Air Noir

Someday soon, I promise, I’m going to write about something different – maybe about current writing projects, or how it’s almost time to collect okra seeds for next year’s harvest, or what life is like with a new dog (yes, we have a new dog, and it’s the first time I’ve EVER lived with a dog, and I will definitely have to write about that soon). But we’re about two weeks away from the next rep show – the biannual, professional show Canopy Studio puts on – and that’s pretty much dominating my mind right now. I’ve been learning some of the most challenging sequences I’ve ever tried in a group piece, and right now my duet partner Allison and I are in that salty-sweet spot of just about having all of our choreography together, a place (at least for me) consisting equally of stress and exhilaration. It’s nice having a partner. You can take turns being the cheerleader while the other person says, “How are we going to do this?” until, at last, you can both look at each other with complete relief and say, “Hey, we have a piece!”

So more trapeze. Sort of. Maybe more about the people with whom I trapeze, actually.

“The Set Up” (#thesetup2015 on Instagram!) is a twisty-turny film noir-inspired story. Our fearless leader Melissa has an encyclopedic knowledge of this era of film history, and she and Julie collaborated on an original script that has all the things you’d want to see in a glorious B&W movie of seedy underbellies – except up in the air, on trapeze and lyra and straps and fabrics and more. We have corrupt city officials, mobsters, grifters, femme fatales, double agents, even a feisty team of elementary school-aged gangsters! (Our advanced boys’ class. They are adorable.) The story itself follows a briefcase of dirty money through a bonkers story of murder (or is it?) and revenge (or is it?) and…you get the point. Lots of grit but also lots of fun.

Including, in no particular order:

• Late night and early morning rehearsals. You could walk into the studio at 9 pm on a weekday or 7 am on a weekend and know you’d see other folks there working. We all make this work around other jobs! We survive thanks to Ann and Mel’s coffee runs and Debbie’s magnificent homemade snacks.

• New callouses, even after 15 years. Pinkie fingers and in between toes – I didn’t see those coming, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. And new rope burns are par for the course, especially when Allison and I somehow managed to make the core of our duet be climbing ropes, up and down, over and over.  A lot. Observe.

• A company’s worth of slinky black costumes for our opening number, made with alarming efficiency and professionalism by  Rabun. I think she might be a magician.


(No sleeves? “Welcome to the gun show,” says Rabun.)

• Ann’s baby Luna quietly rocking in her bouncy seat, looking up at her mama becoming part of a human mobile on a swinging metal cube.

(That’s Ann’s turquoise butt. Holding the weight of 2 other people while in a plange. No big deal.)

• Rehearsing mid-piece late Sunday night as the lights go out, and knowing it’s OK— it’s just Hilary in the light booth and Melissa driving the lift around the stage, changing out lights, steering around us (and the acro balancing act practicing on the floor).

• Long conversations about whether to fling ourselves backwards in a terrifying manner on the dun dun dun DUN or the dun dun DUN dun, dissecting those music cues. (I think I have them. I still have two weeks, right?)

• Picking my jaw up from the floor after taking serendipitous moments to observe those working around me. And thinking, for the millionth time, how am I so lucky to be here? (Watch these videos and see what I mean.)

(My heart was hammering the first time I learned that move above!)

At Canopy, we all do trapeze for a multitude of reasons— promoting physical and mental health; enjoying a community of beloved friends; helping kids and adults be strong and healthy; showing the power of movement and art for people with disabilities; and of course the pure joy of it all. It’s unadulterated play, something probably undervalued in society at large. But we love it. It’s fun. Play for play’s sake.

But there’s another reason that I’ve heard spoken out loud a lot lately, often by Melissa, but also adopted by all of us as we get through this last burst of rehearsals:

“Let’s make good art.”

Yes, let’s.

You can get tickets here.



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