“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”
—Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Why dance, and are these the best of times or the worst of times to dance?
Rereading a piece of literature is like reviewing a dance work: there is a familiarity to the often overwhelming images and ideas we initially take in, and yet, once we have had successive encounters with the material, we can start to parse the intricacies of the work that speak to us in that moment.
Since the moment will assuredly change during the next analysis of the subject matter, distracting us, or offering focal points to spur the imagination, the mutable variables are so numerous that it might be seen as an act of love, and an act of defiance in our current consumerist culture.
Reviewing or rereading is analogous no matter what shape the practice takes. There’s the work to re-invest in the action, in the form, providing often-deeper insight and learning. As dancers, we train to build awareness and sensitivities so that our physical actions inform and absorb, and with most dance forms this is then refined for a particular purpose, which requires repeated practice.
Images of dance can provide another way to engage and re-engage with what’s to come. Take for instance Jo Kreiter’s image of strong women flying amongst a clothesline of dresses (pictured above). This publicity shot of an all female company is for a work that focuses on wage equity for women by bringing forward the stories of women garment workers both past and present. A telling of something reframed, retold, and reimagined.
Joanna Haigood, another site choreographer that works on and off the ground, provides a perspective in this month’s SPEAK column that is both personal memoir and a contextualization of her fascination with the topic of her new work. Haigood and her collaborator, José Joaquín García, will tackle the world’s most infamous, maybe even most extant topic: love. This often-reused theatrical symbol will add to the complexity of A Poet’s Love. Is this retro? And why dance? I think it’s because the body in motion often delivers a fitting response to the immediately visible and invisible stereotypes of color, size, ability, gender, and illness that are placed upon subjects and ourselves, whether evident or not.
Other opportunities are also revealed within that provide ample reason to reread what developments are transpiring in the community. Such as CounterPulse’s purchase of their new theater space; Ballet San Jose changing its name to Silicon Valley Ballet; and local teacher and choreographer Mary Sano’s continued reinvestment in a vision of dance set forth by
Returning to Mr. Dickens, I imagine his words appearing in a blog written by a tech-savvy-hipster who’s also developing an “app” to help guide us towards the best of times, and avoid the worst.
But, all joking aside, I question how much has and hasn’t changed since his words were penned. Or is it, as the adage goes, that everything old is new again?
Reread, review, re-engage and discuss, why dance?