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[updated November 13, 2005]

So you’ve all been wondering how we’ve been for that past two or three months, and how our long trip went. First let me update Krakow life.

We are sitting in the midst of a harsh environment. And are a bit concerned about this year, this winter season. We haven’t had rain for months (only a few drops), and have had a lot of sunny weather though now it’s become grey and overcast. The temperature dips sometimes and it’s chilly but not terribly cold…yet. The winter forecast is for extremely cold weather and very little snow. And I am of the opinion that without snow, cold weather is unnecessary to say the least. Krakow is in a valley although walking around the city one wouldn’t know that. And the air can just sit here. So now we come to the problem. Even though coal is used much less often for heating, it still is used. The heating stoves in our flat have been converted to electricity (expensive but I’d rather breathe), but across the street at least two chimneys spew thick dark smoke. It’s kind of strange but sometimes you walk around the city, and the quality of the air varies from block to block, other times like last night, there is this heavy visible air everywhere. I wish it were just fog that has it’s own allure and is mostly harmless. So with coal smoke and general vehicle pollution it’s quite bad. You can even taste the air, and I have to remind myself that I have to breathe because my body thinks it knows better. The worst thing is that it invades your home leaving black film everywhere. That aside (no big feat) we are still enjoying our time here!

David is loaded down with classes and still writing poetry and mcing his open mic at the bookstore downstairs with more or less success. Unfortunately some of the regulars have left the city. I have a lighter load and am trying to organizing more dance this year both in Krakow and outside. Atsushi Takeuchi and Hiroko were just here again. I enjoyed their performance and their company. And being among Japanese with the language has been great though for such a short time. After the performance we went out for food and drink with local Japanese people Yumiko and Miho (the other Butoh dancer in town). The mixture of language
and expressions was great-Japanese, Polish, English. I will see Atsushi again in Warsaw next month where he will lead a workshop and perform. And the good news is that I will also do a short performance. I’m so looking forward to being in their company again, and to visitng and performing in Warsaw for the first time.

It’s early Sunday morning, a normal Church of Bob Sunday (Bob Dylan that is). Soon the church bells will be ringing at the church below. This is our second year at the Audio Arts Festival which goes on for a few weeks. The performances all use some kind of electronics, sometimes being mixed with instruments or voice, and some are installations, some containing film and/or video.
Last night was a real treat! We arrived a little late but stayed through all three performances. Marek who is a professor at the music academy has been organizing this for years and brings in amazing talent from all over the world. The first guy was Slovakian and played piano mixed with recorded sounds and electronics. He provided the soundscore for several films, the first looked like 30s Russia and the last was something about Britney Spears. The second guy was from Lisbon, an actor, poet, composer who’s voice, expression, and use of four speakers was astounding and often hilarious. And lastly was another Slovakian group, a trip with drums, bass guitar, and the leader was a trombone player who also played with electronics. They all sang too. What spirit, what passion, what innovative music. We’ll go back for more tonight!

I returned to Krakow on October 4th, just a few days short of two months away. The next morning I taught my first English class, and two evenings later I performed at Café Mlynek (my third time). It was rather crowded (30-40 people in this small restaurant). I danced to some tango CDs I got from German friends and then of course in my black tux to Chopin. Then on the weekend I taught a 3-hour workshop for the women’s festival. Quite a festival that happens twice a year.
Now I’m working on a few projects: operating theater (hopefully with Polish group up north in Gdansk and in London), Oskar (am reading The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass and a new work is emerging), and continuing with Chopin Dances (trying to set up a performance here to live Grand piano on a stage). We’ll see what comes of these things!

As far as our summer adventures…
After David and I returned the car we had borrowed from friends in northern Germany Sept 25, he took the train back to Krakow, and I took one to Paris. I met up with Moeno Wakamatsu who has started living part time in France. She arranged for us to perform at Tenri (Japanese/French Cultural Institute known for having Butoh festivals). So she created “White Widow” as a companion to my “Black Widow”. We did 2 nights, and it went quite well in spite of the small audiences. Tenri’s director was impressed by my performance and has invited me to perform in their June 2006 Butoh Festival. So it was well worth the trip!

Then I took train to Dresden (Germany) to attend Mad In Japan, several days of Butoh workshops, performances (with amazing collaborations among artists), and photo exhibition (mostly of Hijikata). I got to see Koichi Tamano again (what a character, that Nijinsky of Butoh who is riding the fame of having worked with Hijikata so early on and still performing), Moe Yamamoto (from northern coast of Japan who I met in Japan years ago, he gave a great performance, what a character and what humor), Derevo (from Russia) and a few others.
There was another teacher/performer, probably in his 30s. I had never heard of him, but it’s apparently the most interesting young Butoh master now. He was quite interesting as a teacher but not organized enough for me, but when I saw him perform I was very impressed. He has the rawness and unpredictability of Hijikata’s early works. He really embodies that early spirit of Butoh. I hadn’t realized it but Dresden is where the Greta Palucca Dance School is. I would really like to visit it as I’ve been interested in Mary Wigman and her proteges for years.

So now we start from the beginning from the summer. We left on August 8th I do recall. Drove up to Gdansk on the Baltic Sea with a friend. This was great because we got to stop in Torun (beautiful old city…there are so many!) and Malbork (magnificent Teutonic Knight fortress). We stayed a few days with two of the Amareya dancers who I’m working with. We mostly discussed the operation theater project and I was able to watch them rehearse. Then we took the train to Rotenburg Wumme near Bremen (Germany) to visit our friends who live in her family’s over 200 year old mill. We borrowed their car and spent a few days camping on the Baltic north eastern coast. I was so looking forward to swimming in the sea as much as possible, but unfortunately, it was rather windy so I didn’t see to too much. But ah, just to wade in the water, walk along the beach and watch sunrises and sunsets! We spent three nights camping in the dunes along with several hundred mostly Germans. Not exactly what we expected or where used to after camping on the Washington state coast, but it seems to be European camping. There were far more campers than tents. The funny thing was that we had borrowed our friend’s tent that was made in the 60s or so. Maybe even older. She hadn’t used it since since was a teenager. It was so complicated that we couldn’t even put it up. We spent an hour trying (in the sand dunes as it was getting dark) until I fall down in uncontrollable laughter. A magnificent man, tall, long grey ponytail, very tanned had been watching up. Finally, he came over and asked if he could help. After 10 minutes, he said that it was hopeless, something was missing from the tent, whereupon he offered to lend us his extra tent which was very modern and spacious and we had it up in 5 minutes. How fortunate! Later as we were eating our dinner in the dark, another neighbor brought over a beach torch (we had even forgotten to bring a flashlight or any light).

We returned to our friends for another night or two and even drove to Hamburg to visit my 6th cousins. Then we took the train to Berlin to spend 2 weeks, me working with a friend there on his project, David visiting Berlin. I could say a lot about this time. Mostly, it was good to spend some time in Berlin though I couldn’t imagine living there. We had bicycles which we rode everywhere. There’s such a great system for bicycles, paths almost everywhere and bicycle friendly drivers. And it was good to spend two weeks working in a studio everyday. David Lakein, a friend for years although we didn’t know each other well, is mostly a solo performer (dance, mover, actor, text) and has been working on the them of “hope” the past few years. We started with 9 people, lost one person right away (got too busy), and the beginning days were interesting and fun. Doing certain exercises in movement and speech (the speech intrigued me the most because it was new for me) and meeting other people. But by the end of the first week there was dissention in the ranks and half the people decided to drop out. That just couldn’t accept David’s direction and refused to see it through. As I said, it is two weeks of your life, but it is ONLY two weeks of your life. I saw it through and found our resultant “performances” interesting. They drew something out of me that I didn’t know was there, and I don’t even know how to describe this.
David’s work borders: performance art and theater. Deeply consciously thought through and researched, sincere and yet incredibly irreverent, just so whacky. David and I went to one performance in a big warehouse that had 8 or so different short performances including a duet with Yuko Kaseki that for theme and use of space was one of the best that night. We stayed one week with a German couple and child, the woman is a dancer and the guy a pop star! (becoming more well-known but not really famous yet). The second week we house sat other friend’s place, a suburb of Berlin, where the air is clean and there is a forest with some small lakes. Our friends have a huge backyard and although their apartment building is old, they’ve remodeled the inside with a big jacuzzi and washer and dryer. The only strange thing was that they had a huge fire on their second floor months ago and it’s barely been touched. We love the Germans! One usual fine day we rode our bicycles to the lake where there were hundreds of mostly nude bodies. And the water (tho quite brown) was delicious. Cool on a hot day!

Then we returned by train to Rottenburg, packed up the car (after we learned how to put up that old tent) and took off for the north. We drove through Marne,Germany just so I could visit the place where my great grandfather Laage was from. Then up to the west coast of Denmark where we camped two nights on an island with extremely wide beaches (that cars drove on). Then to Arhus on the east coast to visit my friend Jenny who wrote a thesis on SU-EN and organized my performance and workshop when I came before. And the next day taking the ferry to Sweden, then driving like crazy to get to Uppsala to see SU-EN’s performance there. It was part of her Scrap Bodies Project and was held outdoors in the middle of the city during a daylong festival of the arts. She “choreographed” heavy machinery, 2 with mechanical claws that fought over an old car frame and a third with a big scoop that carried 8 or so whitened dancers into the space. Lee Berwick was there doing sound live (he’s the same guy who came with her to Seattle twice). What an extravaganza. Then we spent 4 or 5 wonderful days at Haglund Skola where she and her boyfriend live. We talked, watched each other’s videos and that last night I did a performance for 3 in her studio.

After this we drove down the east side of Sweden, through some very beautiful country and we especially enjoyed Oland, a long island off the south eastern part. The campgrounds were quite emtpy and in fact, a lot had closed down already. There was lots to do and see. Walking along the coast, coming upon an old wooden boat that had washed up decades ago, seeing an 800 year old tree, the blond surfer cows (long blond head hair with horns and the body with shaggy red hair), and many Viking graves (piles of stones). After three days we visited two castles and took off for the south to take the ferry back to Poland. We got to the ferry over an hour before it was to depart, and when we went in to buy tickets we were confronted with Poland once again. There were 100 or so people waiting in lines, groups of men smoking and talking. Such a different look and energy that northern Europe. It turned out that one ferry was out of commission so that day’s ferry was sold out and we had to return the next day. We drove an hour or so further and camped by an inlet on an ideal little island and enjoyed the sunset and full moon rise.

We arrived in Gydania in the evening and enjoyed taking in the harbor, spacious and full of ships. Then we drove down to Gdansk and spent the night at the same place as before. The next night we drove out to the Hel Pennisula. It’s that long narrow spit of land that is famous for wind surfing. We walked on the beautiful beaches and I bemoaned that fact that it was too cold to swim, but I did wade and dance in and out of the water. We returned for two more nights in Gdansk where I worked on the theater project with Amareya again. I should be going back there next month and hopefully the project will be performed at their January or February Butoh festival. Then, guess what? those crazy Americans had to drive the car all the way back to Germany! We stayed another night there and then we come full circle…David to Krakow and Joan to Paris. Of course there is much more to tell, but that’s good for now! And I’ll try to update the essay in the next month or two. Enjoy! Joan (and David)