Not in the traditional sense. I do manipulate objects, but not balls and clubs. I spin a little poi, or rather I spin
MEGA poi, a little. Best when performed to music, and also very effective for traffic flagging at car lots and the like.
The most dramatic example of object manipulation that I practice is what I call Sky Painting or Sky Dancing.
I manipulate – what an inadequate term – while on stilts, equipped with a 20 foot long “fishing pole” to which is
attached a stroboscopic ribbon up to 60 feet long.
Beset, nay, near drunk with music, I dance with my pole and ribbon. This is an interactive performance, mind you. The ribbon caresses the sky, and my audience: a cheek here, a shoulder there, a small hand. With little or no
encouragement, children – and adults- reach – to reach, grasp and release the flowing colors.
The breeze is my friend, enabling spirals, figure eights, circles and more. The wind teases me as I dance over the
yielding ground. Near and far, left to right, forward to caress my , yes my audience. For they are mine. The fourth
wall? What wall? Backwards, dancing to prepare for my next attack, my dance, dare I say, love, covers the stage. One
performer covering a circus tent of volume, air and space, emotion and imagination. The colors flow, blend, separate,
rejoin as the speed and patters change. My audience, seated, leans in to experience all the better. Faces up
turned, some in joy, others in dumbfounded amazement. I am exhausted. The band continues, I continue, the kids are
eternal in their quest for the ribbon. I am determined to conduct the music to its finish.
Finally, the music is concluded. Drenched with sweat, my hair, hat, shirt, waist, soaked, saturated, I turn to face
the crowd. Silence, more silence – I bow, the applause begins. The band leader takes the mic, and I hear: “well,
we can’t compete with that”.
I am shocked. Competition ? No, not that. But I understand. You take a risk when you do something that is
outside of your audience’s vocabulary. “he was a good juggler” is how you compliment a juggler. But how do you
compliment the nearly indescribable?
Later I hear “hypnotic”, “mesmerizing”. Soon, soon please, I hope to hear “spiritual”.
Sky Dancing Explanation
This Sky Dancing essay describes two 2002 performances at the Lone Tree, Colorado concert in the park program. Marilyn told me that folks talked for weeks about my “conducting” the CSO in their performance of the Blue Danube.
It took about two years of on again, off again practice to develop enough muscle memory to make me happy with it. Not every performance is a peak performance of course, but those two that I write of, they were out standing. It was the jazz band, not the CSO leader, that made the “compete” comment.
Sufficient space, and condition and direction of the wind is critical. I also prefer a seated audience, gives me more
volume to move the ribbon in. Firm, level, ground is preferred to the rain soaked sod that was omni present at
the CSO performance.
And of course a degree of physical conditioning is helpful! The 2002 Cherry Creek Arts festival performance came at the end of a very long and active day. The heat was considerable, and my “dance floor” exceeded the width of the
entire stage: 60 feet or so. The first challenge was finding the rhythm in the Latin Jazz composition. And then
interpreting that music in a very physical way, across the entire width of the stage.
The choice of music is a factor as well. Some stuff I can’t do a thing with. I’m pretty much moving in half time with my
feet and in full time with the ribbon . . . at least I think that is what happening! I prefer a piece I am familiar with,
that way I can anticipate a little better. What usually happens, I show up and then find out what the music is. Then
I either do it or not, no practice, just cold. Makes for an interesting challenge.
I wonder if Sky Dancing would fit in a circle (busking) act some how, but haven’t the faintest clue how to string all my
bits and pieces into a show. Some day I hope to figure it out.