Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Interpretive Dance Class

Today was interpretive dance day in my Urban Literature of Nature class. After a sentence like that, I don't see how I could ever persuade naysayers that I am a serious college student. In the same vein, there has never been a time more in my life where I've felt like an honest to god hippy.

The young woman who lead the class was a graduate student at my school, and professionally teaches dance. She has led interpretive dance in an academic class setting like this before, so she knew what she was doing. We sat in a large circle on the floor with our shoes off as she questioned us about or relationship to nature, what our role in nature is and how nature makes us feel. At certain points she would ask us to demonstrate these feelings without words.

Many students were hesitant to participate, and several moments of silence would pass before another brave soul would walk into the circle and silently act out their emotions through a flail of arms and the stomping of legs. The audience was then  left to interpret the meaning of these awkward gestures. It was more often than not pretty obvious what emotion or idea the student was portraying with their jagged body movements. The overall theme I surmised from my classmates dance moves is that we are destroyers of the thing we love. We love nature so we smile and skip around and pick up an invisible flower and smell it. Then we wield an invisible ax and chop down the invisible tree beneath which the flower grew. The students brave enough to step into the circle acted out their feelings as literally as possible.

After a while our interpretive dance instructor became fed up with our lack of willingness to display our mediocre dance moves for the class to see except for the handful of brave dancers. Quick like a cat she sprang up to her feet, strode to the center of the circle, and gracefully fell to her knees before performing a half summersault and leaving one leg momentarily outstretched toward the ceiling. Then she gracefully landed and uprighted herself as she exclaimed, "And that's how I feel about nature."

At first I couldn't help but think "show off." But then I realized she was demonstrating the potential we had to markedly improve our own interpretive dance moves by not trying to act out everything in such a literal fashion. Her elegantly organic movements were unlike anything anyone in the class had even attempted. It was in this moment of realization that my definition of interpretive dance was completely turned on its head and I saw it as an artistic form of expression rather than a frivolous hippy activity.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Cockroach Death is Confusing AND Funny

As many know, my mind is partially corroded with the acidic drizzle of peculiar thoughts which sometimes trickle through my skull and often spill out of my mouth in a messy, embarrassing remark that only made any real sense back up in my silly putty brain. However, cockroaches are often a fairly safe subject to poke fun at, and so I am sharing some of my insights with you now. "Kitchen Linoleum," by Audre Lorde, is a remarkable poem. I am very fond of this short piece, and prepared a satiric response which was submitted in my Urban Environmental Literature class:

"Kitchen Linoleum"

The cockroach
who is dying
and the woman
who is blind
not to notice
each other's shame

The resulting acid spill:

Maybe I’m a terrible person, but I couldn’t help laughing during and after reading “Kitchen Linoleum,” by Audre Lorde. It’s just so terribly morbid, and that’s why I find it hilarious. It’s such a short poem, but it raises a thousand questions in my mind. It’s interesting how the cockroach and blind woman “agree not to notice each other’s shame” even though the woman can’t see the cockroach. So how do they make this agreement? Do they speak a common language? Do cockroaches make some sort of noise when they die? Is the dying cockroach in the woman’s home? Does the woman have a home? Maybe the woman sat down on a park bench and accidentally placed her hand over the upturned body of a writhing cockroach, and thanks to her heightened senses, knew its death was imminent. Not wanting to touch a dying cockroach, nor any cockroach for that matter, she quickly removes her hand and agrees to pretend that didn’t just happen. And perhaps the cockroach is ashamed of dying on public display and agrees to pretend no one has noticed it. Maybe cockroaches are very emotional and self-conscious creatures.

What I really wondered is why the blind woman is shameful. Is it because she can’t see, or is it because of her interaction with the cockroach? Maybe the woman is starving and decides to eat the cockroach for some much needed protein. I suppose if eating cockroaches is new to her, then eating her first cockroach might be a bit shameful. Perhaps she is a seasoned cockroach huntress who prefers the thrill of the chase but hasn’t had a kill in a few days and out of necessity has taken advantage of the dying cockroach who has no chance of escape. 

I will say, if the dying creature had been something more lovable, which includes pretty much anything non-insect or serpent related, this poem would have made me feel quite sad. Say if it was the blind woman agreeing not to notice the shame of her very sick, vomit-spewing but faithful canine companion who loved her before she went blind. That poem might even bring tears to my eyes. But I’d be hard pressed to locate a cockroach enthusiast (well maybe not at ESF), but the fact that they are so difficult to kill makes cockroach death seem like a more joyous occurrence and a victory for the human race.

You know how when you’re with a group of people and one of them farts but everyone silently agrees not to bring it up or point fingers? Everyone just endures the stench and waits for it to pass in that tense half minute of silent whodunit. That’s the sort of emotion this poem conjures for me. It’s awkward and embarrassing but also strangely amusing.