I experienced two very different events this weekend, both of which incorporated modern dance. The only thing I can say after attending both events is that modern dance is not for me. It is maybe the kind of art that I understand the least and therefore have absolutely no desire to see or be a part of. I keep trying, though, thinking maybe I’ll change my mind. But time after time, I sit there watching either confused or trying to muffle a laugh.
Case in point: Yesterday, I attended our school’s International Day festival which is an event that is basically lots of food from around the world, games, and music. It was actually really, really fun and I’m so glad I went. Toward the end of the afternoon, there was some great music up on the stage and so Dennis and I sat down to watch. There were dance performances by kids at the school and percussion class performances and school bands and it was awesome. And then it was announced that there would be a Christian street dance group from Holland performing. I was thrilled because I love watching street dance. This group was comprised of maybe ten kids who actually did a nice job. It was nothing compared to the kind of dancing my kids did in New Haven, that’s for sure, but it was fun to watch. Immediately following, there was an older group of people, maybe 18-24 years old. And they were dressed in street garb and I thought they’d be awesome. And then they started “dancing.” It was a reenactment, set to music, of the crucifixtion of Christ and the resurrection. I was sitting in the third or fourth row of chairs, next to Dennis, and we both sat there growing increasingly uncomfortable because, well, after the tacos, soda, and cheesecake we’d just crammed into our faces, the last thing either of us were prepared for was Jesus. Dennis and I looked at each other, wondering if it was appropriate to have such a proselytizing event at a school, and began looking for easy exits. The dancers were making all these faces meant to portray suffering, and then there was this dramatic hugging from the Jesus dancer after he took away the disabilities of those who were suffereing, and I couldn’t help but think of my own suffering in the moment and hope someone would come along to take that away. Little did I know that only hours later, I’d be looking for another easy exit.
This show, my friends, this later one last night, was so puzzling and embarassing that I could stand to be in the room for a mere fifteen minutes. Let me set the stage for you. Remember when I went to São Paulo for the huge free music festival? Well, this weekend, the huge free music festival came to Campinas. Part of it was at the Centro de Convivência, near my apartment, and at that venue was mostly a number of modern dance performances. Around midnight, Dennis and I stopped by. When the doors to the performance space opened, the show was already well underway. This is what we walked in on:
Three barefoot dancers on stage–two men, one woman. One man was standing at the back of the stage. The other man was on his hands and knees facing the audience. The woman was on his back, stretched out all over his body, and for five minutes, the two walked around on the man’s hands and knees while the other guy continued standing.
What came next was basically two barefoot guys and a Charlie Chaplin-esque hat. One guy just stood there, while the other hopped over the hat, back and forth. Then sat next to the hat. And then hopped over it again. Then the two men met each other in the center of the stage (and mind you, none of this has music…the stage is completely silent) and clasped hands together and began to move in unison. Then they separated and one of the men lay on the floor and flopped his arms and legs back and forth. When the flopping commenced, I turned to Dennis out of curiosity and confusion. What the hell had we walked into? And when the hell could we walk out of it? We stayed for a maximum of fifteen minutes until I felt myself about to guffaw. Then I knew it was time to go.
Maybe I am an insensitive person who has no ability to think abstractly. Maybe I am completely blind to the purpose of modern dance. I know nothing about modern dance and therefore have no understanding of it as any kind of expression of anything. And if I have offended anyone out there reading this, I am truly sorry. But you cannot simply put a production like that on stage and expect people just to “get it.” I know for a fact I was not the only one who didn’t “get it” since we were two in a long line of exit-ers. The faces of those who were leaving were equally as bewildered as I expect mine was.
I guess the big lesson here is that of all the things I could ever picture myself doing, liking, or understanding, modern dance falls down at the bottom of the list along with podiatry and robotics. So, at the very least, thanks to the Dancers for Jesus and the Barefoot Hat Hoppers, I had some good (and free) career counseling.
Silver lining, people.