Eight weeks ago, a group of dancers and I set off on a choreographic journey. Together we resolved to use movement to take the audience and ourselves to a place profound in terms of thought and emotion. To provide transport to a place so psychologically deep that in comparison Toni Morrison would look like a writer of clumsy and plodding bodice-rippers.
As I watched the showing of our new work yesterday, I was convinced we took our audience on an indulgent and tragic joyride. One where the vehicle crashed into the divider, flipped over, landed on its roof, spun around three times and caused a ten-car pile-up. Simply because the driver decided it would be cool to write her name in calligraphy on the double bacon cheeseburger on her lap.
My dancers took their hands off the wheel, and raised 'em in the air like they just didn’t care. Miles Davis treated us to “The Birth of The Cool.” This was “The Birth of the Clueless.”
As I watched my “dan-cers” the shame I felt as the choreographer produced an overpowering urge to run around the theater shaking my fists at God. How could I escape? Should I feign some kind of desperate ailment? Should I bash my head against the armrest of my seat? Without irony, I prayed the ground would open me up and swallow me whole.
The emotional urges I felt were equally powerful, and filled me with questions. How had all this work, the countless days in which I combusted into impassioned movement while waiting in line at Starbucks, the many nights I spent mapping out formations using carved cheese curds, how had it all culminated in this putrid, steaming hot mess? I considered getting all Oedipal and blinding myself. I thought about running into the dance space and tackling the weakest links.
I longed for a paper bag to throw over my head so as not to bear the scorn and derision of my peers. Surely they were wondering if I had choreographed the piece as some kind of joke, or perhaps under the influence of a Benadrylopolitan.
How did our train get so far off the rails? The movement was supposed to be athletic, daring, sensual. Instead it was incompetent, lethargic and constipated. "Someone"’s timing was so off, she couldn’t have drawn more attention to herself if she’d stood still and begun firing off a laser light show from her coochie.
To be fair, there were some good moments. Several dancers performed beautifully, bringing to light some of the subtleties in the work. While unfortunately this couldn’t change things, kind of like someone hanging off a runaway bus in a third-world country, they deserve some credit. They made it totally worth that punch in the gut I got from knocking over Big Sally’s hot caramel macchiato at the 5th Street Starbucks.
Still, somehow, despite this extremely large and unsettling bump in the road, I know I, make that we, can turn this thing around. We will get this piece on a heart defibrillator and bring it back from the dead. We will go back into the studio and create and think and dance harder than every training montage* in every dance movie ever made.
My dancers better be ready. I don’t care what they have to do – take classes, get laid, or drink whatever it is the smart, new-agey people drink to light a fire under their ass. This cast better be at our next rehearsal ready to kill it. I know that I’ll be re-inspiring myself by watching footage of Wal-Mart opening its doors on Black Friday and by taking a trip to my nearest petting zoo.
We only have ten more days to ride this piece on into the sunset. With wisdom this time, may the journey begin again.
*A classic training montage for your viewing pleasure...