The night we danced with Yoko
Yoko Ono, The Bluecoat, Liverpool, 4th April 2008
I next saw Yoko Ono with Marie at a performance at the Bluecoat Arts Centre in Liverpool. Yoko Ono gave her first paid performance at the Bluecoat in 1967, around the time that she met John Lennon. When the Bluecoat was refurbished in 2008, Yoko returned to the new performance space to celebrate the reopening of the venue. Tickets for the one hour live event sold out in minutes and Yoko agreed to a live feed going into the Bluecoat hub and a big screen in the city centre.
Marie and I arrived in plenty of time for the event, and joined the queue to enter the performance space, which has a capacity of 116. It was clear from discussions in the queue that Yoko fans had travelled from all over the world for the chance to attend. We were each handed an “Imagine Peace” badge and a small Onochord torch as we entered. The white torch was marked “Onochord Liverpool y.o. 2008”. Marie and I sat in the front row and waited for Yoko to arrive. Soon she entered the room, and stood in front of a large screen showing footage of her 1967 Bluecoat performance where she requested the audience wrap her from head to foot in bandages. “I’m 75 and I’m alive and very thankful to be here every day, and to still be in love with life, and with you” she told us. Yoko then left the room for a short period and returned wrapped in bandages, picking up from where she left off in 1967. She sat in a chair and invited us to unwrap the bandages. A few of us did so; I still have the bandages that Marie and I removed from her legs 🙂
At one point during the performance she sat at the chair and silently crocheted.Footage of John and Yoko from the “bed-in” days followed; she later danced and rolled on the floor wailing to the video for her song Walking on Thin Ice, and showed a short documentary on her 2004 work Onochord. At that point we got to use the small torches, that we had been given when we came in. We were instructed to flash the torch towards Yoko three times to signify the three words “I LOVE YOU”. To close the performance she put on a top hat and asked us all to come down to the front and dance with her to a remix of Give Peace a Chance.” At one point Marie was holding hands with Yoko, dancing and twirling round.
Yoko had one of her famous white chess sets beside her throughout the performance. This anti-war statement features white chess pieces on a totally white board; it was originally made for Ono’s exhibition at Indica Gallery, London, in 1966. “Yoko Ono’s White Chess Set, in which the opponents’ pieces, all white, sit on each side of an all-white board, [make] the warring factions indistinguishable from one another” (Wikipedia). At one point in the performance she threw the board to the ground, scattering the pieces all over the floor. When we started to dance with her, she said we could take the pieces and gave Marie the board. We also managed to pick up a few of the pieces. It makes a great reminder of the event, along with the bandages.
On our way out, we were handed a booklet entitled “13 days do-it-yourself dance festival” which is a series of instructions and pictures as to how we might perform our own personal dance in our “mind” and that “each member of the dance, thus, will communicate with the other members by mental telepathy”. An incredible, amazing performance, which we will remember for ever.
Yoko Ono at the Bluecoat: http://www.a-i-u.net/bluecoat.html
The Bluecoat: http://www.thebluecoat.org.uk