In my country, religious processions are a real art form. They require concentration, practice, and a great deal of determination. And they are fun! Once the statue of the saint is raised onto the shoulders of the followers, the routine starts: a few steps forward, a couple of steps back, until the saint reaches the church.
At the moment, we are like the participants in a procession: moving a few steps forward, some back, until opening night.
The boat is up, dancers included!
During our last visit to Panama in March, our objective was to hang three hundred seventy four pounds of pure steel in mid-air. The task was not easy. But with the help of Brett Copes and his super power of knowing how to lift people and objects off the ground, our dreams came true.
The excitement of having the boat in place and ready to go up was beyond our expectations. Selfies in the boat, next to the boat, inside the boat… we couldn’t help it!
Then the challenge began, with one of most important tenets in dance: mind over matter. If the mind understands the movement, then the body will follow; it just requires practice. Only by understanding the mechanisms of the rigging system, and how the bodies of the dancers should move, we were able to raise that boat.
Education comes first. We spent one full weekend learning about rigging, pulley systems and knots. I want to mention that my sister did a great job translating for Brett. Then, after the rigging system was in place, Brett took 30 minutes to explain exactly how the dancers should move their arms, in order to hoist the boat smoothly, safely, and in stability.
Our first time raising the boat wasn’t glorious. The boat was tipping because our coordination was out of alignment; we weren’t pulling precisely. Then Brett patiently explained one more time — many more times! — the importance of moving our arms together. If the dancers don’t work together, the boat will be tipping for ever.
Thank God, everybody got it. I don’t know how many times we practiced pulling up, but finally, after a lot of tweaking, changing the position of the dancers, and adjusting the pulley system from 2:1 to 3:1, we were able not only to raise the boat, but also to dance on it and create crazy movement.
The adventure isn’t finished yet; we’ve only just started on our procession. On 25th July, the choreography should be ready, and we will move the boat out of Xielo and into the Auditorium at the Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá. That will be a real challenge because the performance space requires a completely different structure and set-up from the studio.
At the moment my super sister, whose super powers are organization and determination, is going back and forth making sure we buy the right equipment at the best price possible. She even got an insanely good discount on renting the trusses that will support the boat.
Three steps forward and one step back ! We are getting closer to telling the amazing story of Balboa’s encounter with the Pacific Ocean, and the fascinating result of the connection between these cultures. In my next post, I’ll be talking about one of the building blocks of this and indeed every aerial dance performance: DROPS!