Published in Offerings Magazine.
These are the times I remember Barbara Lindenberg from the last few years:
1. The first time I met her, I just remembered this right now, I was fresh out of dance school, and was volunteering in Bluemouth Inc.’s Dance Marathon at the Enwave. There were twelve volunteer dancers in the show, and Barb was one of them. And I was kind of nervous about the whole affair and never had the right rehearsal clothes on, and I had a weird haircut, and Barb was talking about how she had just got a new pair of dance pants.
2. Two years later I was on the island and Barb walked out of her studio wearing a t-shirt that said DANCE DANCE DANCE in neon letters and took me in her studio for a little mini-tour. She had dance floors laid down that were too big for the space and were all cuddled up along one wall of the studio. It was Canada day and I had just eaten a pot brownie and freaked out about the Toronto Life Two-for-One book.
3. One year after that, give or take a few months, we both wound up at all the same parties dating two ex-pats of the same country band - this was at a weird point in my life where a lot of the slightly-off-the-radar contemporary dancers I knew all started dating a bunch of musicians who all knew each other too. We are all still dating each other.
And now against all odds it is 2013! And Barb and I are at Holy Oak talking about her upcoming show at the Music Gallery, Another Thousand Mountains, up on February 21st and 22nd. This work is a total lovesong to working together to make it happen. The creative team on this piece brings together a bunch of my favourite dancers and musicians in Toronto – Andrya Duff, Mairéad Filgate, Jennifer Helland and Meredith Thompson are dancing along with Barbara, and Jennifer Castle, Victoria Cheong, and Isla Craig are collaborating on music (for what I anticipate will be some of the most dulcet folk/R&B /techno/psych tones this city will ever hear) and performing live with the dancers. Adding to the community of remarkable people are solo Dance Legend Margie Gillis and prominent writer/poet Lee Maracle mentoring Barbara on the work.
In this vein, one of the things we talked about is community, about how it is great to make art for people you know. Barbara said this:
People are really into shopping local and connecting with people who are close geographically, emotionally, experientially... This exists in the art world as well but is much less recognized as a measure of success... Having a clear understanding of where you are and who’s around, not just friends, is valuable in creating anything. A dance, a house, a pizza…
At this point I dropped a big old honkin’ nonsequitor about how I didn’t understand what granting bodies considered “community art” (like why isn’t it community art if I just want to make art for the 12 people who keep coming to see me dance) – so then she took my curveball and ran with it, saying “There’s nothing wrong with that – “
And then a toddler walked in to the Oak with her Mom and stood in front of a table with her arms apart and yelled “EVERYBODY! I AM GUARDING THIS TABLE!” while her Mom went to get her a hot chocolate and Barb went on with the above without missing a beat and I got to think about how maybe that was a nice little metaphor for some of the problems with making art for/in a community. I’ll let you do the extrapolation on that.
At the very start of our conversation, I asked her “What are you working on?” and after repeating those words a couple of times she said “I am working on the different things that dancing can do”.
Another Thousand Mountains doesn’t have a singular theme. There is no one message that crystallizes throughout the fifteen or so small pieces that are being presented, but as for a throughline, she said that one is definitely there, because it’s her. I think this is so exciting! A thing about being a dancer and choreographer is that the throughline in a work is ALWAYS you, even if you are not the choreographer. This sounds full of it, but the thing is that dancing involves bodies, irrevocably involves bodies, and you – in the grander sense, you – are always involved in it. It is amazing for this reason.
Barbara spoke about bodies a lot. I think this is unavoidable in dance (I am not interested in dance that doesn’t think this is unavoidable) but I found Barb’s perspective on this really refreshing. She spoke about her use of metaphor, saying "“I just want to let people sit with some metaphors, and metaphors from the body… the use of metaphors in the dances gives people the opportunity to perceive the world through their bodies…if I could have a glimmer of that happen, I think [that would be] amazing.”
I was really excited by that thought so I didn’t ask her to go into any more depth, but almost an hour later, remembering that I was supposed to be doing journalism, I asked her what she meant by that (specifically I asked her “Do you have an example of how metaphors get shown through the body?”), and she described this one piece,
“I have this one dance and it’s made up of…oh! you and I did this dance together! [we performed this together at Halo Halo Village in A Month of Sundays] The dance of untitled desires …the moves have a sensation of being incomplete because they go in a direction and get stopped. The piece is only about 15 seconds long. …so you try to go somewhere and you don’t go there - for me that piece is a really short heartbreaking piece about almost achieving your dreams.”
I said to her then: I wish you had told me that. And now reading it again I’m like: I wanna cry!
This is one more thing that we talked about that I thought was really fascinating. Barb said this exact thing:
“I’ve thought a lot ideologically about improvisation as well and…it’s funny how I attribute a moral superiority to improvisation. I feel philosophically really aligned with…improvisational performance but…it’s not what I’m up to”
“Yesterday I was talking with Mairéad and she was talking about how one of her teachers had this quote…something about how the peach tree doesn’t get stressed out that it is not a birch. [Barb then said a thing I didn’t record about being so certain that:] “I’M A PEACH TREE But secretly in my mind I’m like, damn I wish I was a birch! The birch is better!”
There are always these things. I tend towards improvisation but always feel like I’m cheating. I also wish I had straight hair.
Barb said, “I have not evolved to the wisdom of trees yet! Truly I have not.”
A large part of this conversation was two dancers talking about dance. One thing that she mentioned was this cute review tradition she has with Aimée Dawn Robinson. If one of them misses a show, the other describes it to them in great detail, and “would love it when there were reenactments.”
The sad ending to this is that I can’t go see her show. This isn’t a sad ending to you but it is to me. I am going to be in Sacramento CA visiting my Grandmother-in-Law when this show goes up. So, I am counting on the Offerings readership to go and see this work and reenact it for me.
Some parting words:
“Surely, I want to convince people that [dance is] the great healer! Dancing has major transformative effect through the doing of it. In performing we can awaken our desire for connection, for expression, for understanding, our longing for longing.”