There are things that I know I don't get. I like catchy pop songs and by the time a band hits its third critically reviewed experimental album they've lost me. I don't keep in mind the history of what they've done to fill in the blanks so the new music fits into a cohesive whole. Dance is somewhat the same. I understand that people are passionate about it and I can appreciate the precision of fine ballet, but the misteps and experiments of other dance just make me wonder why someone would bother.
That leads to this evening. As a professor, I try to always attend events that students invite me to. It's important not to just be the voice up in the front of the classroom, but to be a person too. And, generally, going to events is fun. Three of my students this semester were in Whitman's final dance recital and despite my lack of understanding of dance, I said that I'd go.
(As a side note, I'm continually amazed at the huge fraction of Whitman students who go through my classes. It's something like a quarter of the student body.)
The first group made me very worried. Hip hop dance to Usher's "OMG"... Yeah...
Then two of my students in an Irish dancing group. It looked like Irish dance, it sounded like Irish dance. It was, frankly, pretty good. And, after a semester of having students in class, it's very interesting to see how their personalities are reflected in their dance. Very precise and controlled, the same as in lab.
Next, a dance set to Taylor Swift. Hmm... (None of my students in this one.)
More Irish dancing showing the same very compentent work.
Then came a turning point. I had forgotten that a third student had rescheduled lab due to dance practices, but she appeared in the fifth act. I don't know if it was a plus or a minus that the dance was set to Adele, but it worked. In most performances, there's a moment where suspension of disbelief is required. A movie has to make you believe that it's real, a play has to draw you in. It's generally the acting that does it, not that the people in the performance are ACTING, but that you forget that they're acting. Katie made me forget that she was just dancing. There's a very interesting contrast, in lab she can be somewhat timid, but on stage she danced with abandon. Where other dancers were obviously concentrating on the person who was going to catch them, she flew with the faith that she would find solid footing when she came back down. It was really hugely impressive.
And that set the stage for one last round of Irish dancing and the final number, "AIRPORT!!!" which carried on with amazing performances from the dancers and very inpressive choreography that surprised me again at how multitalented Whitman students are.
And it's not that I've drunk the Kool-aid that deeply. There were problems with timing and awkward height differences between the dancers and issues that needed full-time practice to fix when the only practice time available is squeezed between classes.
In all though, after the first little wobbles, art.