For me, the spotlight of Laurie Anderson’s current solo work The Art of Falling, which she delivered to Dublin’s National Concert Hall in April, accompanied by cellist Rubin Kodheli, was when she danced with the ghost of her deceased husband, Lou Reed.
The diminutive Anderson got here centre-stage to clarify to a packed auditorium that Reed, aside from being a musician, singer, songwriter and poet, had additionally been a tai chi grasp. Preparing herself to reveal a sequence of stances, the septuagenarian performer advised us (and I’m paraphrasing right here) that the self-discipline – which has been central to Chinese martial arts tradition for hundreds of years – is practised each as self-defence coaching and for its well being advantages.
At one stage, she requested the viewers to shut their eyes whereas she introduced us inwards to a central level of consciousness
To turn out to be a grasp of this sleek, highly effective mixture of dance and fight, the tai chi pupil should be taught to focus and calm the thoughts with the intention to launch stress, and, crucially, practice the physique to yield.
I watched Anderson, in her runners and dishevelled trousers, her white shirt and boxy black jacket, progress by a sequence of strikes, whereas behind her a display flashed with their names: Part the Wild Horse’s Mane, Grasp the Peacock’s Tail, Cloud Hands.
As she proceeded, alone within the pinkish gentle, she managed to impart a way that the gestures, and their repetition, might indirectly evoke the person with whom, she mentioned, she had shared a continuing dialog. Her dance, then, was not with out a companion; the routine, an echo of intimacy, appeared virtually to turn out to be a physicalisation of his reminiscence.
“He died on Sunday morning, looking at the trees and doing the famous 21 form of tai chi with just his musician hands moving through the air,” she mentioned after his demise in 2013.
The Art of Falling, Anderson’s response to a number of the advanced questions thrown out by our shifting modern world, was billed as a mixture of tales about falling in love, falling asleep and falling in line. It can’t have been straightforward to distil her efficiency, constructed on intuition and improvisation, into such a neat soundbite.
At one stage, she requested the viewers to shut their eyes whereas she introduced us inwards to a central level of consciousness, a spot of consciousness and perhaps even acceptance.
I favored her presence and there was part of me that needed to do as she urged, to permit her voice carry me towards that inner vacation spot. I struggled although: fearing congregations, I let my lifelong intuition to not do what I’m advised win, and as a substitute glanced on the stranger beside me. I noticed his eyes shut and the musculature of his face loosen up, whereas his physique briefly appeared to settle into another sort of ingredient. I virtually envied him.
My pal had been sitting just a few rows away, as we’d not managed to get seats facet by facet. Afterwards, she and I walked alongside the facet of St Stephen’s Green, the place younger ladies in nude excessive heels spoke frantically into their mobiles and well-toned boys in peacock-blue fits strutted in direction of Grafton Street, elbows akimbo. Back in the true world, if that’s what it was, I felt unhappy to have missed my alternative to yield to Anderson’s artwork.
“I submitted entirely,” mentioned my pal, who had certainly left the live performance corridor in a state that we used to name grace.
“You resist the unfamiliar,” she added. “But, for me, everything is unfamiliar now and I feel everything with intensity.”
Earlier, as we walked within the shiny spring night to the venue, she advised me that within the months since her husband’s demise, in April of final 12 months, she has walked a whole lot and a whole lot and a whole lot of kilometres, typically in a gaggle, typically alone, typically in Ireland close to her rural residence, typically overseas by dry terrain.
“I’m learning to carry my grief ,” she mentioned.
For all the massive distance she has lined on foot, and regardless of the meditative nature of these journeys, by sandstorms and rainstorms, she has, she mentioned, moved simply inches in direction of the centre of the mattress she used to share with him.
We parted close to Camden Street. I walked on alone, the yellowy blue sky nonetheless lighting up town.
I puzzled if the achievement of Anderson, who was the primary official artist in residence on the US house company Nasa, may be in making us really feel that we aren’t solely certain to the right here and now, that there are different dimensions to discover, different methods of experiencing and understanding.
I feel I simply have to go there with my eyes nonetheless open.