I arrived in the two am deep darkness, foggy from the train ride and altogether exhausted from a day’s worth of travel. Two of the very kind co-founders of the festival picked me up and drove my disoriented self through country road and tiny winding streets until we reached a looming pair of gates. We pulled up behind a building and I could barely see a thing around me except above, a vast sparkling array of stars mapped out like a planetarium. I stumbled inside, upstairs, and practically fell headfirst into the grand and comfortable shape of a canopied bed before passing out for the next 5 hours.
7:30 wake-up call: shower running, roommates rummaging through suitcases. Blurred eyes taking in the rose-petaled wallpaper, Austen-esque curtains surrounding my bed frame, dark wooden chests and armoires. I dragged myself to the window that my roommate has just flung open and gaped at the scene below.
A prim garden yard, lined by a crumbling moss-laden balcony edge that drops down into a tiny riverside village, surrounded by rolling French country-side, all awash in that morning dewy glow. Any previous visions of my ideal morning view were instantly replaced by this stunning image before me, made even brighter and more exhilarating with the knowledge that I was going to be dancing in and around this scenery for the next 5 days.
I arrived in Véretz for the Dansez Maintenant Festival as one of 5 creators in residence, full of ideas and trying to be empty of expectations. It is hard to believe that in just one week, I left feeling so changed, inspired, full to the brim of pure joy and love, and with so many sore muscles and a slightly fractured toe (a brief and unexciting story for another time- it's all better now).
The entire festival took place on the stunning grounds of the historic Château de Véretz. Not only were we able to stay in the castle’s grand rooms, but they had set up a billowing white tent near building and a dance floor in the surrounding forest for our daily work. Each day began with back to back technical and creative workshops led alternately by Juan Kruz Diaz de Garaio Asnaola and Pau Aran, two of the most enlightening, knowledgable and inspiring teachers I have come across in a while. We were taken to uncharted territory in the movement our bodies, expanding not only our dance vocabularies, but our mental capacities as dancers as well. Following was always a hearty lunch by the house chef of the Château, lectures, afternoon workshops and meetings, and finally two hours of creative lab, where I got the chance to play and collaborate with five lovely dancers in a little corner of the woods where we were to set our site-specific piece.
Not only was I inspired by the scenery and the workshops themselves, but by the resilience and passionate determination of everyone working for the festival and the participants as well. There was sporadic rain, thunderstorms and other forms of the unexpected, but the directors of the festival never faltered and the dancers- we never stopped dancing. By the end of the week there was a sort of woodland wildness in everyone’s eyes- that adrenaline rush from an intensive week’s work almost reaching completion and loving every second of it. I felt as if I was swept up in a world where only dance and people and the relationships between the two mattered, and I fell in love with it. All over again. I rekindled my love of dance without even realizing prior that the flame had dimmed just a little bit.
Sometimes the issue with having a career that is both your passion and your day’s work is that a little bit of the love gets lost. Passion gets buried by the clutter of business, daily routines, house work, and sometimes too much time being the teacher and not enough being the student again. What I am sure of, is that it is never lost for good. George Eliot wrote in her classic novel Daniel Deronda ,
“Passion is of the nature of seed, and finds nourishment within, tending to a predominance which determines all currents towards itself, and makes the whole life its tributary.”
My own currents always lead me back to dance, someway and somehow. My work is always a tributary to dance and my dance is a tributary to life itself. I feel as if I should write that out five times every day, as a reminder to myself. Don’t get buried in the clutter. It happens, of course, and sometimes clutter is completely necessary, but at the same time, I have to remember never to stop inadvertently seeking out these kindlings and sparks. Festivals, workshops, dance teachers, collaborators- anything to make those currents of love stronger and more self-assured.
The final day of the festival was marked by wandering crowds from the village and the nearby city of Tours, excited, jittery dancers, and the looming prospect of a rainstorm. There was a showing of the creative labs mid-afternoon, and we decided to risk performing outdoors despite the dark clouds rolling around haphazardly above. My piece was last, being deepest in the forest, and midway through the performance, the rain began to fall. Softly, delicately at first, just whispering through the dancer’s movements, but then as the piece picked up speed, so did the storm. I looked around at the audience and fellow festival members frantically, worried people would run for shelter, but everyone stayed until the very last clap of applause. I was told afterwards that it was as if the rain was a part of my work- it was necessary for the whole thing to be complete, and I couldn’t agree more. It is as if some kind of magic worked it's way into Véretz just for that week.
Dansez Maintenant, above all else, rekindled my love for dance in it’s purest, simplest form. I fell in love with the art form again for what it can do to bring people together, to inspire hope and joy, and for how it nurtures that passionate spark within me.