Fertile Ground Portland

A Festival of New Works Blog

A Manifesto Towards Everyday Dance November 17, 2009

One of the unexpected delights of the 2010 Festival as it shapes up is the discovery that many of this year’s participants are creating work at the intersection of dance and theater… including Whitebird’s world premiere Minh Tran/Tere Mathern piece, Artists Rep’s Hillsboro Story, Many Hats’ Truth and Beauty, and Shaking-the-Tree’s Memory Water (check out one of their amazing images of Chisao Hata below).

Our newest Festival participant, Polaris Dance, is cooking up an event that will blend visual art, world premiere dance and live music into a cocktail that will invite festival-goers to reconsider their relationship to dance…is it something that THEY do? Or something that I do? Is it something to witness or to experience? Or both?

With that in mind, Bernadette Doolan from Polaris has shared with me an extraordinary new manifesto, drawn from her own experience of her irish heritage- towards dance, not as a rarified twice yearly excursion into the exotics of the human body, but as an everyday essential human experience. Check it out:

When I was younger (in Ireland) I asked my parents what they did for fun when they were my age. Their answer surprised me. Not only because I was a typical narcissistic 19-year–old and couldn’t believe my parents had a life before I came along, but because the concept was a little alien in today’s society….
Their tales told of spending every weekend and sometimes mid-week travelling to dances…

When I say travelling I mean a time in Ireland when teenagers had no cars! (America was sooo advanced in the 50s/60s!).

They remembered a wondrous night when they cycled 60 miles (and back!) for a dance that was the 1950’s equivalent of uber-hot!
Though I was already slack-jawed, they proceeded to tell me of all their escapades to do with dance. (A lot!). How everyone dreaded being a wallflower (had to be explained to me first…) and how if someone was a good dancer they never had a problem finding dates, even if they had been hit with a giant ugly stick!

How a new outfit was dreamed of, begged for, borrowed and sometimes stolen so you could complete your look for that important dance. How everyone thought, dreamed, and felt dance all day, every day. It was your reason for living; it was intrinsically what made everyone tick.

How times have changed. Where once dance was part of everyone’s daily life, and a life without seemed bereft, now we have Dance relegated to a part of life that only a few get to experience. To dance is to be human. Anthropologists would agree! Our ancestors were differentiated from animals because we wanted to dance! No reason to do it to get food, but we couldn’t help gathering around the family fire-pit and cutting a move for all to share. We all hear a song on the radio and can’t prevent our hips from moving, or our heads from bopping, or both! Let’s face it; if no one is looking, our whole body gets involved! Sadly most of us now just nod at each other in seedy nightclubs or shake our bon bons at a family wedding.
We watch celebrity dancing, MTV videos and admire choreographers on talent shows on T.V., but never think to attend a local dance event or class. We’re happy to run on a dreary conveyer belt for an hour but would never think to put on our favorite music and dance off the calories.

Something else we have forgotten is that it is incredibly hard to be depressed when you dance, yet we are constantly searching for other ways to make us happy. What has happened to our humanity that we have to tamp down something that is so natural, and an integral part of our make-up?

Isn’t it time that dance stopped being relegated to the dusty corners of our community and brought forth into the spotlight it deserves? Even if our shyness wins out, can’t we still support those who have stepped up and made dance a priority in their lives, and whose efforts are ensuring the survival of dance?

We will always be moved by performance in some fashion. If it is not in our body, it can be in our experiences and memories. Such as the time when after our conversation, my Father swept me up in his arms and truly showed me what it was like to be human and fly on the arms of a good dancer.

Please support the Dance companies exploring new work with amazing music and dancers at the many events lined up for Fertile Ground fest 2010, and you will surely re-discover a little more of your humanity.

Bernadette Doolan-
Polaris Dance Theatre
“Through dance, we awaken the heart and enhance our humanity”

What is your experience of everyday dance- has there been a moment in your life where dancing lifted you up out of the every day? Changed your world? Reframed your relationship to it? Do tell.

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4 Responses to “A Manifesto Towards Everyday Dance”

  1. Pulp Diction Says:

    I tend to get intimidated by steps and choreography: My entry way into dance is usually to impersonate the music… act out the lyrical content, start and stop to the rhythm starts and stops, get one motif on for the verses then break into another one for chorus.
    When I was in high school and college people would see me move and swear that I was drugged out of my brains. I always took that as a compliment because I don’t even drink coffee.

  2. Great post! I wish dance was a part of everyday life. At breaks at work?

  3. Tony Fuemmeler Says:

    you just gotta make it happen. I used to live in an apartment where anyone could call out a dancebreak, and everyone would have to stop what they were doing and dance for 5 minutes. it was great.

  4. “Dance”= movement, joy , the physical expression of our selves and with each other, is always a part of BroadArts shows and my play writing. In the next show, A/ Broad for All Season, which opens January 2 as part of the Fertile Ground Festival, at the IFCC, the show will feature some segments about Josephine Baker, the famous ex=patriot dancer who revolutionized tribal or indigenous dance in Europe. Little known about Baker was that she was also a pacifist and anti-war activist. Here’s to moving around, touching each other and connecting our own souls to the vibrational energy of the universe. With jazz hands!


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