Soaking With The Vikings

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Out of the blue, I brought my ass to Reykjavik last November for the Air Waves Festival to catch up with H, but as her fiancé cat fell sick, she cancelled and I had to improvise making friends every day.

It was my third visit to Mother Iceland in a year. I knew She would give me the hug I needed, and as usual it went far beyond my expectations.

Air Waves is gigs night and day in every single building of the Capital, bumping into the same people all the time although the population of Iceland probably triples over the week of the festival. Listening to awesome music, listening to awful music. Reading in the newspapers that Björk was in the crowd of that gig where you were too. Finding yourself in hot tub with the band that you saw playing the day before and not knowing how to tell them that you really thought they suck.

After a couple of days in town, I got the call for the wild.

I woke up super early to confront the natural elements with a bunch of Vikings I didn’t know: 3 Icelandic guides, 1 Icelandic singer, 9 Norwegian dudes and 1 Swedish girl.

We drove out of town and were thrown in the middle of the snow. White as far as you can see, but the colours of Iceland are way more vivid than on any other continent. The sky is more blue and the sun is brighter. Even the snow is more white. It is overwhelming for the senses and forces you to focus on the here & now. The sense of survival gets triggered every moment because you feel that Nature can take over you when She wants.

After an extreme walk (very well equipped of course, I was dressed like Jennifer Beals in Flash Dance and did the “What a Feeling” joke all along the way), we arrived at the ideal hot river spot. Getting in your bikini on the snow is not the easiest thing but I was excited like a kid and gave it a couple of snow cartwheels.

There I was, soaking in a circle of Vikings in burning water with flowing shots of vodka and beer and a private guitar player singing for us under an insolent sun.

For the first time of my life, I was feeling dark-skinned (or kinda orange). Vikings have a skin that you can almost see through and their blondeness is something else. It was cracking me up that the guys were finding me so exotic. I really was feeling like Marilyn in the cult scene of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”, although I was the least blonde of the gang.

I walked all the way back tipsy, which made the landscape look even more breathtaking and I was focusing on the beating of my heart not to fall. Heartbeat & nature in sync. We stopped to look at weird natural phenomenons, like muddy holes in the earth with bubbles and weird gases. Typical Iceland wonders.

I worship Mother Iceland. She bombards you with violent sensations of aliveness with no mercy, and you don’t even have to hunt for it.

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Pictures taken and gracefully sent to me by one of the lovely Vikings, edited by my groundbreaking Photoshop skills

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Ultimate Stage : A Day in Toronto

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Between New York and London, I had an anecdotic 20 hour wait at Toronto airport to connect flights. How thoughtful of Air Canada! I have friends in Toronto that I never see within their natural habitat. I was therefore all excited to arrange an impromptu rendez-vous with them.

After the usual airport and transit bullshit, I found myself hanging out somewhere in Toronto with a miserable 3 hours of sleep in the system. I don’t know this city very well, because I have mostly transited through it. I shamefully ended up at Starbucks just because of the wi-fi (OK, and maple coffee specials). My US phone doesn’t like Canada and I was a pain to reach.

While I was getting hold of ∆ε and με, I slept at the Starbucks counter like a homeless (again). I was checking every now and then if the baristas were giving the impression they were about to ask me to leave the premises, but they let me power nap in peace. Bless them. There was a guy seating next to me, teaching a drawing class to a girl. More exactly, a caricature drawing class. He was randomly showing her customers of the café and chop-chop-chop she was drawing them in a few lines. I was hoping she would caricature me in my sleep but it didn’t happen (I love getting that kind of attention). I guess I was seating too close. 

At 4pm, ∆ε and με picked me up. They were unexpectedly with πρ, whom I met in Paris with the guys a few years ago. ∆ε is turning 75 in September, and he is a living legend and a key figure of modern dance in Canada. He and πρ used to dance in the Martha Graham Company in New York City so they have the hell of anecdotes about the Great Priestess of modern dance. When they tell about their life, it is a mix between a university lecture of history of dance and gossip magazines, because they have some unofficial stories about a few legends of the 20th Century. 

ε and πρ founded together with a third person the Toronto Dance Theatre in 1968, implementing the technique and influence of Martha Graham in Canada.  I met ∆ε in 2003 when I was a dance student in Québec City. He was teaching for 2 weeks and he connected me to my dance heavenly vault. I can’t think of a better image. I remember that the walls of the studio seemed to be pushed back, the ceiling felt higher and this whole worship and spiritual dimension kicked in. ∆ε can teach a whole class without barely speaking. Graham technique is like a secret language and its disciples belong to a secret society. But when he speaks, YOU LISTEN, because every single information is a goldmine, and possibly a big clue to your journey towards dance truth. 

I attended 2 summer schools with his dance company in Guelph, a little town near the big one. We’ve been friends ever since. He is a devoted francophile who often teaches me one or two things about my own country. We catch up on either side of the ocean, mine or theirs. Both sides are actually ours as we don’t necessarily feel home where we were born, and our meetings are always short, wonderful and unexpected. I had last seen them in east London less than a year ago, in ∆ε’s first love’s house which is a veritable 4-floor art gallery opposite to the house of Gilbert & George.

ε is in a cult couple with με, one of his dancers, 30 years younger than him. I love them together. They are one of these creative collaborating couples that I aim to be in some day. They don’t have time for bullshitting each other like most couples do because they’ve always channeled their energy in a creative way. 

This time, ε and πρ started talking about a performance they did at the Espace Pierre Cardin in Paris years ago. They mentioned that they were in Paris in May 68 so they witnessed the historical mess, but I am not sure if the Pierre Cardin story was that year or later on. πρ said that Pierre Cardin was a “total jerk” (sic) who loved himself way too much and was unable to pour his own drinks without a handful of domestics serving him. One day after rehearsal, Pierre Cardin gave them a tour of his office. He was like: “What do you think? I designed everything myself.” πρ was laughing to tears when he explained that his desk was designed in a handbag shape and that Pierre Cardin was obviously proud of it. Pierre Cardin later told them that he really liked their dance show because “he was ahead of himself” and was therefore entitled to understand the subtility of dance avant-garde. Then, ∆ε and πρ told a trip they did through Italy, where they stayed at a lovely hotel, thinking people were very weird until they found out it wasn’t a hotel but a sanatorium. 

Every time I catch up with my living legends, I get a handful of excellent stories which make me see art history, or life in general, under a different light and we have so much laughter. I am not missing a word when I spend time with them, it always makes me see things in a more laid-back, inspiring and reassuring light.

In the meantime, my amazing friend Ν had joined us. She is a beautiful mixed-race dancer with more hair than me, which is quite an achievement. She dances with the Toronto Dance Theatre. She actually is a natural version of a drag-queen (way more than I can ever claim to be), cause she’s tall, muscular and has exaggerated hair and outfits. I met her at the summer dance intensive with ∆ε’s company in 2009. We shared the same house and we remained friends ever since. She is positive, loud and retro. I’ve never seen her down. I love her. 

I stayed over at her French-decorated flat for the night. Her cute flatmate was there, an adorable 23 year old gay dancer from Québec City (we studied at the same school). He picked some spoons out of the freezer and put them on his eyes to decongest them. Interesting image. I love to steal gay boys their beauty tricks. He was on his way out to a famous drag queen contest. Oh no! It sounded like a call from destiny. I would have totally gone with him and been crazy till dawn if it wasn’t for a silly plane taking me back to an overseas life I don’t want a few hours later. And actually, for the first time in weeks, I was excited to go to bed. Sigh. I observed him for a moment. He was exactly what I want to be in my next life. I want to be a young beautiful gay male dancer with insolent beauty and fuck everyone without constraint. This is totally what I was programmed to be, but then the gender thing went wrong. Dammit. I envy gay boys for the sexual freedom they grant to themselves. I do that too, but as a girl, I find more obstacles on my way. It is still more difficult for girls to have unconventional and free sex lives, because many girls are their worst enemy. I find that a lot of them are scared, judge themselves or think too hard.

It was the first time in ages that I felt disappointed to be me and not something completely opposite, because New York had a soothing effect on me : I was the right thing at the right place at the right time. I stepped out of my City and in less than a day I was caught back by my companion fantasies of who else I want to be.

I stayed in with Ν and we watched ‘Flash Dance’ eating blueberry pie, which was wonderful too. How could I spend so long without watching Flash Dance? I vow to have a refresher every year. 

At 5am, a cab picked me up to my final destination. I was so dead from 7 weeks of intense life embracing that I fell asleep on the plane instantly and didn’t even feel the take off.

Thus finished my Spring 2014 North American Tour.

As soon as I got in London, a Brooklyn sign hit my eye on the underground.