Thursday, February 11, 2016
Dear Hubbard Street Dance
Dear Hubbard Street Dance:
Lately I have been vying against artistic greatness. For one thing it's hardly ever there when it's supposed to be there. For another thing it's so much more rare than anyone suggests it is. And then to make itself more troublesome, even when it exists it appears mercurially, visible only to some and perhaps to them only for a time.
So on Thursday nights I go with my wife to The Riverview Cafe, our neighborhood cafe, and we watch their utterly scrappy, charming, expectation defying Open Mike Night. Wonderful things happen there. Battered out people stand up and sing weathered songs until their own guitar playing illuminates them from inside, like a candle hidden in hands. Ukeleles, harmonicas, bits of electronics, old people, people for whom nothing ever worked out, tired people, plucky people, working people, lost people, all out there, barely watched, on a flat stage all alone with their 4,000 hours of practice, making music for free. And it's surprisingly good music. It can go all the way to teetering onto being brilliant music. It walks regularly down the middle of the road of art, not dressed up, without fanfare, like the splash of artistic mastery is the god given right of every human being born to the gift and curse we refer to as The World.
I don't need a TV or a concert hall, CDs, books covered in glowing quotes, museums. Famous people are not required. We all have our own little bit of genius, eh Hubbard Street Dance?
And then I saw your dance company one Saturday night at the Northrup Auditorium. And oh, right there, greatness. Greatness, Hubbard Street Dance, just as I'd pleasantly forgotten it.
My Back Pages, Hope is the Thing With Feathers, Pluto and Proserpina, The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, The Entombment of Christ, one doesn't generally stumble upon these at the local cafe. Seven billion people in the world, you'd think this greatness stuff would sort of pile up. But no, one can hunt for a year and come up blank on greatness. One might even love art and still forget greatness in all its confusing depth, and then walk into a theater somewhere and see... you.
Here is a funny anecdote for you, Hubbard Street Dance. In all the many dance performances I have ever seen, my eye strained to pick out the best dancer on stage. There is that call to greatness again. How we hunger and how easily it ruins us! All those wonderful, wildly talented, hard working dancers, and I strain for something more. You, Hubbard Street Dance, come onto the stage, a group, pairs, solo, shifting, and for the first time in all my watching of any dance in my whole life my search ends. Like that, dissipated, a great solid thing like a puff of white steam disappearing into air. There, simply, on the stage, is the best dancer:
All of them.
And there is the best dance, where there is no dancing, no move, no construction, no linking one part to another, nothing that betrays that it is dancing, that it is a dance. There is the best dance: where it is, for the first time I have ever seen, simply all one, whole, and unbroken.
I try more and more not to look for it. But I will take greatness when it comes, for rare and beautiful things cannot be slighted at the peril of our souls. And I will be grateful, and thank you.