by Emily Johnson
Re: Windfarm Series #2, part 3, Rogue Buddha Gallery
performed by Sarah Baumert
I watched Sarah Baumert perform One for Resolve/Sarah at the Rogue Buddha on 4.24.07. I also choreographed it. I also made cabbage rolls for the audience the night before the show with Sarah, at her apartment.
I remember sitting in bed with mono with my computer on my lap, emailing back and forth with Sarah about this solo, about windmills, and about a broken windmill at her grandmother's farm, specifically. Sarah told me a heartbreaking story about life, love, work, commitment, natural forces, adversity, fields, and death. Then Sarah called her grandma. Sarah's grandma told Sarah a heartbreaking story about life, love, work, commitment, natural forces, adversity, fields, and death. We recorded this story. We decided we wanted to fix the windmill. We asked if we could come to Nebraska, to the farm. Not just Sarah and I, but Sarah and I and Susan, Natasha, Andrea, Melissa, and Jessica. We planned to dance. To listen to Sarah's grandma's stories. We planned to cook good meals. We planned to perform for her family. We planned on fixing the windmill.
In Nebraska, Sarah showed us the farm and we danced all over that farm. There is a clearing just behind the house and when I saw it I wrote: The last time I was here, I saw two people - clearing brush, stacking wood, pulling weeds. Making piles and wearing flannel shirts, they worked quietly. Stopping, hands on hips and looking toward the road when a car drives by, they lift just one hand in a wave. Or, taking the same stance only looking up, the one hand now shielding their eyes, they take audible and deep breaths in whenever a hawk flies overhead. I stand, just a bit outside the clearing. My hands are on my hips. My feet are a little wet because it rained all morning. The wood is still stacked, but the weeds have made their way back. A truck drives down the road, but there's no sense in waving, I've no idea who it is. There's only so much work you can do in a lifetime.
I was thinking of life, love, work, commitment, natural forces, adversity, fields, and death.
There is a photograph inside of the house on the farm that also makes me think of life, love, work, commitment, natural forces, adversity, fields, and death. Sarah told me her grandfather had once cupped a near-death bird in his hands, massaging and rubbing the bird until it came back to life. When I saw the photograph I cried.
Sarah's grandma doesn't farm anymore, but she lives and works like a farmer. She is up at dawn, working, very often outside. There is a truck on the farm. When we were there the trucks' bed was filled with large branches and tree limbs that had fallen in a recent storm. A few years ago I gave Sarah a truck for her birthday. A miniature one, of course. I can't remember if it was white or yellow, but at the time it made me think of this truck on her grandma's farm she kept telling me about. This is what I wrote after Sarah danced in the truck: Sarah slides into the truck. The door, when it opens, falls an inch off its hinge, jarring her hand on the handle. She's barefoot and her left hand holds the wheel (it's cold). Her right hand reaches to turn on the radio and she starts to sing. She always sings when she drives these dirt roads. Moving into reverse, her grandma's truck is loud, but it's a sound Sarah likes. It rattles a little and vibrates and the gravel, once she's made it out the driveway and onto the dirt road, increases the hum, increases the vibration until it adds something to the sound of her voice...as the truck makes it way to the hill, just past the neighboring farm and line of trees, Sarah's voice and the truck ring; they drown out the radio - drown out any other noise, and for a while, it's just Sarah and the truck and the road. All three simultaneously going nowhere in particular.
When Sarah performed this solo for her family she used a fischer-price car ramp that her and her cousins had always played with while at the farm. And she wore a cowboy hat.
When Sarah performed this solo at the Rogue Buddha she wore some of her old, sequined costumes from the studio dance days. And she walked on stilts.
Once, Randy Kramer tried to show Jessica Cressey and I how to do a break-dance move that I am sure has a name, but I don't know it. It's a spin on the back, landing still and solid with your head resting on one hand. It's difficult to do (though not for a seasoned break dancer, I'm sure), especially difficult to do without hurting the skin or vertebrae on your back. Sarah does a lot of them in this solo and, as a sign of her frustration with not getting it right and the difficulty of the move and as a sign of adversity and death, she says, and then screams "no!" as she does it.
Sarah "plucks cabbage" in this dance with as much ferociousness and tenderness as a seasoned gardener. She conjures images from the farm. She stands with her arms over her head like she were holding branches, she dips her fingers into a well... and these are not on the farm anymore....they are in her mind and they are transferred to us as images of Sarah dancing in the Rogue Buddha. But as she cups her hands, as she repeats and varies a phrase because she is striving to control her momentum as she is also striving to angle the phrase in a new direction, as she crab walks, as she puts on a sequined outfit behind a see-through piece of burlap, as she walks on stilts in the dark, and plays with a toy car I think of Sarah now and I think of Sarah as a child and I think of Sarah old and this makes me think of all of us and all of our lifetimes.
Sarah told me she had never danced a solo before. A soloist role, yes, but an entire solo, no. I couldn't believe it. Sarah dances solo roles well. She does a solo in another of my dances and though I've seen it about 1,000 times, she amazes me each time. The regular words like: commitment, command, vulnerability.... apply, but with Sarah, those words have added meaning. I don't know why. Is it because she surprises us? Sarah was embedded in this dance, of course. It came from her real life stories and my fantasies. She danced this solo with a familiarity. That's what I have to call it. She was familiar with the story and it gave her room to expound upon what she is good at, and I think it also gave her confidence. The confidence led her to play within the structure, and the ease with which she traveled in a nonlinear frame of time (one moment 5yrs old, another 24, another 65...) pulled me out of my linear sense. It made me want to move through worlds like Sarah was doing.
Life, love, work, commitment, natural forces, adversity, fields, and death. That's a lot to dance about, but it's what we live, right?
Sarah and I made a dance out of stories and then we made cabbage rolls out of cabbage, mushrooms, sauce, and spices. I got to watch Sarah take the dance and the cabbage rolls and be a hostess and be a star. The real and the imagined and the real made into the imagined and the imagined made real again.
We didn't fix the windmill when we went to Nebraska. It had lain in the field for almost 20 years, but as we prepared and embarked on our trip to the farm, Sarah's family was pouring concrete, reattaching parts...and the windmill was fixed by the time we got there.