Monday, August 20, 2012


Remy Charlip spoke directly to the child in us. Tenderness and joy was the message.

Somewhere in high school I discovered his books. Maybe it was because of his affiliation with the Cunningham Company and teaching at Sarah Lawrence College (I had friends who studied Creative Dramatics with him). The books felt intoxicating; a liberation for mind and heart. In Thirteen he gave us hypertext before it had been invented. On each page there’s one drawing from each of thirteen visual stories that progress through the book. You can regard one page, you can follow one story start to finish (the falling leaf, the sinking ship), you can linger on the detail and luminosity of his water colors. What in the line and rendering of recognizable things made them so magical? 

I often think about the relationship of ‘what’ to ‘how’ in performance. Materials are one thing, the way they are enacted another. The latter determines how we read the materials. I have the idea that the state of mind of the person doing the thing translates into how we experience it. A person with a desire to offer us the richness of the world around us, and the knowledge of our own preciousness somehow translates that into line and color and sequence. Or dances. We feel it.

The drawings from Remy’s Air Mail Dances provide a visual record of sequences he asked dancers to create, full of loopy, delicious interactions. Two or more people twine and twirl, curving buoyantly, joyfully.  One version of a dance like this was shot on video from above with dancers on a bed, sheets and all. 

It was in Remy’s work that I first saw Eva Karczag. He revealed the exquisite animal she is through a device allowing us to observe her body mechanics: she crawled across the upstage of the old Dance Theater Workshop with rubber balls beneath each of her hands and feet. To progress forward, she kicked or rolled a ball forward and placed hand or foot down to stop it, a foot or so ahead each time.  Funny. Slow. Elegant. 

That was Remy. He was a guest teacher in the Netherlands where I got to know him beyond page and stage. That was where I sensed a darker side too. While I can’t swear it’s so, my sense is of him is as a wounded healer. He venerated the body and became a transformative teacher of Alexander technique. He venerated creativity and creation.

Thank you, Remy. You remain here with us, encouraging our wilder flights of imagination, our reveling in our senses and our care for each other.