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Still Lingering: Reflections on “Action Potential,” Six Months Later

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

On August 27, 2019, I saw Megan Lowe Dances’ production of “Action Potential” at the Athletic Playground in Emeryville, CA. The site-specific work was directed by Megan Lowe, and created and performed in collaboration with Shira Yaziv and Sonsherée Giles. The evening featured live music by Girl Swallows Nightingale (Marica Petrey, Mogli Maureal, and Travis Kindrid) with lighting design by Dylan Feldman. 

I found out after watching the show that it had been created largely in response to a life-threatening assault and home invasion that Megan, her partner, and roommate had experienced months earlier while saving two strangers’ lives from an enraged attacker. The program notes described the creation process as an opportunity for Megan to continue to “process the trauma [of the event] and move forward.”

In the months since seeing “Action Potential,” I have found that moments from the show continue to resonate for me. In this piece, I take a cue from the origin story behind the “Action Potential” itself to reflect on what sticks with me 6 months later.

Shira Yaziv and Megan Lowe. Photo by Sebastian Arrua.

Megan is on one side, Shira and Sonsherée on the other. A rectangular slab of hard foam the size of a small refrigerator groans between them as they pitch their bodies towards one another. Their feet rip along the floor as they fight for purchase, legs like tree trunks with roots that seek the Earth’s iron core. Hands and forearms slap the mat as breaths wrack their bodies with ragged heaves. Over and over they careen at the mat. 

Until this moment, the show has felt predominantly playful to me. At times curious, joyful, sentimental, and tender, they have painted the space with sweeping acrobatics, bounced off the walls, swung between monkey bars, and flown through the air from dizzying heights. Now I feel my body tight, unnamed emotion welling up my throat.

Flashback twenty minutes before, I was squirming with delight and the excruciating discipline of staying seated while Megan, Sonsherée and Shira flew between monkey bars. From the monkey bars, they slithered up to a loft above the door where we came in, and began jumping off the 15-foot drop onto a giant squishy mat, their bodies hitting the foam with satisfying, muffled smacks.

Before that, I remember glimpses of hidden bodies under a rolling door, just the legs and calves sticking out as the metal slowly folded upwards until three whole humans were revealed. I remember the band throughout, filling the space with sound so textured and robust I almost felt I could eat it, lead singer warbling soulfully. The musicians seemed attentive to every movement on stage. The energy between dancers and musicians was contagious.

There are moments I think I remember but can’t be sure of: Did Megan scale the 2x4’s bolted to the wall above us only by her fingers? Were Sonsherée’s legs sticking out of a cubby when we passed through the changing room from one room to another? Did the bass player do a front flip off a mini trampoline at the end?

I know there was a mini-trampoline--more satisfying thumps made by squishy mats well-used. I remember bodies running to launch off the trampoline and fly through the air with a sense of saliva-worthy weightlessness. I remember the empathetic urges zipping through my body, craving to fly with them.

I also remember Megan alone on the stall bars (a set of vertical bars like a wide wooden ladder attached to the wall), a rare solo in what was otherwise a solidly ensemble show. In my memory, it came just after Megan, Shira, and Sonsherée fought tooth-and-nail to hold their ground on either side of the refrigerator-size foam block. Like a balloon inflating and deflating at the same time, Megan climbed the stall bars with the weariness, grace, and intensity of someone who doesn’t know what to do except to keep going. In pinky-red light, she wound in and out of the wooden slats to arrive hanging upside down, and then continued to move, as if feats of such athleticism were quotidienne, as if her body might unwind something the rest of her was not yet able to. 

Eventually she jumped. Another matted landing. She looked at us for what felt like a long time, as if we were only just beginning to scratch the surface; as if the entire show had been the prologue to the real story. 

In the months that followed, I have remembered mostly the intensely-physical, curiously-playful, delightfully-weighty rigor of the physicality that formed the heart of this show. The moments above are the ones that stuck most strongly in my memory. Learning the story that prompted the show’s creation has made me wonder what I might remember were I to see the show again, and undoubtedly has shaped the light by which I regard my memories of my first viewing. But for now, I am content simply to recall how good it felt to see Megan, Shira, and Sonsherée fly around the Athletic Playground with all the weight, spirit and power of real-life superheroes.


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