My previous blog, “Welcome to the Human Race,” explored the aesthetics of pop music and dance as a cultural phenomenon. #9 links the music and movement to the intellectual, political and ecological challenges we face when trying to exercise our creativity, and dance in these dangerous times.
In prehistoric ages, human beings huddled together in caves for comfort and safety. Without doing any sort of census, I assume these dark days are spawning thousands of small gatherings around the world. At a time when the pandemic penalizes close contact and a lighted match can unleash a conflagration consuming vast tracks of the forests that are our best protection against a warming environment, technology has given us zoom.
At this summer’s Dance New England (DNE) Community Meeting, for all the good feeling about taking care of business in a zoom environment, there were two critical concerns which lay a heavy hand.
First, though sharing our dances via zoom has become an unexpected delight, allowing us to cross borders without the need of passports and reducing travel time to zero, we deeply miss physical presence – particularly ironic as with our recent community venture, the purchase of Camp Timber Trails in Western Massachusetts, we are still learning what it means to have a “homeplace.”
Second, we are all aware of the complex of events, largely beyond our control that are reshaping this nation – both the risks of corona19 virus, and the threats to an inclusive, sustainable society which batter us daily and seem likely to continue, even in the most progressive electoral sweep we could imagine. Even as we seek to redress disparities and injustice, the fragility of a civil society is at risk in the face of those equally passionate about their right to bear and use arms in the cause of what they style as liberty.
For both these challenges, my small contribution to doing something (beyond the obvious of voting and contributing financially) has been the launch of “Welcome to the Human Race,” and “Dancing in Dangerous Times.”
Every Thursday evening, from 8 to 9 pm, “Welcome” takes the great gift provided by the musical artists of the past fifty years and creates a zoom-enabled dance/concert playlist. Each event is built around a theme meant to take us on a trip. For example, #6, celebrated the struggle for labor rights and equity, and featured Natalie Merchant’s “Which Side Are You On?”, Dan Fogelberg’s “Blind To The Truth,” and Abba’s “Money, Money, Money.” War, peace, love, racial justice, the environment. etcetera – I’ve done 15 so far, and I’d probably run out of life before worthy songs.
At 9 pm, folks settle in for an hour+ discussion about what the future holds, and what we can do about it – “Dancing In Dangerous Times.” The co-host is my wife, Margaret Flinter, one of the more knowledgeable people in the county on issues of healthcare. That’s given us a baseline of information about issues of survival which everyone is facing. The mix of a dozen or so participants roams over the landscape for a lively though sometimes despairing dialogue in a safe setting. There’s a wide range of sophistication about the troubling issues of these days, but everyone gets heard and respected.
Most, though not all of the participants are connected through DNE. Some folks come for both the music and talking: others drop in and out. There’s humor and perspective, mixing with pain and frustration. If you’d like to visit, send me an email (email@example.com).
What I’ve been thinking lately is that creating the time and space for dancing and discussion is better than a metaphor for how we persevere. If we combine our capacity to engage intellectually and operationally with the healthy joy of play and passion, we ex-cave dwellers stand a chance to dance through these dangerous times.