Things Straight Guy Hates Immediately: The Sun Road Dance

Gay Guy,

Just yesterday we were talking about the blog and I commented that I had to write some fun-loving, positive posts. That maybe even I was tiring of the grumpy character that I often fall into. Yeah, I'm honest (mostly) about how I feel, but it's also easy... easier to snark on the annoying than to really open up about something that inspires or delights (wow, almost NEVER use that word).

I promise I'll work on that. Soon. But not right now.


What the hell is this?

Supposedly, this is the "Sun Road Dance," part of a performance series "intended to capture the spirit and essence of our great national parks through the arts."

This is the essence of Glacier National Park? Not even close. I can tell from a single pose that I don't like it, and am guessing I would be irked rather than entertained by the whole number.

No. No. No. Don't tell me that the incongruity IS the point. That's not going to cut it. He can wear his tuxedo in the desert, jungle, and ocean too, for all I care. It won't work. The mountain views in Montana are beyond beautiful. There is no need to sprinkle our creative impulses from peak to valley to try to make it more so. That's just noise at best, and at worst, another kind of pollution.

The emotional and intellectual impact of visiting a remote national park is in stripping yourself of pretense and ego. To appreciate nature on its terms, not your own. And to feel small and insignificant, which, surprisingly, is a great way to let the worry and drama of your day-to-day fade away.

I've been to Montana many times. I've hiked some of these trails. Often, when struck by the profound beauty of the vistas and animals, I recognize that I am in a moment that could be a million years old. That I am the most "unnatural" thing to pass that way in a long while.

I've never thought: Where's my red cummerbund? I'm holding in a dance that needs to be released and recorded!

I'm a liberal and an arts lover. Hey, I found this in today's Style section before I even opened the news and sports pages. But I've admitted that I'm not much for modern interpretive dance. Maybe I'd have more of an open mind about it, if it weren't for stuff like this.

Look, I know that to have a vibrant arts scene, there has to be room for the experimental, the un-understandable, and, at times, the offensive. I don't want to strip this guy of his grants. I want more than celebrity dance-offs and MTV hip-hop dance crew battles. So, here's my problem: I can't define the line between "interpretive" and "indulgent" dance, but for me, it's clearly been crossed in the photo above.

Choreographer, dancer, and cinematographer Trey McIntyre, of the Trey McIntyre Project (did I say self indulgent or self important?) claims that he was initially skeptical of the concept, but charged ahead anyway. "There is a certain absurdity, not meant to be comic, about somebody in a tuxedo in the middle of the woods," he says, "I wanted to find out what it means when those two elements coexist, what that struggle means."

Wow, I agree with him. It's not comic. Too bad. I would have given funny a chance. Elements struggling to co-exist? Whatever, dude. Otherwise, this exercise only "means" that a few hikers came upon this nonsense and were denied, however briefly, the opportunity to see Glacier on its own terms.

Wonder what the bears made of this. Were they entertained by dancers in red? Or appetized by brightly wrapped snacks?

--Straight Guy

P.S.: GG, I realize that, because you have tickets to just about everything, you might be in attendance. If so, I hope my uninformed pre-review enhances your evening, and that I'm wrong about everything.

Readers, I'm trying to avoid dance-related sexual stereotypes, so I'll ask this way: Is there something about interpretive dance that (many? most? some?) straight guys just don't "get"?

GAY GUY RESPONDS:

SG:

Wonder what the bears made of the interpretive dance performance? Sadly, not lunch. Apparently, they were insufficiently hungry, excessively polite, or just overwhelmed. The mean part of me says, "Please DO feed the bears."

I know I should be an equal opportunity arts lover, but no go here. I'm ready to partake in just about anything, look at photography and painting, listen to a lot of music, but, counter to expected stereotypes (gay = gotta dance!), draw the line at performance art and dance, especially interpretive dance.

For a few months a few years ago, I dated a guy who booked dance groups for arts centers. Big name groups. So, I was (fortunate enough) able to see a lot of famous dance groups. It was sometimes painful. I'd like to think I appreciate all art forms, but dance usually makes me uncomfortable. There is something that doesn't feel natural about it. I can admire some of the technical athleticism in it, and can certainly admire the physicality of the dancers -- at least those who don't like like they won't break in two before my very eyes. There's just something about it that feels indulgent.

Does this make me a bad arts lover? What's my problem?

I'm sympathetic to your argument that other artists can take something from nature, distill it, and then create something that presents a point of view informed by memory. This dance project and projects like Christo and his bed sheets across the country don't work for me.

I just came back from hiking in the Redwoods. Early this summer was Virginia's Shenandoah, last year was Yosemite. Next year I hope for Yellowstone, Glacier or Zion. What makes those trips so compelling his how those place -- I might even say sacred places -- have an impact ON me, not how I have an impact ON it. Being reminded that I am but a blip in the span of the world is freeing, not discouraging.

Remember the park Golden Rule: Leave only footprints, take only memories and photos.

I guess that interpretive dance is like my question about Mt. Rushmore: Who looks at a gorgeous, sacred place and sees the heads of presidents?

As a final note, a friend of mine had a free spirit of a dad. At the dad's funeral one of the prayers was performed through interpretive dance. It took some strengths to keep my lips from twitching. At the post-funeral reception, I asked the deceased's sister, a 70-something year old woman renowned for her mercilessly honest observations of things, what she thought of the dance. After a thoughtful pause, she answered, in a deadpan, somewhat world-weary voice: "Well, HE would have loved it."

The perfect answer is also a thing of beauty, and needs no interpretation.

--Gay Guy

2 comments:

Kathryn said...

Well. Your caption under the photo said "What is this?" I figured it was a quiz.
I said: "It's a dude in a suit who tell off his motorcycle in the desert and there's this Indian chick with a looooong red scarf who's trying to help him stand back up again by offering it as a rope-pulling device....you know, a-la rope climbing, etc. I never ONCE got "performance" out of this and so, I'm stickin' to it.

straight in upstate said...

I don't know if it's a subset of interpretive dance or just the same thing, but I REALLY don't like "liturgical dance" in church. Very hard not to burst out laughing. I agree with both of you - I will say I've seen Garth Fagan's company live and enjoyed them...possibly one of the few in the small-town auditorium that did. I enjoy being contrary, I guess.

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