by Patrick Scully
In the Spring of 1984 Remy taught a workshop in NYC through Naropa East. I believe it was called “Meetings with Remarkable Women”, and it was for male dancers. I signed up, and drove up on weekends from DC to take part. I loved the time with Remy in the workshops so much that I mustered the courage to tell Remy “I would love to be one of the Ten Men in your show at BAM, and would move to New York to be able to do that.” Remy thought it over, and after a week got back to me: “Yes”.
A few months later I moved to New York. Not only did I dance in Remy’s company for that show, but I came to his apartment on a daily basis to help him with administrative work. That involved not only working with him in his East 7th St apartment, but frequent breakfasts at the diner just around the corner, and once rehearsals began, walking across Manhattan together to the Ethnic Folk Arts Studio on Varick Street.
I loved watching the choices Remy made in the day to day of life: Never use more postage to mail something than is required. Walk on this side of the street because it is quieter, and the trees are nicer. Let the water run into the tub very slowly, so there is enough hot water to fill the tub for a long hot bath. Each was a tiny meditation on how to live well.
Crossing the city we would chat, he might bring up a memory of dancing for Merce, or an earlier childhood memory from home. I began to see the big picture of what seemed to guide Remy in his work as a choreographer and director. He consciously chose to not recreate the dictatorial worlds he had experienced in his life. I remember such joy walking to rehearsal, knowing how sweet it was going to be, to be together in the studio with Remy, and these beautiful dancers. I remember Remy working with each of us to bring out the best in our dancing, supporting us with everything from humor to Alexander lessons to the latest information on how to protect ourselves in the looming AIDS epidemic.
We were Ten Men. And we were a diverse group: 1 Asian man, 2 African American men, 3 Latinos, and 4 European Americans. Some of the dances involved all of us as a group, like Beethoven’s Twelve Contra Dances, (music by St Martin in the Fields under Neville Mariner). Some dances were duets, each of us with our partner, and guided by the Wooloomooloo Cuddle (aka Five Twos) airmail dance. Remy paired me with Lance Westergard for that dance. The music was by Stuart Dempster, a colleague and friend of Remy. Once we got the press photos, I loved asking people if they could pick out the one guy in the group who was not gay.
I think Remy actually expected to see some humor come out of pairing the shortest man in the group, Lance, with me, the tallest, for our duet. Or perhaps the humor would come out of the contrast of Lance’s dancing – trained by Tudor at Julliard, with mine – 9 parts contact improvisation + 1 part modern dance. Instead, we came up with something much more mythic than humorous, and perhaps my favorite of all the dances I ever got to perform anywhere. You can watch this dance (performed at the Joyce Theater in 1987) at: https://youtu.be/aqxCCbJSJgM?list=PLA72EA3478ECE2492 Nancy Stark Smith called it “the first successful marriage of Contact and Ballet.”
The Ten Men rehearsals were joyous for me. I was dancing, creating, learning, and surrounded by love and creativity. I didn’t need any more than that. I would have been happy to just keep rehearsing forever. Performing at BAM was the icing on the cake. Lucas Hoving joined us there, also part of Remy’s show; I got to hang out with history, share the stage with Lucas Hoving, who was onstage dancing and reminiscing about Jose Limon and the Green Table. One day all 10 of us descended in the elevator together, in costume; white flowing pants, no shirts. As we got to the stage level, the huge door opened, and Remy stood with his back to us, arguing quite loudly with Harvey Lichtenstein, BAM’s director, who was facing us. We were a flock of angels, coming to Remy’s rescue. Whatever the argument was, it ended. Remy had triumphed.
Perhaps my favorite memory of dancing for Remy at BAM was seeing Remy, after the show, arguing with Bette Midler, who had been in the audience, about who was more fabulous. He, of course, insisted she was, and she that he was. I don’t think that one ever got settled.
I got to perform duets with Lance a lot. In addition to the duet above, Remy frequently had Lance and I perform the Contra Dances as a duet. Having to keep up with Lance in such a precise dance intimidated me. I would remind myself, “Remy thinks I can do this.” Another duet got added in 1986, at the Harvard Summer Dance Festival. The Supreme Court had decided that summer, in Bowers v. Hardwick, that there was no constitutional right to privacy for gay men in having sex. At Kinko’s with Remy and Lance, I saw a customer remove a flyer for a protest from the community board, crumple it up, and throw it away. I confronted her in a loud voice, so the whole store could hear, and demanded she put the flyer back up, admonishing her that “perhaps you will understand when the supreme court decides that your sexuality is felonious.” Remy was so inspired by my fierce response, that he began to work on a new duet: Supreme Court. It was a playful romp about the love between two men, for me and Lance. The photos below are the two of us, performing Supreme Court in 2013 at the 92nd St Y in NYC, at a concert honoring Remy.
Patrick Scully is a Minneapolis based choreographer/dancer and performance artist. He began dancing in 1972 as a college freshman. In 1976 he co-founded Contactworks, a Minneapolis based dance collective focused on contact improvisation. In 1980 he left Contactworks in search of a way to bring his voice as a gay man into the work he was creating. This eventually led him to Remy Charlip, beginning with Remy’s Ten Men show in BAM’s Next Wave Festival in 1984. In his heart, and daily life, Patrick is still dancing with Remy. Patrick’s most current project is Leaves of Grass – Uncut, about Walt Whitman. In addition to his performing work, Patrick was the founder and long time director of Patrick’s Cabaret, in Minneapolis.