Protesting Through Dance

I go to a lot of dance concerts and am usually pleased with what I see. I know the local groups and don’t miss the traveling companies. While there is so much creativity going on in all spheres of the performing arts, I just saw something so unusual that I must blog about it. It was done in the community center theater on a large stage complete with professional lighting and stage sets. That much was normal, but it was the subject matter of one piece that caught my complete attention. I will never again say that “I have seen it all.”

At first one dancer at a time entered the stage in simple costumes. They likely represented ordinary citizens. After a while, additional dancers appeared carrying protest signs. Some were about the president, some about abortion, and yet others about police brutality. They paraded about the stage forming interesting configurations. Shortly after, the protest figures started to move about violently. It seemed to turn into a melee of sorts. Quick as a flash, another group of dancers emerged carrying retractable batons. I suppose they represented the police responding to the attacks about their profession. After marching about in a military manner, the batons were activated and raised to the ceiling. It was an awesome and terrifying spectacle. They were so threatening and their movements intense.

The dancers carrying signs backed off and the “normal” citizens came out in front waving their arms and pointing fingers. Whose side were they on? It was very symbolic. The unrest of the sign holders escalated and the “police” thrust their self defense weapons in front of them as they approached the mob. It was a long episode of unrest that moved me emotionally. A few of the officers lightly tapped the dancers on the arms and legs. They recoiled in horror. Everything was now in motion. Dancers were whirling about and forming pairs as they fended off the “attack.” The people being attacked by the signs – the police – became the aggressors.

At the end of the fifteen-minute dance, everyone dropped to the ground and formed two large piles: the two sides were clearly distinct. There was no merging of minds shown. That would have been an interesting conclusion—a kind of truce or peace. Instead, it left you with a feeling of unresolved tension. This was the source of the dance’s power. It was some of the most interesting choreography I have ever seen.

Dance is an amazingly effective source of human expression. It tells a story without words. The movements and facial features become activated by the music. It can be about forms and patters; but it can also be a commentary on current affairs. It can tackle any subject with profundity or humor. The choreographer is in control. Dancers can be pawns for personal issues that plague society and have moved the creator. Sometimes it fails and other times it works wonders. I give accolades to the police protest dance.

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