Submitted by aynsleyv on Tue, 2010-08-24 21:28

Response to Ideological Formation

It all started so simply. Three large white boxes rest on the floor. A voice describes the choreography of a dance: “She grasps her bent elbow, runs hand down to wrist. He kneels on one knee.” Then a box begins to move, an unseen someone inside, perhaps grasping a bent elbow? The box slides along, without feet.

The white boxes heave and turn, feet appear, legs and then two male dancers emerge, crouch, jump. A third dancer arrives. The dancers are splendid, extraordinary performers, two men in their twenties and a teenage boy, light and lithe as flute. The dance is a statement, a manifesto, a tri-bodied monologue, a hymn of love, war, art, history and, always, the joy of dance itself. There’s music. Here is “Material Girl.” The dancers’ material is the body, material boys. The dance is ballet, boot camp, street dancing, military marching. The movements are crisp, athletic.

A dancer rotates one elbow out with his other hand, as if twisting his own robotic arm. There are boot-camp push-ups. Man is caught by war—a dancer speaks German, harsh and furious. A train whistle blows. Who is in those railway cars? A shiver down the spine. And man is love, men in love. The disembodied voice describes contact: “She places her hand on the small of his back. He wraps his right leg around her left leg. They kiss.” But there is no woman here. Each dancer dances alone, playing himself and his own invisible partner. At last, at last, two dancers come near, touch, arch, turn, and . . . kiss.

Now we’re looking at a video, on a large screen. The three dancers are outdoors, in a river, wearing their white cardboard boxes. The boxes float away, reappear, are set afire. Flames lick cardboard, white paper undulates into gray-white sheets of ash, erotic as a painting by Georgia O’Keeffe. The screen goes dark, and we’re back in the dance space.

A dancer appears, an open notebook computer floating in his hands. On its screen, as he swoops it above his head, then down toward his knees, we glimpse on the screen Vladimir Horowitz’s hands on piano keys. A piano sonata swirls out of the MacBook, and seems to spill out a second dancer, curling and turning on the floor, a man made of music. It’s moving, lovely and lyrical. What is music? What is dance? What is man? As the Schubert soars, the three become one.

The dance moves on. The percussion of the stamping feet, the slap of an arm on a shoulder. The percussion of speech. A tumult of talk, of dance as art and truth, talk of sex, of threes—triads, triangle, threesomes. A couple is a man and a woman; but here, a couple is two men, or a threesome of men. More war. Confederate military jackets are donned and doffed, another train whistle moans. The three young men stand; they sing. “Mine eyes have seen the glory . . .” simple and infinitely touching, The Battle Hymn of the Republic. We imagine Abraham Lincoln’s coffin passing by.

Body movements tease and cross and double-cross. An arm cradles a lover’s head, or a gun. Bodies appear and disappear inside boxes, outside boxes, dash out of the hall and into the night.

Bio: Anne Barry was for many years a free-lance nonfiction writer. She is now a visual artist, and lives in Jersey City, NJ, with her husband, David Greenwood.