....

Good night/morning to all you family, friends and strangers from all around the planet who joined Jim, Kathleen and Jeanne on their journey, whether through this blog or just through the noosphere; your presence and warm support were palpable and deeply appreciated.

The stars are HERE...