It’s the beginning of the third week of rehearsals for the Montreal production of If We Were Birds. We are now knee deep in refining and sculpting the rough blocking and physical vocabulary that we’ve built. The language has been crafted, but it’s clumsy and sticks to the roof of our mouths, and we still stumble over easy words.
Our movement coach, Leslie Baker, has been working with the chorus since the end of August to discover how to become birds. They’ve been working on how to bring bird movements into their individual bodies, basing each chorus member on a specific bird, as well as investigating how birds move as a group. Stefanie Buxton, who plays The Pregnant One found this video of two girls on a canoe trip who come across a flock of starlings, known as a murmation.
The transformation into birds can be read as a metaphor for the way trauma and sexual violence affects the body. We watch Meytal Blanaru’s Aurora, a dance piece based on the physical vocabulary of a child who “had spent the first 13 years of her life strapped to a potty chair, locked isolated in a room by abusive parents. After her discovery in 1970 she continued to be passed on between different authorities, scientists and social workers. Her development of an alternate human physicality was a gripping matter, raised in violence and neglect”.
This is now part of our physical language of a body that has been so traumatized that is has been transformed into a bird.
After our first run on Sunday, when the shock of having made it to the end had lifted, we listened to what Micheline had to say: This isn’t a world that takes any prisoners, it goes to the dark places that we don’t always live in, can’t always live in. This is a big, bold play, Miche reminds us, and our choices need to be big and bold to match it.
And so we keep practicing, moving our mouths, tongues, and limbs in different ways. It isn’t easy to learn a new language but, as an Anglophone learning to speak French, I’ve found the most important thing is to not be scared of making mistakes.
– Natasha Greenblatt, Assistant Director, If We Were Birds