Columns 2000

So I’m not graceful, so sue me

No one has ever accused me of being particularly graceful or coordinated. In fact, there are some who, having seen me attempt to dance, would suggest that I am “differently abled” in that regard.  As a child, the only time I ever danced was to slow music with my father at weddings. Everyone else was simply afraid to ask me.  Dad had no choice.

At some point in my slightly misspent youth, I was actually known to get up and try to fast dance at the Polar Bear Theater’s nightly festivities in Barrow. But even the mind-altering substances of the sixties and seventies could not blind me to the fact that I scared everyone within a twenty foot radius of me. 

I recently started attending a class in water aerobics at the YMCA here.  While others cheerfully follow the instructor as she jumps up in the water while pushing her hands down under it, I can only stand there watching in awe. When I attempt it, I find I must concentrate first on jumping up and then, once I have landed and found my balance again, I can push my hands down in the water. If I let my attention wander for even a moment, one or the other part of my body gives up.  While others do water jumping jacks with ease, I must focus as though I am doing microscopic surgery or I find I am moving my hands or feet but not both.  If I attempted conversation while doing these exercises, I would probably drown.

All of which is why I was thrilled to have recently been to the performance given at the PAC by Mikhail Baryshnikov called pastFORWARD.  At first I must admit to being a bit puzzled. I could almost understand the piece where people walked across the stage in dead silence for five minutes.  Or the piece a little later where they did the same thing but in single file. 

But when Baryshnikov did the piece where he walked in silent circles around the stage while undressing and then hanging the clothes on hooks taped to various parts of his body, and then did the whole thing in reverse, the light went on.  I finally understood that the message being conveyed was that even people like me were capable of great dance.  We just had to find the right dance to do. Since I undress every night – though I tend to hang my clothes in the closet – I too am a dancer in my own little way. Either that or, since many of these pieces were from the 60s and 70s, they looked better with some of those mind-altering substances that caused you to sit around saying “Wow, man” when a fly walked across the window.

I’m not sure this was the best performance to bring young people to unless they were very advanced in the arts. One of the young men accompanying us was seen beating his head with his forearm during the walk across the stage. I wanted to grab him and tell him to have faith and take heart.  What Baryshnikov was telling us was good. The message was positive. He was saying everyone can dance. No one should despair no matter how many people they have frightened with their gyrations. 

Or maybe this young man’s mother was right when she whispered to me, “The emperor has no clothes on”.