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Using the soul of Soul to Use

In a summer of aimless positivity I said ‘yes’ to being a stage manager for a Fringe play for a bunch of people I had never met (nor had any reason to trust. I was that aimless). At the cast party a guitar was sitting around so I picked it up to amuse myself, much to the surprise of my cast-mates who had assumed that I was just a bad stage manager. Little did they know I was a bad stage manager that played guitar! The choreographer of that show, now a close friend, checked out some of my original music and we started talking about creating a show together. She was particularly enamoured with a demo of Soul to Use, and so we planned to start work later that year; workshopping and producing a show featuring a narrative told through music and dance where I would be on stage with the dancers.

Our plan was to spend 10-12 months collaborating on it, until in April of that year we got a last minute acceptance (for an application I knew nothing about) to join that summer’s Toronto Fringe Festival. The new goal was to go from concept to fully functioning show in less than 3 months. It seemed ambitious, and, to be honest, maybe not possible.

Rehearsals began as movement exercises while I played along, trying to influence the dancers, who were influencing me, influencing them. It’s a really joyous experience to improvise in that way. When I improvise with a musician there’s an intellectual understanding, very nearly an agreement; we can predict and react based on knowledge and experience specific to music. Comparatively, improvising to movement of this sort is completely impromptu. The only information available is how the movement makes me feel (and vice versa for the dancers). There would be moments in that room where I would lock with a particular person, and for at least a short time we would be creating, spontaneously, completely, in sync. We would rise in time, fall in time, speed up in time. We would sweep and surge and change direction, all in harmony. Sometimes it would be a moment in a second, and sometimes 10-15 seconds at a time. It’s hard to explain how something so small can feel so profound, but in short, it’s intimacy without ever sharing a word, a touch, or even eye contact. It’s fucking rad.

As the narrative began to emerge and lyrics started to form we started to paint an arch of love and loss. Predictable, maybe, but they’re clichés for a reason; there are few subjects that we feel more viscerally as a species. Every rehearsal, everyone was asked to go deeper, more vulnerable, and more personal than they had the day before. We asked for personal stories, poetry, and journal entries. It’s not uncommon for an artist to be asked to put their pain into their art, but here we asked everyone to let their pain be the art. We asked for each other’s most painful memories and we built stories out of those experiences. I remember a rehearsal where we were exploring the death of a character. It got so personal, so unmistakably genuine that literally every person in the room started crying. The movement continued as did the music until the moment was passed, tears still on our faces. It was harrowing and terrifying and at the same time, cathartic and unifying. We had to stop for the day. There was really no way to continue.

By the time the run began our show was still fluid and a bit inconsistent, but in its imperfection was this organic quality that demanded a lot from both the audience and the performers. I had never so fully “left it all on the stage” as I did in that run. It was only a 45 minute show (I regularly play 3 hour nights) and I have never walked off a stage so exhausted. The performers felt it too and by the last show (where honestly, everyone really gave the most remarkable performance), it truly felt like we needed a break. Emotional detox. We had revisited trauma together over and over and somewhere in there there was a risk of losing ourselves in it. The run ended, we put the show down, and all went our separate ways.

The funny thing? Soul to Use was never in it. The whole piece that started off my relationship with that choreographer and that show just never quite fit anywhere, and we all agreed not to force it where it didn’t belong.

So why tell this story?

Truth be told, as much as it didn’t fit the show tonally, Soul to Use is completely and utterly about baring your vulnerability to someone. From the first line, “You got a heart that is gold and a soul that I know could hold me,” to the chorus, “I’m here defenceless hoping to hold my own,” this entire song is about trusting someone to hold who you are in their care and being fearless enough to accept what that means regardless of what comes next. To me that WAS that show.

We may not have used the song, but we lived its significance in every day we rehearsed. In a way it was the anthem to a process where we each allowed the others so close, each tried to be so fearless, that it felt like we all came out as better humans (if a little battered). Nowadays that’s my ideal relationship with just about anyone, but this song and that show were the battlegrounds where those ideals were truly put to the test. If you guys are reading this, much love to you, truly. All the love. I hope the universe is treating you exceptionally and offering you safe moments in which to bare it all.

music & lyrics by J. Everett

You got a heart that is gold and a soul that I know could hold me
You got a smile specially made and a lovin’ embrace to show me
And yes I know, only time can write the rules
I want you to know that you got a soul to use

It was in the middle of night when the stars are alight I found you
Movin’ in a way I can’t explain, the moon surrounds you
Now it’s clear, I’ve no time to play the fool
So you should know that you got a soul to use

And time is endless, and time is holdin’ on
I’m here defenceless, hopin’ to hold my own
This time we’re endless, this time we’re holdin’ on
We stay defenceless, admit that we don’t know

I got a spark that’ll grow and a hunger to know about you
I got a fire inside and nothing to hide, and a need to speak the truth
And yet I know when it’s time to break the rules
So you gotta know that you gotta soul to use

Every time I lose my line I see you smilin’
It’s okay to lose my way because I know you’ll understand
And I don’t care if no one sees you like I do,
Got nothin’ to prove and you gotta soul to use

And time is endless, and time is holdin’ on
I’m here defenceless, hopin’ to hold my own
This time we’re endless, this time we’re holdin’ on
We stay defenceless, admit that we don’t know

WITHOUT PROOFS

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