Friday, March 16, 2012
I had a conversation with a dancing friend from New York City recently; she was saying, "when we were there, at that age, where did we get this presumption about artists that it was all or nothing - that you had to completely devote yourself, or completely throw in the towel and admit failure?"
For one, I think it's New York, but I'm not reproaching it. People go there and other cities to do art because they want to be inundated with a lot of art. I went and wanted to be overwhelmed with dance, to risk drowning, to see if I could swim strongly. Full submersion, full baptism, a beautiful holy thing; I was incensed, driven. Surrounded with strongly swimming and strongly drowning people, it's exactly right. Also oceans, smoke-clouds of different people - gay, small, boy, colored, big, straight, white, girl, neither, both, all, mad, joyful, rebellious, funny, serious. The rebelliousness is important - the shove back against normality, and a big group of people shoving. It's exciting and motivating. It gave me structure when I needed it, when I was young.
Young people should go whole hog. Madly full-fledged. No holds barred. Now, I don't dance by recklessly flinging myself around, or at least not as much. But I remember liking how that felt and how it looked, and judged people who were precise and economical with their energy use. Now I really dig containment, stringency in movement.
So my growing-older dance self is changing. Dance is everywhere, not just in artists and artwork. I don't need the masses to motivate me or a city to give me structure. The devotion tempers. It does not lessen. Or, necessitates a re-evaluation of quantity as a value system. Even Pina, in the movie I just saw, which makes me proud of contemporary dance even though I walked out on every damn BAM Pina show when I was in New York - even Pina Bausch sitting behind her desk all those years, rarely getting up to dance in new works herself, channelling through her dancers, smoking her cigarettes - is a milder, more moderate expression. You are forced to allow the economizing, the seasoning of energy.
My younger self calls me Traitor, Failure, Sell-Out, Fade-Out. There is a particularly horrible tie to gender here - all the older NYC women choreographers my younger self silently mocked, was sure I'd never be - the not-fully-recognized ones, but in still the community, still doing their thing - in small venues, in what I thought were outdated styles, to insignificant audiences of friends, as if this was ever not true of experimental dance. My young self levels her gaze at me. The funny part is, I don't even live near those venues anymore, and even if I did, they are or will soon be closed, or will evolve into hot exciting venues, or new venues will open down the street. All the points of evaluation shift, but it's amazing what my demon holds onto, far longer than they exist in reality.
About that young demon, Clare - I guess you're touching, in a way, how I carry you along with me, like a younger sister. Maybe, even though you seem kind of negative, you serve a purpose, now. And I would never discount the possibility that there's a whole new realm of art I'm about to go whole hog on.