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  • Daniel W. McCusker (bio)

An invitation to make a walk of compassion is an opportunity to reflect.

I like things that exist.

I like to think that the dances I make are local and that their references are global.

I like the idea that what I make is provisional and can be used to make something else, very different.

I like the idea that I am in dialogue with the past.

Dancing, making dances, teaching, learning, are all part of the same activity. That activity is new every day even when it is what I have done for nearly fifty years. It is part of a daily conversation.

I start with an old idea: anything is dance—walking, sitting, going to the floor, pointing, changing direction, changing speed, changing rhythm, changing effort, stillness. I go with the idea that there are no rules for making dances; there are only dances, more or less satisfying. I try to notice what satisfies me.

I start with something. Something seen, read, felt, tasted, smelled, heard. Then I change it, and change it again. I try to see what is in front of me. Incidents, gestures, movement, shapes, situations, are happening right in from me. I try to notice.

Starting with something known is not an original idea. It is an idea that a date, places, reveal me.

I like to arrange things. I make sequences and arrange them. What is isolated, what overlaps, what is near, what is far away? What does it feel like? What logic does it follow? What drives it? How do I remember? How much do I accept that forgetting is part of the process? [End Page 27]

The light in the room where I work, the pattern of light on the floor, the emotional temperature, the season, the people with whom I am working, their contrasts and similarities, have impact on arrangement.

Do I start at the beginning and move forward in chronological order? Do I add on in front of what I did first? Do I sequence by chance? What thread do I follow? Do I visit all the unloved spaces in the room? Do I start with a place and let what happens uncover where things go next? What goes next?

Do I use the light and shadows in the room; the memory of a particular landscape; an object; a painting; as starting points? Do I start with one thing, pull the thread, unravel the skein, and follow the unraveling? All of this, and?

I notice that my dances are about what happened while I was working. I notice that my focus on the day-to-day is a choice. I notice that this choice is not neutral. I notice that it is a kind of luxury that is not afforded to everyone.

Maybe the dances that grow from these choices look more like the everyday world. Maybe the dances that grow from these choices look like an ideal world. Maybe they are interesting. Maybe they aren’t.

I go to the cemetery to walk. I bring my binoculars. It is April. I am lucky. I see phoebes, ruby-crowned kinglets, red-winged blackbirds, yellow-rump warblers and palm warblers. The delicious names roll around in my mind. Today, I see one hermit thrush. I see the birds that come with winter: juncos, white-throated sparrows, chickadees. I see the birds I don’t identify or consciously note. On the edges of the pond is most of the activity.

I walk along with John. We thread our way among the paths, plantings, and tombstones. I try to focus on what I see. Bringing the binoculars to my eyes and turning the dial I try to note colors and patterns. I try to notice behaviors: tail-bobbing, ground feeding. I try to avoid easy metaphors about all this new life in a place for the dead.

In the midst of life is death. Or is it the other way ’round? I don’t know. I never remember. More of us are dead than are alive anyway. Where do the dead go? Are they part of us? For how long? As long as we remember? As...


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pp. 27-30
Launched on MUSE
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