Dance Salad and our never ending quest for 'get it'

Great Pearls Before Swine today.

The sound of one hand clapping. The tree that falls in the forest when there's no one around to hear it. The joke that gets told in the dark.

But Pearls made a ripple in my pondering pool of existentialism today by pointing out that it's all about perspective. Within the frames -- work, family, school, PTO, church -- rules and definitions are accepted as inflexible. Context is harder to break out of than Attica, and you've gotta be friggin' Papillon to escape from the genre-specific pigeon holes the publishing industry wants to stuff every author into.

Last night Jerusha and I went to the Houston International Dance Coalition's Dance Salad Festival, an incredibly entertaining evening of innovative dance companies from around the world. (If there's any way you can make it down to the Wortham Center tonight or tomorrow, I absolutely recommend it.)

The fantastically athletic, ass-over-teakettle exuberant Italian Compagnia Aterballetto was the kind of art that nobody could possibly resist or deny. But then there was the Korean Kim Eun Hee Dance Company. There was a lot of uncomfortable whispering and shuffling from the audience during the long spells of agonizingly slow choreography and lengthy periods of silence. The consensus in the ladies room line during intermission was a great big "huh?".

The piece was called "Burying Together" and instead of offering some kind of storyline or explanation, the program said:
To lean in a diagonal line
In the water that barely stops running
A sacred tree
That did not put down roots
Traces the memory of land.
It's long neck
Fails to raise the darkness
And falls to the water in a curve.
The circumference of time
Turns on its side
Spouting out the warm breath.

"I don't get it," said one patron. "What were they trying to say with all that dragging on and on?"

And I thought, gee, maybe they were trying to say 'and then things dragged on and on'. Or maybe they were trying to drag something out of the audience that some audience members simply weren't trained to give. Personally, I loved it. I was sad that there was so little patience for something quiet and unfolding and contemplative, and I frankly wanted to search out one particular jackass after the performance and bludgeon him with his stupid cell phone.

The greatest frustration any writer faces is when readers (including editors, agents, and -- snarg! -- reviewers) just can't connect the dots of what we're trying to do. "I don't get it" quickly translates to "I don't like it" which instantly morphs into "you suck!" We can hone our language skills to the nth degree, but it's impossible for us to anticipate or change the filter of experience, prejudices, conditioning, and taste buds that every individual reader will bring to our words. All we can do is stay true to ourselves and keep on delivering those punchlines into the darkness, believing that someone outside the box, beyond the frames -- someone we might not have the perspective to see -- gets it.


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