Last Wednesday in New York City, I attended an open rehearsal of Complexions Contemporary Ballet. I love open rehearsals – you’re in the room with the dancers, there are no costumes, you hear them breathe, and the experience is up-close and personal. For the uninitiated, it’s a glimpse of what goes into making a performance. Like being backstage. Like watching a painting in progress. They count, make mistakes, it’s raw, and they are wonderful.
My initial connection to this company was through making my movie “One Last Dance.” Artistic Directors, Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson, contributed choreography to my film, and Desmond also danced (amazingly) in it. And as with all the choreographers who worked on the film, Patrick and I remained close friends with them.
But what was even more special about seeing the rehearsal was I finally got to see a portion of “Mercy,” the ballet that has become something of a signature piece for the company. And what makes it even more special – the piece was created and dedicated to my husband, Patrick.
Dwight and Desmond came out to LA to visit in 2008 when Patrick was ill. It was then that Dwight asked Patrick how he’d feel about him making this piece and dedicating it to him. Patrick nodded that he would love it. It seems incredible that it’s only now I’ve gotten to see some bits of the piece: the beginning, a duet, and the ending.
Wow. I loved it.
You know, I’m always amazed when a piece of art, whether it’s music, a ballet, a poem…I’m amazed at how deeply it can touch. And when it does, it’s like a bit of magic happens.
I’ve run into so many people who are scared off of art because they think they have to “understand” it. Nah. I’m a great believer that art means whatever it means – to you. And for me, watching “Mercy,” it was about that delicate, tenuous space between life and death. It reminded me how fragile our hold on this world is – how we nervously negotiate the rights for the small place we inhabit here on earth, how we barter for our hopeful spot in heaven (or other parts unknown), and please, how we hope that we’re not taken before we’re ready to go.
There is something so huge, and so primal about the desire to live, and thrive. That, and what can’t help but follow next – the “big question,” death, and the fear of the unknown.
I know when Patrick was ill; those huge, looming questions weighed in all around us. We were being smacked up close to the unknown and the eternal. And to put it mildly – it really made us pause.
We hang on here by such a thin thread.
I could see why the ballet was named, “Mercy.” Mercy… What more can you ask when you are in that place between life and death? A circumstance you have no control over?
The dance was very deep for me, startling… And I was grateful. To be reminded of how precious my time here on earth is. How I should not squander it. That I should appreciate, and enjoy my appreciation of what I have right here, right now.
I was walking with a friend a couple days later. The streets in busy midtown were sun lit, warm, and perfect as we weaved in and out of the shoppers, heaved up with the crowds to stoplights, and sidestepped baby strollers… I felt like I was in a bubble, and felt a strange kind of bliss as I looked out at the people around me; they were laughing, talking, couples held hands, girls tittered and leaned on each other, a man smiled and seemed to smell the air… And I marveled – they look so happy. And I felt so happy for them.
One day, I’ll get to see “Mercy” in its entirety! However, for those in the Detroit area…
Complexions Ballet will be performing (“Mercy” will be on the program): this coming May 5th & 6th at Detroit Music Hall – Center for the Performing Arts.
Margaret (Scotland, UK) says
Wow Lisa – what a lovely blog! You can just feel the positivity oozing out 🙂 Plus the last part was just wonderful hearing you feel so happy!
You looked utterly amazing at the Ghost show – saw your picture on twitter. I hope you really did enjoy yourself.
Seeing “Ghost the Musical” was a complex and special experience. I’m glad I went.
Patricia Baird says
I have the DVD of “One Last Dance”, it is beautiful. Dance can say so much without words. It was great that they dedicated it to Patrick. I know of some of your feelings in the article. The feeling of not wanting to go before you want to, the thin line between life and the hereafter. We have been told there is a better place to be, but we still question it, especially when it is someone who is young and has their whole life ahead of them, like my 18 year old daughter, and your Patrick, and my young brother. We have all suffered loss, but we must believe we will see them again, where there is no pain and suffering. Everyone should live each day as though it was their last and hang on to that thin thread. And most of all try to be happy for every little thing in your life. XPatricia
Lindsay Luckadoo says
This is such a beautiful and inspiring blog! I fully believe that art, in all forms, explains our feelings more than any words could ever do. It’s amazing. I love this quote by Herman Melville: “Art is the objectification of feeling.” SO true!
Anyways, I’m so glad you had such a good time in NYC. I was SO beyond happy to hear of the enormous success of PurpleStride! One day, we WILL beat PC! I believe it!
BTW, I said a lil’ prayer for you before you went to GHOST, praying that you would be okay. But, I knew that your Buddy would be there watching over you and comforting you like always. You are such an inspiration, Lisa. And, I admire you more than you’ll ever know.
As always, much love to you! XX
PS. Your dress that you wore to GHOST was absolutely gorgeous! Just thought I’d say, If you ever decide to get rid of it… 😉
Karen Backus says
Lisa, I just “lost my whole message to you” due to an Internet problem. Suffice to say, when you said, “Nah,” don’t worry about understanding art, that it is whatever it means to me” well all I can say is a big thank you!!
I have watched One Last Dance and, at times, it is so heart wrenching that it is hard to watch. However, what a beautiful, beautiful work of art it is in the form of dance!!! You and Patrick were both SO awesome, and the whole rest of the company were great! Again, thanks for taking away my fear that I “somehow won’t get it” when watching you perform, or Patrick, or any dancer. That means a LOT! Karen.
Dear Lisa, Thank you for your great blog.I love the way you always writes with such an enormous sensitivity and precision. I´m so glad that the performance was dedicated to Patrick.I think it´s wonderful gift to you and to Patrick´s love ones.To me ,dancing is the most beautiful way how to express our deepest feelings like love and sadness.
And to me One last dance is the most beautiful dance movie in the world because it shows soul and heart of dancers such a like that one it is and i think it´s perfect.I saw the movie thousand times and i would never be tired out watching it.
Sending you my love and respect.
Aw, that’s great. Thanks!
Red Hot Chili says
Yes, dancing is magic!
I’m glad that you attend at the rehearsal, it’s a bit like dip in pulsating living.
Wonderful that they dedicate some to Patrick. What a wonderful gesture.
Desmond Richardson enriched “One last dance” so much with his performance, luv it!
How strange, i was only thinking today how you haven’t wrote a blog for a while, and then i sign on to twitter and there it is, another lovely blog from an amazing lady. Look forward to the next one!! xx
Yeah, got a little behind when I was out of town. Friends were taking a lot of my attention. Not such a bad thing! Thanks, L
Julie Clements says
Sounds as if you had a really enjoyable time seeing the rehearsal of Merci, its lovely that they dedicated a part to Patrick I bet that that meant alot to you as so many people loved him and want to keep his memory alive.
I think ballet is such an emotional dance and it can tell beautiful stories through it, it has tenderness and passion and is so breath taking to watch, I really love to watch ballet its a terriffic true art of dance.
As I enjoyed the dancing in One Last Dance it was so beautiful to watch it really does take my breath away to watch.
Well so pleased to see you enjoyed this and your night out at the proformance of Ghost love to you God bless love julie xxox
Alexandra Thomsen-Wolfe says
I don’t know you, but saw this blog post and felt the need to leave a message here. I have had the privilege of seeing “Mercy” performed live by Complexions and to this day it remains my favorite dance piece I have ever seen. I was riveted throughout the entire performance! I actually wrote a short paper in college about the piece, and I would love to share it with you if you are interested. What I took from the piece was not quite the same as your interpretation of it, but it may be interesting to hear another perspective?
It’s great that you got to see it, and have a whole different “take” on it. I always say – show ten different people the same piece of art, and you’ll get ten different interpretations.
I would looove to read what you thought, but unfortunately, I think I’d like to see the piece in its entirety first. O’well, maybe later then?
Alexandra Thomsen-Wolfe says
Definitely! I completely understand wanting to see it first. . . I wouldn’t want to influence your viewing of it in any way or set up any expectations 🙂 I know you will love the piece!
Good to hear from you again! Sounds like you had a good time!
I can imagine that the broadway version of Ghost was a special experience….I’m happy you don’t regret going but that you’re glad you went. And you looked great!!!
And I know I’ve said it before but I looooooooooooooooooove One Last Dance! I have the DVD so I can watch it over and over again!
This is such a great blog and beautiful pictures!! I’d love to see an open rehearsal like that! Mercy is a beautful name for a piece like this I think. Plus the fact that it’s dedicated to Patrick makes me wanna see this…unfortunately I don’t live near Detroit… Last september I got the opportuntiy to dance with the Dutch National Ballet which was an amazing experience. The Muziektheater celebrated their 25th anniversary and invited a few international dance companies from the Netherlands to put together a show called Yes we can dance. We rehearsed together with the National Ballet and I really enjoyed it.Their choreographers put together our finale and the finale with all the companies together!! Our piece is on youtube but the sound is a little behind most of the time and it makes us look like crappy dancers haha.
Big hug and xxxx
So many emotions for you right now : first with the musical Ghost, then this ballet “Mercy” dedicated to Patrick. It must be wonderful for you and at the same time very hard to live in sensations. We are thinking a lot of you and Patrick in these moments, and sharing your feelings. Kisses from France.