Thursday, June 11, 2009

on SITI summer-part five OR why the fuck am i so weepy?

saw the paul taylor dance company this evening. i honestly had no idea what to expect. but the siti company folks highly recommended it, so i got a ticket and went.

i realized midway through that i really have very little context for dance. i haven't seen ballet in decades, and the dance that i do see is usually politically or ethnically or site specific. so i watched the first two pieces with detached interest, trying to appreciate the composition or the lines or the very articulate bodies of the dancers.

but then it happened. i was suddenly moved. the music was poulenc's gloria. i, of course, knew all the words since i'm setting that mass text myself. the movement--it's so difficult to put into words--was formalistically pretty standard. but it told a story. a story of death and joy and fight and resignation. and as i watched, i again felt a heat well up from deep inside me run up my body and out my eyes. i was shocked. but i couldn't stop crying. i actually became frustrated with myself, "why am i crying?!" i struggled until i realized that this is what art does. it invokes feelings that cannot be articulated otherwise.

perhaps it is because i am exhausted all the time. or perhaps it is because i had a touching conversation just before the show. or perhaps it is because i've been thinking so much about the community i miss in austin right now. but the cause doesn't matter. what matters is that i was overcome with emotions that reside in my core that i might not have excavated otherwise.

i looked at the program afterwards. it was accompanied by excerpts from walt whitman's leaves of grass--the poem cycle that has the line, "i sing the body electric." the excerpts read as a joyous eulogy. and so did the dance.

anne bogart talks about how innovation and originality in the arts is overrated. that trying to do something totally new often misses the point. it's not whether it's new, it's how we approach it. and i think this show hit that home for me. even though paul taylor was part of that generation of choreographers who radically changed dance as we know it, his style seems almost classical in this historical moment. i think many of my compatriots were disillusioned because of that. and yet, even though the form itself was not new--even to me who knows little about dance--something about it deeply touched me.

i've been thinking about that this week, how to let go of "originality." i've been pairing that idea with the burden of representation. because i think about both a lot, and often in tandem. in my place of community accountability, i can't help but bare that burden of representation. but how does that intertwine with "originality?" if i'm trying to rewrite images of "my people," of whom there are so many stereotypes, how can i not strive for newness? and where does "authenticity," both culturally and creatively, lie in all this? i think they key is, in fact, in the approach, but i need to work out the details. i think that's why i'm here.


Yvan Greenberg said...

really beautiful post, kt. not that i'm a paul taylor fan, but that's not the point (as you point out yourself.) something to consider...i think you are right when you say "i think they key is, in fact, in the approach"...but the issues you raise in that last paragraph are all intellectual — bound up in thought. don't forget that the experience you found yourself having at the paul taylor performance was an unexplainable (non-intellectual) emotional one. my forecast...moving out of the head... xo, yvan

k. terumi shorb said...

yes, yes. i believe that's why i'm here, to work on moving out of the head. yes.