Monday, July 17, 2006

an evening of dance music

I've been chewing on the notion that I've never had a 'theme' here at this establishment, my little olde shoppe of words and ideas.

I got the notion this saturday night when we decided to take in the (free) Diavolo Dance Theatre performance at the comparitively scenic California Plaza downtown. I say comparitively scenic because, as someone who works downtown, most things in and around the center of our fair city are, in fact, unpleasant. Sure, there's some nice loft spaces where people are fortressed inside, but a few blocks away from a hip yet struggling restaurant/boutique/bar under a half million-dollar loft apartment is a Blade Runner-esque carnival of misery, addiction and homelessness. So, taken by that measure, a fountain-dappled concrete space between Deloitte & Touche skyscrapers and corporate coffee stops looks pretty good.

I digress. ANYWAY, check that picture of Diavolo out--Looks pretty crazy, right? Big wooden boat-ish structure, bodies soaring to and fro, and, yes, modern dance being peformed by gymnasts! Actors! And (presumably) dancers! I'm not someone who generally seeks out modern dance performances, but seeing words like 'surrealist' and 'absurdist' next to just about anything piques my interest. And it was better than roasting inside of a poorly insulated house during our Summer of the Inconvenient Truth.

SO, off we went and I have to say, the show wasn't terribly impressive. Sculpted men and women propping themselves up in various yoga poses, slip-sliding up and down the pictured rollicking boat thing. Every so often one would fling themselves off the boat and into the waiting arms of his/her fellow dancers, resulting an excited 'wooo!' from the crowd.

Sure, it's impressive, and risky, but surrealistic? I mean, I don't know how to fling myself off a rocking wood structure but essentially what you were seeing in the leaps were only a bit removed from the feats of skill found at the average Pac-10 cheerleading challenge. And the dance? Again, I'm not an authority, but it really just looked like an olympic floor exercise taking place on a moving surface. Skillful, sure, but not very moving.

Then of course there's the biggest culprit: the music. A series of dramatic string swells and non-verbal operatic trills from unseen voices. It may have been reaching for those fantastic "Great Gig in the Sky" dramatic wails but what it found instead? The pretention-skewering dance numbers from "The Big Lebowski." Come on, remember, the Dude's landlord greets him at his doorstep in wee Grapevine shorts and invites him to check out his "Cycles"? That's what the California Plaza sounded like. All it needed was some MagLight lighting and a chubby guy in laurels.

And people ate it up. I read that the guy behind the company has just been commissioned to choreograph a cirque du soliel show in Vegas, which makes complete sense. There was a very Vegas touch to the evening, from the retirees clustered around the fountain to the melodramatic feats of strength on stage. All that was missing was a magician to dance around a spinning, sword-skewered casket.

So, why are we here now? It made me think of dance music, and its many forms. I'm not what one would call a fan of 'dance music." (See my earlier post about my 'roughage' listening habits, but there are songs that make me want to move my feet, shake my hips and generally wave my hands in the air and wave them like I have no regard for the consequences.

'What the World Is Waiting For,' by the Stone Roses

And, I promise, one or two of these will have even been created less than 15 years ago (and the less we discuss of this song's birthday the happier we'll all be, agreed? Agreed.)

I never got to see the Stone Roses live. I came close--I lazily approached a ticketmaster in San Jose the next day after their Fillmore show was announced. Sold out, of course, which sort of surprised me given the tepid response to "Second Coming."

I even trolled around the venue the night of the show in an attempt to catch a scalper's ticket--something I'd never done before or since--and failed there as well. What I believe I missed was the band without Reni, their original drummer, who had bailed out sometime before and, possibly, a hobbled John Squire who busted his collarbone cycling around Mt. Tamalpais that week. I could be misremembering some of the whos and whats there (please advise if so), but suffice to say I MISSED THEM. One of my favorite bands of all time, and like most people I never saw them live. Instead I've got two records, one collection of b-sides (where this song comes from, in all its baggy, starry-eyed glory), and a lot of unfulfilled potential (on their part, not mine. I did all I could, dammit).

But regardless, enjoy this jangly slice of Manchester. I'd like to promise more to come tomorrow along the same lines, but who knows if the 'theme' will take hold. I might jump off the rocking little boat in my own right. Stop the world, I'm getting off.


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