So I went to a dance show.
That’s not something I normally do. Actually, as I think of it, I don’t know if I’ve ever been to a pure dance performance before. The closest I can think of is when I saw a touring production of Fosse more than a decade ago because my mom’s cousin was the stage manager, but even that was a song-and-dance show. It isn’t that I’ve actively avoided dance, it’s just not an art form I’ve ever sought out. I suppose it’s partially because I’m a word man. Performances that are inherently wordless don’t have an immediate hook for me.
But heck, it’s my job to cover Fringe, and Fringe is theoretically all about expanding artistic parameters, so I figured I might as well scope some dance. Also, my mom was in town on Saturday. She’s always been fond of dance, but she lives in a rural setting without much access to it. As long as I had the opportunity, I wanted to take her out to a big city dance show. Another also, I’m still in mourning for the wonderful, wordy, and recently cancelled TV program Bunheads, which chronicled the goings-on around a quirky California dance studio. Bunheads lured me in with Amy Sherman-Palladino’s dialogue and quickly convinced me that watching people dance might be something I could get into.
My mom and I strolled over to the Rarig on the kind of gorgeous Saturday afternoon that you hate to spend indoors, basking in the summertime serenity of our shared alma mater. (If you’ll forgive me, I’m taking a break from my 10pm theme for at least one show.) The show, Random Acts of BODYTALK, was billed as “a variety of dance pieces with acts of kindness at the center.” I reckoned that was suited to my mom’s sensibilities, kind-hearted lady that she is. I presumed I’d sit quietly and find some tidbits to appreciate here and there and more or less forget about the whole thing by my 10 o’clock shift.
But you know what? I loved it. I loved pretty much the whole thing, from Emily Knotek’s effervescent solo routine to April Dahl and Joey Ray’s lithe, touching interpretation of Ben Folds’ “The Luckiest” to Kirsten Stephens and Dean Hatton clowning on Harley riders to the whole company writhing and wriggling and playing off each other’s bodies to close the show. As a novice dance viewer, it probably helped that there was no grand narrative and no heavy subject matter to deal with. This was movement as an expression of joy, choreographed and directed with an eye for arresting imagery. (I’m still trying to figure out what made 8-year-old Bijou Abas curled up at the edge of the stage and adorned with iridescent blue feathers such a striking sight.) In my case the joy was contagious. I stepped out of the Proscenium and back into the Saturday sunshine feeling like I’d never left it.
Maybe some of my elation has to do with my inexperience. For all I know, the technical execution was all wrong and the staging was clichéd and predictable. I highly doubt that’s the case, but again, I wouldn’t know the difference. So you can put me squarely in the “I don’t know much, but I know what I like” category on this one. I can’t say how much more dance I’ll be able to accommodate in my Fringe-going, or how often I’ll be seeking it out in the future, but at the very least Random Acts of BODYTALK showed me that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in my verbosity.
My mom hated it, though.
(Just kidding. My mom doesn’t hate much, and she definitely loved this.)