Malaysia, Pt. 2
People my age can usually think of some golden time in their lives, when everything was clear joy, fun, and beautiful, pure, creative experience. A lot of times it's a vacation, or some high school fling (if high school was actually fun for you). Maybe it was a job, or a summer, or a relationship.
For me, that golden time was 3 months on a resort on the other side of the world. A Malaysian mountain paradise stuffed with all the right personalities... it was a time that felt like universal fate. Like the good karma from lifetimes ago placed neatly in my unknowing lap.
First of all, as you might know from yesterday's blog, I entered this gig with the goal to discover my truer self, with the kind of trust that comes from realizing I'd been f**king myself over for years and was ready for the new. I had no idea what I was in for--the choreo in the audition was all over the style map, and I hadn't done pointe in years.
The night before rehearsals started at PMT Studios, I couldn't help feeling oddly sleepless. I was excited to be doing something so different. It is crazy to look back on that moment and think to myself: you have no idea how much this will change you.
The cast was a melting pot of culture, style, humor, and rhythm. We came together to tell a story in 30 lb light suits through dance. It was, and still is, the hardest physical and mental performance I've ever had to summon for a gig. But it was also extremely rewarding. In the rehearsal studios and long, jet lagged tech days; in my personal sweat soaked suit in a mountaintop theatre in Malaysia, my body found a groove I didn't know it was capable of. I did the MJ compilation and the Chris Brown opener in pointe shoes that weren't yet lit up. I did lyrical ballet, intense partnering, breathless contemporary jazz, and salsa behind a smelly mask. I barreled down a giant staircase, moved prop after prop, and fouetteéd into the final hip hop combo on my last breath and hope. I easily lost a pound or two with each performance. Old beliefs and toxic thoughts left me with each puddle of sweat.
Not only was I experiencing extreme physical challenges, I was taking a 2 mile sky tram through the clouds, over pristine mountainside jungle, to get to our place of work. We were put up in the golf course resort--Resorts World Awana--an open air expanse with a hundred wandering paths through the jungle. You could swing on a tree rope, walk the acupuncture path barefoot, go birdwatching or flower-finding on the many golf course trails, sip from baby coconuts in the wall-less downstairs cafe, eat special crafted buffet plates with a jungle view, swim in the pool or lay among the dragonflies. You could play tennis or table tennis or basketball. You could try the waterslide or just lounge in the open air lobby with decent wi-fi. You could hit the driving range, feed monkeys near the bus stop, buy snacks and bottled ginseng from the hotel store, book a well priced, well executed acupressure massage, or you could go to K.L. on a short bus ride to do some shopping/sightseeing. OR you could take the tram up to the main casino resort for more dining, shopping and entertainment (including a small Times Square replica and a winter-themed park with fake snow).
It was the kind of place a North American would never think to go... and that made it all the more special.
The unique environment was just one aspect that seemed to fuse with everything else for a captivating 3 months. The people of that short gig were a thing of beauty. Everyone was funny and hardworking and talented in ways I was less familiar with. I got my first popping lessons from the legendary PopnTod. Rob 'ShortSircuit' Wilson taught me some Litefeet, and that there's "no such thing as can't", and we even made a "15 Seconds of Heat" video in the basement of the Awana hotel. And not only did Lisa 'LBoogie' Bauford show me the art of the dance cypher and bring me untold joy and laughs, she expanded the true meaning of both artistry and friendship. These are killer dancers with exceptional reputations/careers who saw me exactly as is and championed all my quirks and emotions, my challenges and strengths. They, along with the likes of Nick Ranauro (now Broadway touring vet and burgeoning NYC choreographer), Ali Marconi (newly crowned dance director at Hamilton on tour), and other simply outstanding humans helped shape a happier, more disciplined, more honest Loosh. It felt like magic most days: so much creativity, so much silliness, so much collaboration and gratitude among such a diverse but well-meshed group. The techs and stage manager were fun, and kind, and good at their jobs, too. We spent the occasional weekend, organized by my magnetic roommate, Karina, in some coastal corner of the country: riding cheap scooters up mountainsides, swimming under beach sunsets, eating Indian and Thai and handmade Roti Canai streetside, or camping on remote islands. Our bodies were beat from 8 show-weeks at high altitude on a giant stage, but we still said yes to sushi in KL, treks up to stunning buddhist temples, and long van rides with drivers who spoke little English. I have been on tour with a lot of these same folks in a lot of the US and the Middle East, but nothing so far compares to the Malaysia experience. We swam in an island freshwater lake in the middle of the ocean off the coast of Langkawi--with unending physical stamina from so many weeks in the show. We made friends with circus performer Sara Kunz, who wowed us with her many talents and love of life, as we drank ginger tea and played with her hula hoops. We snorkeled. We ate incredible food. We sang karaoke with the locals. We stayed up late watching downloaded episodes of Broad City and contact improvising in one of our hotel rooms. We smoked shitty weed on our balconies and freestyled songs. We made each other laugh until we couldn't speak.
And then, there was Shane.
I played it 'cool' for the first few weeks, but I fell for Shane hard. My husband was back in New York, getting up to all kinds of shenanigans with former flings, old friends, and our neighbor he had crushed on for years... which broke my heart at first but then gave me permission to do my own thing (messy, I know). But Shane, he was pure beauty and love and chemistry and joy. He was incredibly kind. He was quirky and refreshing and, like everyone else, bleeding talent and charm wherever he went. Our first kiss was on the Awana driving range, under the stars. A force developed between us that moved us toward epic collision from that kiss, forward.
The circumstances were epically controversial and chaotic. But falling in love with Shane didn't feel like it was even my decision to make. It was just there. I would try to apply logic or pros and cons and just get lost in a feeling I couldn't explain. I felt safe, and sweet with him, but also fiery and limitless. At the time, as anyone could imagine, it was contentious and widely judged, but looking at it from my five-years-later lens, completely in awe and love of who we have become together, I can only accept the rocky path we were set on to get to this place.
Malaysia was a vortex of deep change and realization, accompanied by the astonishing natural beauty of a humid jungle landscape, a show that would rebuild my physical stamina and mental confidence, and a group of people who would help my heart ascend to heights before unseen. We all still look back on that time with a deep reverence that words cannot do justice: this place we would have never thought to go, and we were thrust toward it naively, to be forever changed.