Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Dance in one form or another has always been important to me. Growing up as I did in Iowa, we of course had our traditional ethnic dances. Participating in these stylized rituals fostered a sense of community among us Midwesterners, and also injured many of us, since we were mostly white people.

That notwithstanding, I am grateful that I grew up with a heritage of dance. As I entered my teen years, dance became more important socially. Our teen dances (known colloquially as “belly rubs”) were markedly slower than the ethnic dances of our exuberant youth, so there were fewer casualties. In fact, dancing in my teens consisted mostly of slowly swaying back and forth to the song “Cherish” by the Association, trying not to move our feet so our partners’ arches would remain intact. I am speaking of us boys, of course. Girls apparently attended secret classes where they learned to dance to fast songs without touching. Where they found time to do this in their busy schedule of not dating me I’ll never know.

Since my teens, I have continued to be enthralled with dance. I have in fact developed my own dance that I perform once a year, called My Naked Birthday Dance. This dance requires a partner who is sleeping with me at the time. The partner sits on the bed sleepily rubbing her eyes on my birthday morning while I leap naked from the connubial bed and begin stomping my feet, flailing my arms and leaping about, all the while grunting and hooting to an obscure John Cage composition that only I seem able to remember. While purists insist that My Birthday Dance is more properly called “capering”, I remain firm in my assertion that it is indeed art. In the course of performing this dance, male anatomy being what it is, there are certain slapping noises that form a counterpoint to my apparently random but carefully choreographed jerkings and writhings. The whole thing is quite primitive and suggests certain paintings by Rousseau, as well as the mythopoetic work of Robert Bly. My partners, however, invariably find it alarming. More than one has called 911, much to my subsequent consternation when the cops arrive and I’m buck naked. I persist in performing this yearly rite, however, although the aforementioned partners have become fewer and farther between for what I am certain are unrelated reasons.

It’s not all about me, however. I also enjoy ballet very much. My oldest kid spent many of her waking hours from the time she was seven until she was in high school attending ballet school. She only stopped because she developed tendonitis and big boobs, both anathema to the post-Balanchine ballet legacy.

As a result of this influence, however, I became one of three straight men in Minnesota to become passionate about the ballet. Our family had season tickets every year for the local dance season, and I have been privileged enough to see some of the best dance companies in America (New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Pilobolus, et. al.) I was lucky enough to see Mel Tomlinson dance with both DTH and NYCB. Anyone who thinks that male dancers are sissies should have seen Mel dance. Holy shit.

It is at this time that I fell madly in love with Martine van Hamel, who was then dancing with ABT. She performed the leading role in the ubiquitous “Giselle”, and though I have seen it danced many times, I have never seen it danced better. I still have a huge crush on her. Unfortunately, she still doesn’t return my calls, even though I stopped making them collect calls a couple years ago.

In closing part one of this two-part series, I want to dedicate this entry to Jill Johnston. Back in high school, when I was trying to find out what the hell was going on in the world while I was stuck in a small town in Iowa, I subscribed to the Village Voice. The whole newspaper seemed to be about some surreal frenetic universe which existed well outside the borders of the Midwest, which it was, but mostly I recall devouring Ms. Johnston’s “Dance” column in every issue. Sometimes the column was about dance, but as often as not it was switchblade-sharp commentary about the social issues of the day. Her writing served as an inspiration to me at the time, and I owe her a debt of gratitude. Thanks, Jill.

- Hulles


LaCosta (Lollie) said...

a) John Cage is fantastic, though I love Philip Glass more.
2)Greta post - I want to hear more about your afinity to ballet
3) Martine? Divine. Heather Watts is my hero as she trumped her scoliosis as I feel I did mine.
4) I'm a little sad - I just google imaged myself and I am no longer of the web (I do however still appear with "Lara Deans Lowe" in the regular google).
5) Did you ever see the Nutcracker in Grand Forks, ND in the 90s? I was probably there. We did that gig a lot.

LaCosta (Lollie) said...

I meant great post - guh - you're like...who's Greta?

Hulles said...

It's so fun to talk about dance! Or write, or whatever. And thanks for explaining about Greta, I was scratching my head over that one until your followup comment.

Isabel, my kiddle who got me interested in ballet, was a Heather Watts fan. And also had scoliosis, btw; it wasn't just big knockers that made her give up ballet.

Just in passing, Iz is into capoeira these days in Michigan. I can't wait to see her "perform," if that is what you call it.

I also googled LDL, but of course was at a loss after that since I don't know who you are. Lara's name seems familiar to me though.

I actually met Martine briefly when she was still dancing with ABT. The company was in Mpls for a performance and the whole ABT troupe came to Minnesota Dance Theater (MDT) to practice, which is where Isabel took ballet classes. They (ABT) were very nice to the students, which thrilled the students of course. And Martine was particularly nice to Isabel, chatting with her for a bit etc. etc. I was already in love with her at the time (as much as I could be being married to Isabel's mom, that is, but you know what I mean) so I just stammered and gee whizzed and stuff if I recall correctly. Sigh. I know she totally wants me. (Martine, not Isabel or, particularly, Carmen her mom).

I've only seen the Nutcracker in Mpls. but I saw it a lot -- every year MDT would put on a production involving the MDT pro's and students (Loyce Houlton, if you know of her) and Isabel would always be in it. I went to tons of rehearsals in my role of evil stepdad as well as performances. So I know it well. Unfortunately I never made it to Grand Forks for it.

I did see Giselle (the first ballet I ever saw and it remains my favorite) (I like the Willies or whatever the hell they're called! I want some!) in Prague, in the State Theater (?) where Mozart premiered Don Giovanni if I recall correctly. Beautiful setting, beautful ballet, I was by myself and chose that over the Clash and only regretted it a tiny bit, I wanted to do both. Oh well.

You rock. I hope Ray or whoever isn't too put out that I'm madly in love with you by now. If so, tell him I'm also madly in love with several hundred other women. But they pale compared to... I'll stop now.

Wow, might be my longest comment ever. If you want to chat more we should exchange emails. It takes me forever to find this blog entry. XO and glad you stop by.

Hulles said...

And if you're confused by the "LDL" part of the above comment, so was I. I didn't realize that Lara Deans Lowe was you! I met cK and Erin at W. A. Frost while they were getting their cheese plate prior to dinner and cK said that that was you. Doh! (or, as you would say, guh).

So your name does sound familiar to me; I'll track you down via Google now that I know what the hell I'm doing.

Ain't it great I have nothing better to do on a Saturday night? *sigh*

Hulles said...

I reread your comment and I think it was "appear with" as opposed to "appear as", but whatever. I'm still Hulles, pretty sure.