1. from "Dance in America"
in Birds of America
I tell them dance begins when a moment of hurt combines with a moment of boredom. I tell them it's the body's reaching, bringing air to itself. I tell them that it's the heart's triumph, the victory speech of the feet, the refinement of animal lunge and flight, the purest metaphor of tribe and self. It's life flipping death the bird.
I make this stuff up. But then I feel the stray voltage of my rented charisma, hear the jerry-rigged authority in my voice, and I, too, believe. I'm convinced. The troupe dismantled, the choreography commissions dwindling, my body harder to make limber, to make go, I have come here for two weeks--to Pennsylvania Dutch country, as a "Dancer in the Schools." I visit classes, at colleges and elementary schools. spreading Dance's holy word. My head fills with my own yack. What interior life has accrued in me is depleted fast, emptied out my mouth, as I stand before audiences, answering their fearful forbidding German questions about art and my "whorish dances" (the thrusted hip, the sudden bump and grind before an attitude). They ask why everything I make seems so "feministic."
"I think the word is feministical," I say. I've grown tired. I burned down my life for a few good pieces, and now this.
2. from Good Deeds
Alan screeches out the words, Lucifer dancing, begging for a little affection, a little forgiveness, cavorting on his make-believe stage. And sometimes the wolves are lambs. Sometimes the saints are sinners.
The bass pounds. Alan leaps into the air, lands on his knees and shoots up again. He spins around, spins once, twice and sees me watching. I try to leap out of his vision, but he isn't embarrassed at all. He's grinning, the most unabashed grin I've ever seen. His hand reaches out. He waves me into the room. He's still singing, acting out his fantasy, dancing around me. He tosses me the mike and shouts, "Take it, Daaa-na." With the music swirling around me, spilling into me, I feel Alan's world, a world of dreams in a safe shelter. Bomber pilots, comic heroes, rock stars, costume changes--only costume changes. I am frozen only for the briefest moment before we're stomping and shouting like maniacs, belting out the tune. He moves in close, grabbing my mike, to share it, his wild child's face close to mine. "Now spin," he shouts, choreographing breathlessly.
When Irv comes upstairs, drawn by the sheer pitch of our jumping and wailing, we grab him too and pull him into the room. His mouth is agape, his glasses askew and he swats at us, the full sleeves of his kimono flapping. "Are you both crazy? Let go of me! You're going to give me an attack," he hollers, shoving us away from him. But Alan persists. Exhausted, I slip back against the wall, then into the hallway, watching them. "Spin? You want me to spin?" Irv screams.
Our secrets are safe. Some things don't change. It's my wise, cranky father who's always understood. Irv would say, quoting the Zen master, "'We are saved such as we are.'"
3. Cotton Avenue
Concert Track: Live from Red Rocks, August 30, 1983
Cotton Avenue - Joni Mitchell