Upon my return from a work and vacation trip to Russia this summer, I was reminded how much Americans and especially our comrades in the Bay Area like to smile. I love a good toothy grin, and this societal sign of friendliness and welcome was very much missing from my daily interactions with people in the former USSR.
While not smiling could be interpreted in a variety of ways, a longtime resident of Moscow explained that the Russians believe that smiling at someone, as a general pleasantry, is viewed as disingenuous. Like many such cultural observations, there are exceptions to this statement, plus, I don’t want to propagate a stereotype against the Russian people. It’s that the missing smiles made me long for home.
A similar observation comes to mind when I reflect on the dance performances witnessed in Moscow. They were dances with no dance. First, let me state that I am a person that believes dance lives in everything, so the aforementioned statement about “dances with no dance” is, I agree, contradictory. Second, I’m a fool for movement investigations of all kinds–large, small, classically based, experimental–but within the Russian work, there was no interest in dance investigation. Granted, I was only in Moscow for a week and attended two performance events, but what I witnessed made me covet performances with recognizable ideas and concepts, performances with focus, diversity and passion that comprise dance in the Bay Area.
I can with all certainty state that I felt like I didn’t belong in Russia. I felt foreign. Too gay. Too American. Too annoyed by too much smoking. And of course, disheartened by no spontaneous smiling.
Back home, I am giddy with options on the dance horizon. A new work addressing ‘belonging,’ commissioned by Dancers’ Group’s ONSITE series will premiere at the end of this month; Julie Potter talks with Katie Faulkner about her interest in working outside the theater and the concepts behind creating We Don’t Belong Here.
While Claudia Bauer’s fall preview touches on the wealth of performance opportunities to consider putting on your calendar.
Watching a performance can at times feel like visiting another country. With images and ideas to decipher, visual clues that are familiar to the artists, but maybe not to the viewer, there are a plethora of images within to translate the moving landscape. The language of dance can be like a foreign tongue: those familiar with the lingo might decipher their ideas and feel right at home. Each journey provides an opportunity to discover.
As you venture into the unfamiliar, in theaters and exotic locales, near or far, enjoy the moments choreographed just for you.
–Wayne Hazzard, Executive Director