“Lily’s Dance at The Spinoff”
Updated: Jul 24, 2022
A few years ago, I took pole dancing classes. The ethereal Amanda Wing at The Pole Garage was my instructor, and she was terrific—she taught me to fly. But Jo Ngan, taught me to climb a pole--not an easy task that I, however, achieved pretty fast, and fairly gracefully. It's about resilience combined with grace, endurance, and a perfect combination of aerobic and anaerobic exercises highly recommended to everyone. Summer Project. New Year Project. New Life Project--love thyself.
Then, I needed my iron will to grasp grace as I would learned to rise. I wanted to climb obstacles and twirl, dance, celebrate that I've lived over half a century, embrace my aging body--I was finally appreciating this vessel carrying me through this experience in this time and place, and I wanted to honor it. Yo quería trepar mi propio cuerpo. Yo quería abrazar mi propio cuerpo. Amarlo. Amarme. Cuidarme.
It was a mix of me nearing my fifties, feeling the gravity (and the gravitas) of over two decades of studies, and teaching, and writing that all that is me, "I'm large, I contain multitudes," wanted to feel lightness and light rushing through me.
So many books over my head had kept my spine aligned and my walk tall and straight but I had been missing the light while holding the torch. Now, I wanted to learn to fly and feel the opposite of gravity: levity. I wanted to feel (the) light inside me.
I've always dreamt about writing a scene as an ekphrasis of music and dance. But, how do I translate music and corporeal expression into visual words? I wondered.
Undertaking such a task entailed that I summoned up forces. It had to be a combined task that called upon many of my identities: the poet, the writer, the wife of a musician, the woman who refuses to relinquish sensuality at the sight of gray hair and wrinkles around her eyes...
In surety, I knew I needed to conjure up creative cross-pollinations between words, music, dance, and song. So, there, Yours Truly for words, Federico Ramos for music, Jo Ngan for dance, and Magaluna for mastering and teaching me video editing as she crafts her own songwriting. Synergy!
I dreamt the whole scene. Literally.
I often wear my characters' clothes--I borrow them from them. I saw myself wearing my protagonist's baby blue three pieces suit. I fixed Liam's blue tie with forget-me-not cerulean and pink flowers in front of a mirror in a hotel, and i think that at one point the hotel was in Saint Thomas, Virgin Island, I am not sure why. Sometimes, dreams are dreams. I saw me in disguise as a method actor, entering a club in Seattle after a rainy night where Liam and Brook had understood too that life is about spinning and twirling around the sun as gracefully as possible, mindfully.
I saw them having breakfast at a quaint mansion in the middle of a world that vanished quickly at the sight of love, in the sighing of love.
Immanence. Impermanence. Transcendence.
I asked Federico to help me narrate the music. He told me about the sections in the musical chart of a tune played by Jeff Beck's 'Cause We Ended as Lovers, that I had danced for him in the fascination stage in the inception of our love affair. Federico worked hard to find a means to express music in aural, visual, and kinesthetic words so that I could translate them into plain English words. He clapped and tapped his foot, but I could only see the light spanning the sea at night.
I heard wolves howling to the moon at Mountain Rainier, rain falling outside a club, and I heard Earth spinning around the sun very fast. He helped me interpret what the instruments were doing, how the musicians in a band cued each other, or how the instruments repeated note sequences and such.
Federico Ramos taught me to envision music and movement so that I could translate them into palabras.
So, while my husband was describing tempo and identifying notes and the sounds they produced, I closed my eyes and visualized music with colors and shapes synesthetically:
I could feel the air on my cheek, the sound of the rain in Seattle falling on the grayish streets. I could foresee the scenes after the performance at The Spinoff in a quaint hotel near Capitol Hill. And all I saw was truth and beauty. I heard love as a mantra flowing from within.
I've watched a lot of videos performed by Jo Ngan. I confess that I drool over the eroticism and ethereality of her corporeal expression and fluid movement. She is gorgeous and incredibly agile, and her body aesthetics yield a new way to understand beauty. So I crafted metaphors for each of her steps and designed a routine, jumping beyond the physicality of place and being to experiencing air. And thus, I imagined Lily, the dancer in chapter 14, "May the Soft Rain Fall Upon You," tallying Jo's moves, emulating her aesthetics of pole dancing; And I attempted to craft her sensual and ethereal movements while owning the air, while my words defied gravity.
I typed the whole scene out of my tenacity of waking up at dawn, dancing at the beach, and then pouring words that I had no idea were fetching meaning, clinging to the skylight of my page.
May you dance, tallying the howls of your own guitar. May you take a fearless flight and remain suspended in ether. Should you free fall, darling, may you land on your feet, on high ground, breathing purifying O2 in sheer gratitude for the mantra of love.
Excerpt from a relentless work in progress
– Cecilia Martinez-Gil’s novel manuscript –
Sunshower [Lluvia con Sol] ©
The background music stopped; the lights of the club dimmed. On the stage, a spotlight shed a funnel of rainbow lights, a cone covering exactly its circumference and no more beyond. A guitar wailing like the call of a wolf, a cry of the wild, evocative of the verses that would follow, started. It was Jeff Beck’s “‘Cause We Ended as Lovers” intro in four long howls, like a call, a siren, a sound as though a spotlight spanning across an ocean back and forth, in a semi-circle of moving sound. The howls were accompanied by an electric piano ad libitum and orchestral cymbals from the drums. Ad libitum sounds and the howling made way to a figure sauntering toward the stage, tallying the howling step by step. It was Lily. She wore a boyfriend’s oversized lumberjack shirt, a black cotton bra and pink panty, however, an everyday underwear. She wore pink stilettos with ten inches high platforms.
Her steps towards the stage were sensual, following the cry of mating, the howling of Beck’s guitar. The strumming of strings and keys poured onto the chamber that was the packed club, intermittently, which chords also gave rhythm to the movements of her hand gliding from her neck up, under her long and wavy brown hair arraying it, following a sweeping sound on the drumskin and a Chinese gong that showered her hair on her skin, synchronously.
The drumstick hit the cymbal foreshadowing the arrival of the figure onto the stage, that happened exactly when the bass string snored, at 0:30, sliding down to the root of the chord—its musical note was as curved as her silhouette. The full band entered. Lily’s body undulated as a vertical wave, lowering her shirt to reveal her shoulder, lifting it just a bit, revealing her butt, roundness up and down in body and sound. Her arm stretched and gripped the pole at the beat.
The A section, first verse, at 0:46, started with the guitar leading the melody and each instrument, (the piano, the bass, the drums), accompanying, skating together as though on a river—a wave of sounds unraveling. The piano played the chord changes, the harmonies; the bass grooved with the roots, the drums kept the time. Lily spun around the pole and stopped at 360 degrees; she tilted her head backward, turned it back, and with a sultry mien, she looked at Liam, who sprang on the chair and held the back of it to hold himself steadily.
More spins and full body undulations succeeded. Lily’s legs opened in a perfect A shape, then she lifted them up switching to a V shape, moving her feet in, curled—and her entire legs showed muscled, taut, tight, as they pressed against gravity.
The B section repeated at 1:00. Lily twirled to face the pole. She loosened the shirt on her right arm, which fell to her left, languidly, rolling down her left arm, and showing her butt divided by the orange thong, which displayed two perfect orange-like-shaped buttocks, and her honey-tanned skin. She twirled on the pole, dexterously.
At 1:20 the B section howled but with a new stronger groove and a new chord progression: D/C – Fm – Bb9, the melody slowly flew by the bass, the drums, the keys, with chords supporting the effect of the guitar sounds that continued to escape as a light skating across the sea.
Lily turned to face the pole and showed her back to her intended audience of one. She stretched one leg to the side, and her waist folded sideways, concave, jutting her hips out. She removed her shirt completely and spinning around the pole as if wanting to leave a leg behind that seemed to hover against the floor, Lily tossed the shirt, that landed on Daisy’s lap.
Lily turned around and pushed her back against the pole, one leg rising, opening slightly. Then she stopped pushing her spine against the pole and vertically undulating from upper back to butt, she held the pole high on her right hand, and lower on her left hand. She leveled her hip and hoisting herself up from her torso she pivoted her body, then twirled opening her legs in full split. Lily folded her legs and lowered her body down, to turn around again, one leg folded over the pole, and the back of her knee was the only point holding her entire body—her other limbs tethered to nothing.
Lily’s transitions were as flawless as Beck’s. She held the pole with two hands and her torso tightened. She climbed it while flying around and then her knee again as a hook aided her in inverting her body, then glided downwards, gracefully. As she was slithering down, she lifted her head up, tilting it slightly backward to look at Liam again, seductively, a smirk on her lips, unruly. When her upper body had made it to the floor, her legs lowered down, and the pole latched to the softness between her legs, and she clapped her shoes twice, in synch with “‘Cause We Ended As Lovers,” as the song form repeated the verses and chorus of the A Section.
Now, Lily was on all fours crawling—her body as an unraveling wave, swelling and pushing back and forth, then turning sideways, her hand grazing the air, her hair covering her face. So, she shook it off, facing up, lying on her back, splitting her legs again, taking invisible steps on an invisible upside-down staircase. Then, she sat on her collar bone, her back straight, so she could fall backwards, her chest displaying a tunnel-like space formed by her breasts and her bra. And she went back to float in the air, holding the pole, rotating effortlessly, walking in the air, levitating in dance.
The guitar solo exploded at 2:45, which changed the chord progression to C minor 7- Ab major- F minor- G major 7, and with the pull and tug created by the music, the tension begun to rise, in crescendo toward the climax that was to happen at minute 4:15, which foreshadow the dénouement. Lily’s body was climbing the pole, moving legs and arms synchronically, gracefully, her body walking on air, defying gravity, weightless, ethereal, and yet, prevailing.
The bass guitar’s vibrations curling up under the drumbeat coaxed Lily into speeding up her twirls on the pole, and she made a scissors’ movement with her legs, her groin pivoted on the pole. And she turned in the air, her body upside down held only by her hands that one on top of the other pressed the bar as though an elongation of her arms, fused. Her feet opened slightly showing the pole, and she tapped the air, her shoes clapped against each other. She glided down to the floor again, her eyes transfixed on Liam’s, her mouth slightly opened hinting a pink tongue, and this time instead of walking on all fours, she laid on the floor, face down squiggling, heaving.
Lily hoisted her body up, Downward Dog, and her legs opened wide, leveling Liam’s sight.
Daisy laughed. Liam blushed; his lips puckered as to utter a lungful u.
Now Lily was strolling around the pole, one foot floating, swinging back and forth, like a seesaw, and her leg rose softly but kicked the air, so she walked like on a runway. Next, she crouched in front of the pole, holding it with her two hands and opening her legs, moving her crotch towards the pole, animal-like, untamed.
The forceful solo ended at 4:23. She rolled on the stage, legs up and down, her hands caressing her breast, gliding down towards her belly, twisting a finger in her belly button, taking it to graze her lower lip that one of her fingers lowered down, sensually, right after the song’s climax. And when the dénouement glided down, Lily’s movements decreased in intensity and speed, though on the floor, still. With softened grace, she stood up and strolled around the pole, gave a few spins, pushed the length of her spine against the vertical rod, tilting backward and moving forward. Soon, Lily started to walk away, slow-paced, eyes appeased—a smile of bliss.
Sensuality, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Its fierce, primal power surges, in ebbs and flows, though steadily triggering all the senses, making the heartbeat pump blood to rush through the rivers within—being human breathing divinity.
Lily at the Spinoff
Jo Ngan - dancer.
Federico Ramos- lead guitar on Stevie Wonder's ‘Cause We Ended as Lovers, as interpreted by Jeff Beck