by Colin Creveling
I knew nothing of Remy as an artist, author, or choreographer. He somehow eluded me for 27 years. For someone as prolific and talented as Remy Charlip, it baffled me that not one of his books managed to echo through to me as a child. I now touch the pages of his life, the meticulous detail and skill he birthed into existence throughout his time on this Earth. I grew to feel him as that soft spot at the edge of my vision, the mysterious and inevitable encounters with the natural world, an urging towards forgiving myself, in order to be reborn.
A few months ago, I found myself breathing in the salty air of Inverness, working with my fellow collaborators of Rainbow Logic. Surrounded by lush trees, cool earth squished between my toes. I felt unbridled, sensing that I was exactly where I was supposed to be, in the story of my life.
Dry leaves disintegrate under my heels, the breathing of my new companions pushing me forward, deeper into the forest. Crescendos of conversations arise when the silence becomes too heavy. Tales of running feverishly through Baltic forests blindfolded, tied together in order to rediscover the dulled primal senses that still pulse through our human experience. Laughter and "RemyISMs," the endless stream of puns that now permeate every rehearsal, have become our own language. Remy started to come through the questions we were asking, the dances and songs that sprung fourth like a geyser at times. This is one of the first times I have ever felt like I was truly "channeling" something from another place, outside of time and space.
So much of Remy's life was about getting permission. Deeply influential people dropping into his life and saying "HEY you have a gift, it is essential to this world". My creative influences cradled me in a similar way, always encouraging me to reach further, to push the boundaries of my artistic vision. We sit on our hands and stifle our impulses so often in this life that sometimes we forget the magic that is inherent within the creative process. The liberation of permission to stop filtering, to let go of convention, and to root ourselves in the present moment has been invaluable.
It took me a long time to let go of the conventional story that I had told myself to live. I got so wrapped up in this ideal version of myself that I completely lost track of what I actually enjoyed about theatre. I dove so far into the hustle of being an artist that I pigeon-holed myself into a very limited field of expression & vision. As I researched his life more I found that Remy had friends on all sides trying to get him to specialize, to "focus" his discipline to one track, and he simply refused.
He continued to expand his work, keeping detailed journals of the dances, illustrations, poetry, and songs. He truly managed to find a way to dance through each moment of his life. His creative journey as a queer artist was like a bucket of cold water over the head. Having survived America during the great depression and through the trials of WW2, Remy landed within his creativity in the 1950s. Without any sort of guiding structure, or support, he connected with a rag-tag group of innovators and hustlers who managed to not only find themselves, but truly reinvent their disciplines in an age where they could have easily been destroyed for just being their true selves.
Sometimes the harsh perspective of a world that despises you and wishes you to fail is what it takes to shake you out of your privilege and cozy illusions. I needed a good shake, I needed permission to fail, I needed to change. Remy helped to show me the way back to myself. I now stand arm-in-arm with my ancestors, their struggles behind them. I face the next generation with their guidance. With their grace. With their permission to disturb the universe. I will do just that, thank you, Remy Charlip.