Sunday, February 11, 2007

Does the desert have no drains? Why would it?

Last week Dubai was hit by the most devastating of events for a desert city equipped with an exceedingly poor drainage system: a rainstorm. It's like when Californians, unacustomed to snow, shut down an entire urban area at the first fallen flake.

We could have laughed, were it not for Quidam's location in the slight valley of a parking lot outside Ibn Battuta Mall. Within minutes of the show's beginning, we were flash-flooded. Costumes and props were soaked, electrical equipment damaged, and getting onstage involved fording a small river. All this while an eager audience waited patiently in their seats. Water began collecting in pools under the stage and beneath their shoes. While I am an aerialist and could conceivably perform above the rising tide, the show was deemed impossible to put on, drowned out of commission for the night.

Fortunately, the audience seemed gracious and obliging as we sent a few musicians and characters out to greet them and apologize for the cancellation, promising a drier show the next day. Backstage, we celebrated the night off (see our impromptu pyramid-building), though I'm sure the sponsors and producers were not equally elated.

As our technicians cursed the lack of drains or pumps (in a place that's never needed them before), I could just picture Al Gore shaking his head...

Friday, February 2, 2007

Yogini Contrologist

It's already a quarter to one, and if I intend to rise earlier enough to get in my blissful morning beach-walk, I had better make this a quickie of a blog post. Speaking of that beach walk, my tranquil 40-minute sand ramble, which I manage to fit in every other day or so, has become a reason to wake. Our small strip of shore is framed on each side by large piles of rocks intended to resemble natural geological features, but after climbing a few steps, I found myself staring a bulldozer in the jaws. What did I expect, to find a mossy grove in the middle of Dubai?

I find myself now with a schedule rivaling the one I scrambled to maintain at Cornell... Okay, nowhere near that, but I'm verging on busy. After finishing a month-long teacher training course at the Kripalu Center this past November, Cirque has hired me to instruct my co-workers in the art and science of Yoga. (If you'd like to read more about my experience at Kripalu, there's an interview at their website - just click on my face).
Since I started on tour, I've sought out yoga instructors in each city and incorporated the practice into my daily preparation for the show. I guess I hadn't realized how much I've learned and absorbed from yoga until I was faced with the task of introducing it to people who just think I'm that weird girl who's mistaken her legs for pretzels. Now I'm charged with lesson planning, hauling mats, scheduling, answering questions... it's a new role. I've begun to teach a number of group classes - everyone from the musicians to the little Chinese girls, the technicians to the acrobats.
While my confidence has risen and I've grown more at ease with myself as an instructor, I am constantly surprised by my students. These are my friends who I work with day in and day out, who I eat with and travel with and party with, yet I realize I know very little about them. Teaching yoga shows me where their vulnerabilities and strengths are as I watch them try to relax, try to focus on their breathing and tune into themselves.

And then there is Pilates, or "Philates" as we've dubbed it after my friend, roommate, and Pilates guru, Philippa. A group of eight of us here at Cirque have taken on an in-depth study of the exercise system, which emphasizes building a strong core of muscles to support the health of the musculoskeletal body. Joseph Pilates himself first called his system "Contrology", though to me this sounds a bit militaristic for today's fitness seeker. I recall the studio I attended in Cincinnati whose sole advertisement was a large sign that said "Pilates: Look Better Naked." For all of you Sex and the City fans, you may also remember Samantha's one word explanation for her hotness: "Pilates." Now while I won't make any promises, it's a deceptively difficult set of exercises... making even the strongest strongman cry for mercy after only a few repetitions of the complex movements and articulations.

So if you'd like to find your six-pack (abs) or maybe discover your inner yogic peace, let me know!