I'm not a dance man. That is to say I've never had any skill in this domain of human expression beyond the occasional rhythmic head bob. I have, however, come to appreciate dance a bit more since my wife is a former dancer. The things one does for love...
For part of Nicole's Valentine's Day gift we saw Bill T. Jones' dance company Evidence last night. This is the kind of company that can excite people about dance who don't put it on the top of their cultural diet. If you don't like jazz, ballet, or modern dance you you might like Mr. Jones work. I'd even go so far as to say you should go out of your way to see Evidence if they come to your town. Jones started his career dancing and choreographing pieces for Alvin Ailey dance in his early twenties; simultaneously, he formed Evidence to explore his unique fusion of modern and West African dance. Here, he has been able to create a dance hybrid that is truly "Funkier Than A Mosquito's Tweeter."
This fall Jones took his dance skills Off-Broadway co-writing an musical about the legendary Nigerian sax man and political lightning rod Fela Kuti:
Kuti's incredible story allowed Jones to remix Fela's music into a dance narrative with some dialogue. All the music was performed live by the Brooklyn based afro-beat band Antibalas making this one of the more intense shows I've seen despite its underdeveloped plot. I'm sure a gifted screenwriter could turn this into a hit movie (see Mamma Mia) but at this point in time Jones is no Bob Fosse. He remains in his element crafting narrative from pure movement. Last night this skill was on full display when the ensemble danced their signature piece "Grace."
"Grace" is a broken into five "acts" bookended by two versions of Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday." Between the Duke songs the company moves to Previn Everett & Roy Davis Jr.s opus "Gabriel" and Fela Kuti's "Shakara." The non-dance dude in me understood Jones' role in this performance as part DJ, part music video director and part old master. He created the kind of performance that would be magical for kids because the piece is filled with emotion, energy and packed with symbols, costumes, and movements that are very decodable for younger audiences. The number starts with a female dancer in a billowing white costume unwinding under the illumination of a single spotlight. From there things carefully crescendo as members of the seven person ensemble enter and exit the stage creating harmony and grace from a tsunami of individual rhythms, colors, melodies, and movements.
By comparison, when we come to the MC POP Ning home page lots of people chose to dazzle us using the bland grey silhouettes of the default profile image. These images are not as inspiring as the dizzying array of dancers I saw shaking across the stage last night ... I thought a simple way we could add additional meaning to our community would be by adding visuals to the front page photomosaic. Like the dancers, we can each create a splash of individuality within an elaborate whole.
I certainly understand why some people out there are uncomfortable putting their photo on line...
As a compromise, I'd like to ask the people who would rather not put their image up, to follow the lead of Sebastian (Wolverine), Chuck (Mona Lisa w/ Bubble Gum), Helen (green haired digital anime woman), Laura (aka punk rocker) and Len (aka Bilbo Baggins). Perhaps you could add a splash of fun to the Ning by selecting an image from pop culture that tells us a little about you and your pop tastes.
To ensure that more people got in the game I had to think like a politician..."don't energize - incentivize!" How was I going to get folks to change their images?
You'll now see that DONNY OSMOND the your default image on the NING until you change it. Certainly, this could create a strong incentive for folks to toss their Technicolor dreamcoats aside in favor of a pop image that has meaning for you?
On a related note, Brady just joined our NING and I'd love to know more about his photo and friend..it is certainly in the top ten images thus far.
To change your image all you have to do is go to the "settings" tab in the grey box on the upper right hand corner of the Ning. From there you can upload a photo of yourself or a pop avatar that tells us something about you and your interests.
If you have a real photo up, please keep that up, as I think those are the coolest (especially if your a former student) - for the record, I would want my pop avatar to be this..
but I'm willing to recognize that a more accurate avatar would be..
So we talked a bit about ME, mentioned something for YOU to work on. The next post will feature part of EVERYBODY and some excellent teaching resources...stay tuned.
Oh! My phenomenal dancer friend, Maija Garcia, is part of Jones' company, though I think Evidence operates as a separate company. And my pop culture avatar? Why do I feel like I'm going to have to go google searching for images of Xena: Warrior Princess? Or perhaps Cheetarah from Thundercats. Aye, my nerdy past.