3rd talk: University of Southern California Santa Barbara. Tears, tacos, sushi & stars

Thursday. Can’t believe it’s only the 4th day here in California. I’ve learnt and done so much already. Today I took an early train from LA to Santa Barbara. 

I was jittery with excitement to say the very least. I was on my way to meet one of my dearest friends, Brooke Smiley. I’ve known her a decade – we met whilst completing our Masters at Trinity Laban Conservative of Music and Dance in 2005. We fomed a fierce friendship. We lived and participated together in a dance residency in Los Angeles in 2008. It’s fair to say she is my dearest and best friend but of course we are usually many thousands of miles apart, and Skype and email are our usual modes of communication. The opportunity to see her was unbelievable! It was augmented as Brooke had invited me to give a talk to a group of Dance Majors at University of Santa Barbara. She is a Professor of Dance there. It was beyond my wildest dreams to fit this into my USA adventure.

Of course our reunion at Santa Barbara station was emotional!! Crying, laughing, loud happy tears! Huge beaming smiles and immediate flurry of conversation. She is an amazing human being. 
Near SB station is one of the biggest fig trees in Northen California. We climbed amongst the giant roots with giddy abandon. 


We ate tacos in tears of joy. 


She drove me to the Santa Barbara campus, it’s right on the beach! Rolling surf of the Pacific is 10 minutes from the Performing Arts faculty. While she was teaching I walked to the sea. It took my breath away. Beautiful. 

The group of Dance Majors I was speaking to numbered about 30, aged 18-20 I guess. To see them sitting on the floor of the large studio in their dance clothes I remembered vividly the same feeling I had at LABAN listening to visiting artists. 

I was there, thousands of miles from home to present my work. Pinch me!

I knew there was a projector in the large space, but I had no idea how large the images were going to be shown. Turns out they were almost the height and width of the long studio wall. In the dark as the artworks glowed enormous on the wall, I collaborated and communicated with them in a new way. So performative! Brooke took some photos which capture this ‘collaboration’ so beautifully! I’ll upload them here soon.

The inquisitive responses from the students were fantastic. Group discussion of the vulnerabilities we experience as human beings, multi-faceted and changing on a cellular way everyday, hopefully gave the students a lot of hope. They are at the very beginning of their creative journies as young artists. Brooke and I were able to share some of the challenges, choices and nuances of creative moments we have both experienced alone and with others. Sharing my experience of a health disorder confronted, processed and transformed through art hopefully gives them a wider scope to delve into in their own sensibilities and interests. One girl came up to me at the end and identified with the darker parts of my presentation. I could see the challenges ahead and vulnerability in her, but I offered my hope and all courage for her as she perhaps starts to process these in the dance studio.

After the session Brooke and I went for the best sushi I may have ever had in my life. 

We walked on Santa Barbara beach in the dark. The day ended at Brooke’s amazing hexagonal wooden house at the top of a winding road in the hills of Goleta. Huge bright stars were in the sky above the bed through skylights. Fell asleep to the sound of crickets and the swirl of wind outside across the valley. 


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