09 September 2007
this story begins in the middle
saturday night: marc bamuthi joseph
tore up the stage with his work-in-progress, the living word project: the break(s)
when I am visually overwhelmed by something, I tend to shut down. or shift into freestyle mode and string my words together in cryptic, uneven ways. a good example of this would be when I visited new york last year. all I managed to produce was a barrage of visual images and a series of non sequiturs describing random colorful scenes that impacted me in varying degrees of greatness. I am often struck dumb when someplace, something or someone sweeps me off my feet. it's as if the words I write might somehow cheapen the spectacular nature of the very thing I experienced. I'm left with no choice but to back off and let it come out however it needs to come out.
so, saturday night. we get to the theatre (me and my great friend amy, whom I danced with for years and years) and we sit down and I open up the program and read something that marc bamuthi joseph has written.
my goal is to embody theater's connection from shakespeare's quill to kool herc's turntables; from martha graham's cupped hand to nelson mandela's clenched fist: a new voice for a new politic.
well, all right then. all right. if you can serve that up then I will cry big fat sloppy tears of joy because that is what I am TALKING ABOUT.
my mind is currently a hot mess of images, words, stories and movement. good art will do that to you. I want to talk all about 1984 and queens, new york. shell toes versus tap shoes and how tokyo felt like times square times 11 plugged into a light socket. I want to talk about strange fruit, haiti and turntables. about how someone can become an MC without saying a word, about how babies come into the world and change our lives, but also about humility and the peculiar place that exists between high art and hip hop. more than anything, I want to talk about how I could have watched marc bamuthi joseph move forever and ever and ever, amen. the next best thing to electricity, the very definition of what it means to be simultaneouly grounded and weightless. old school meets old school: traces of classic modern mixed with the golden age flavor of hip hop. I know I've said it here before but when the dancing is that good, it's like the best ride at the carnival. I'm yanked out of my body to another place and I am as close to flying as someone who is sitting in a stiff chair in a dark theater can be.
I guess what it really comes down to is this: the performance, it profoundly moved me.
it is with great sadness that I say the following. there's not too much in the world that is the performing arts machine that does that for me anymore. I've seen too much, been on stage/back stage/in class/in rehearsal/in the audience for the better part of my 36 years. I've spent large chunks of time dissecting dance from every possible vantage point, tearing it apart and putting it back together. and I'm thankful for that, don't regret even a second of it but sometimes I forget. I forget what it feels like to get lost in a great performance. saturday night was the first night in a really very incredibly long time that I didn't look down at my watch and wonder when the piece was going to be over. I think it was doris humphrey that said that most dances are too long. I'm a firm believer in that. except when it's really, really good and you never want it to end. when it's so good you just want to have a cry over it. so good that you didn't spend the last half hour of the performance wondering what the dancers had for lunch or if they all hang out together when they're not rehearsing. so good that you leave the theater hovering and buzzing in a post-performance cloud of sweetness and light and want to think about it, talk about it, write about it. so good that you give up your chance to see another great dance company that you really REALLY really wanted to see-- just so your husband can go see what you just saw, just so you'll have one other person to talk it over with.
greatest sentence of saturday night's performance, so good I had to scribble it down on the back of my hand in the dark of the theater, lest I forget:
I am riding the lightning of my writing
indeed, I am riding the lightning of my writing. even if no one else is. even though I sort of feel like deleting this whole thing and starting over again. but when I am overwhelmed like this I just have to let it come out how it needs to come out. if you made it this far through the post, through my swooning and singing and rambling-- thank you. and marc bamuthi joseph, wherever you are, you turned me inside out and upside down saturday night-- thank you.
(if he comes to your city, folks-- don't miss it. and all you portlanders out there, the TBA festival is still going on. still time to catch something that might turn you inside out and upside down before it's all over)