In the second half of 2012 I began working on one-legged pieces on the platform, a.k.a. The Lazy Susann. It crossed my mind there was all sorts of fun to be had with one foot in the ski boot and one foot free. Most of the music I used had quite an edge to it, and the characters I created were certainly on the darker side of the spectrum. Like Satan, for example. I was busy depicting the king of darkness in a Master of Ceremonies Joel Grey kind of way set to “Swamp,” when my child went AWOL on drugs. I wonder how much my subconscious played in this choreography, expressing physically what my conscious mind failed to see.
I watched as my daughter, then 15, went through withdrawals in a teen psych ward. It was crushing. It was also fascinating when I was able to pretend I wasn’t her mother. As part of her recovery we sent her to a wilderness program in Arizona. She spent almost two months with other girls in “the bush,” back packing, sleeping under the stars with the coyotes, and digging “cats” for toilets, far far away from texting, technology and boys.
I had never been away from Madison for more than 10 days, but it is a common diagnostic tool to remove troubled youths from their usual surroundings and severely restrict contact with family and friends. After weeks of not seeing my child, “Baby Mine” from Dumbo began playing constantly on the radio station that lives in my head. I felt the swaying of the mother elephant’s trunk as she cradled Dumbo, and my one-legged Satan promptly morphed into a grieving pachyderm. Weird segue to be sure, but I no longer question these leaps.
Like “Fisherman’s Lore,” “Madie Mine” came to me in less than a day, away from the platform, almost solely constructed in my head and near completion by the time I stepped onto the Lazy Susann to take ‘er for a test run. The following day I staged the piece with Madison’s stuffed animals. I wore her P.J’s and ran it three times, filming each take. I have not done it since, and have never performed it.
A few weeks later I got to see Madi for the first time since she was whisked away, a tearful reunion with a child I almost didn’t recognize. We only had one hour together before she resumed her dirt therapy and I returned to Seattle. In that hour she mentioned that she, along with the other girls, often sang “Baby Mine” in the evening. It’s not surprising we both pulled this classic, broken hearted lullaby as a way to deal with our sorrow.
A month later, Madison was in a new location and I sent a copy of “Madie Mine” for her to see. She let me know I spelled her name wrong (Madi). Her therapist let me know she cried.
“Madie Mine” is the first in a suite of children’s pieces choreographed for the Lazy Susann. I have another 3 on the drafting table, and in 2016 I am hoping to finish “The Pink Panther”, “My Own Home”, and “The Monkey Dance” which is set as a duet, featuring tap dance for three feet.
As for Satan, I never resumed work on that piece. He lies dormant for another day.
Music: Baby Mine from Dumbo, Betty Noyes, vocals
Choreography and performance: Theresa Elliott