Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hold me closer

I've mentioned my thesis several times on this blog, but I should say that I'm not the only one doing this. Everyone who had the temerity to join the Honors College has to do one, too. Most are like mine - long, pedantic treatises about esoterica. However, some students in the arts and humanities do "creative" theses - a performance, a book, a collection of poems.

Tonight I saw one of those, a dance choreographed and partly performed by a fellow student, someone I've always found to be interesting to talk to. It was four short modern dance pieces about coal-mining in Appalachia.

And I liked it. Note that I am a complete dunce with regards to all things modern dance. And I still liked it.

I had my reservations. Before I sat down I wondered about her choice to tell Appalachian womens' stories via modern dance - not the most accessible of artistic media and not widely performed in Appalachia. But she wasn't trying to convey "the paradox of being" or "the essence of nothingness" or other such bullshit. She was telling a real story about real lives, grounded in history. It's her history, too; her family has lived in Appalachia for generations and several of her relatives were coal miners.

The best part by far was the piece she performed on her own. She portrayed a coal miner's wife, trying to do all the daily chores with the additional burden of her husband's dangerous work. Her constant tension and frustration were palpable; the piece closed uneasily with an alarm from the mines. Forgive my lack of technical terminology - all I can say is that she was excellent.

Before any of you get the idea that I watched a bunch of slender sylphs flit across a stage for 45 minutes, you should know that this fellow student acknowledges, gracefully, that she does not have a "typical dancer's body." Meaning that she has, you know, curves and muscles. I admire the way she can pick up a cookie and eat it with apparent nonchalance. She might not have done this intentionally, but the other dancers she chose had a variety of physical compositions as well. You looked at her and believed that she worked hard and had children and was able to survive it all. That's not the only reason I liked the show, but it certainly didn't hurt.


Gaining Back My Life said...

This reminds me of a performance art exhibit I attended years ago. It was fascinating, and I deemed others to be so brave for getting up in front of an unknown audience and be so open and carefree.

Sounds like a lovely time.

Sarah said...

It sounds like this was an authentic performance. Like you, I have no trained "appreciation" for modern dance, but I have a little in visual arts, and I have found that that "authenticity" is the common denominator in the works I like. The styles I like are varied, but I ALWAYS like to see something that was real to the painter or photographer, you know? For example, "Starry Night." The vehicle or style by which this scene is portrayed isn't "clear cut" like a photo or a Michaelangelo painting, but the emotion is authentic. Just my two cents.

Lisa, I love reading your blog, by the way. I just thought I'd add that.

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