Sunday, February 24, 2008

Life as dance

Friday night Beth, Greg, Lisa and I attended a performance of the Hubbard Street Dance Company at the Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts. It was the first dance performance I felt I really understood.

The final set in particular, The Constant Shift of Pulse, resonated with me. According to the Hubbard Street website, "This intricate and visually powerful piece illuminates the purity of movement, as its 15 dancers test the boundaries of trust and release. Interacting as catalysts to build an emotional landscape, the dancers challenge the viewer’s concept of the relationship between personal and shared space."

It is the last part, the relationship between personal and shared space, which struck me. Always, throughout the set, there were multiple dancers on the stage. Sometimes, three or four dancers would be watching another dancer moving alone in a spotlight. At other times, dancers would be moving together in pairs or groups of three or four. Inevitably, when a dancer would come out a solo, he or she would look to the other dances on the stage, to see if they were looking, or to see exactly what they were doing.

At times, the dancers were perfectly paired, moving in sync together. Sometimes one or two dancers would be lifting and supporting a third, or a group of dancers would be mixing it up with another group. Sometimes there were pairs and triplets and bigger groups all moving, seemingly independent from the other groups on stage, but always in relationship to the larger group, always reacting and interacting with what was happening around them.

The dance was the movement and motion of life. It was the first time I had seen a performance and thought, "life is like this dance," not the other way around.

Like the performers in this dance, we are all individuals, on our own stage, dancing our own dance and, at the same time, constantly in interaction with others, watching others, reacting to others, supporting others, and moving with others, only to come back to being just us, by ourselves, dancing our dance. And that flow from individual to collective is a constant, indistinguishable movement from one moment to the next. Changing, evolving and rapidly pulsating forward to some common rhythm of humanity.

It's not often we stop and look at the dance we all share and it's not often where we see ourselves as just one of many ones. And it is hardly ever when we see the world through another dancers eyes or even understand every step and movement which brought them to the place they now stand. We can barely retrace our own steps as we perpetually spin and jump from one place to another in anticipation of our next moment, never quite knowing what it will bring.

I left feeling warmed by the beauty of the performance. Reflecting today however, I am filled with a bit of melancholy. Life, like this dance, is beautiful in the grace of its movement, in the potential for shared possibilities and in the hope of what comes next, yet tragic in the face of its inevitable end. Because, like the dance, someday our show will end. The curtain will fall, the patrons will empty the auditorium and our performance on this grand stage of life, no matter how beautiful or perfect, will quickly fade as a memory of only the most devoted fans.

However sad the end, there is a magic that happens in the interactions between we dancers. A beauty so powerful we are propelled to keep moving in the face of the inevitable curtain call. Seeing this dance reminded me of that beauty. And, it is with that beauty in mind that I can confidently say, I look forward to continuing this dance with all of you.

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