Interpretive Dance: Why I Miss Being 19
When I was twenty I suddenly, in a fit of pique and obsession, busted out of my family home and moved interstate. In the years between being released from advanced daycare and boarding a plane to Perth, however, I'd been working in arts administration, specifically orchestral management, which had led me to several shitty voluntary positions in several gratefully exploitative arts institutions. One of these subsequently led to a paid job, at the Victorian College of the Arts, helping to organise some insane modern opera set in an old hippie commune outside Melbourne. All fun and games, and working at the College was a modestly sized laugh as well.
Now, I realise my level of cynicism may be higher than the recommended daily output, but then we all have our art-appreciation limit; I challenge anyone claiming otherwise to maintain their stance after watching a my good friend James' graduation recital involving a bassoon, a bear costume, and some very dubious wailing. At the VCA, as one of the more progressive arts education institutions, the emphasis was often on dipping one's toes into as yet uncharted waters of contemporary art. In the process, that spider-silk-thin line between great art and empty wank was often crossed, or broken, sending its spinner careening through the ether of art criticism without much hope of redemption (which side of the line am I on now? Somebody catch me!), and much less of Australia Council grants. Of the many media of expression on offer, one which I often found difficult to digest was interpretive dance. I don't see a problem with interpretive dance per se, and I'm sure its therapeutic qualities have contributed to the prevention of numerous road rage incidents and possibly an ulcer, but one would have to be feeling particularly dour to disagree with the assertion that it does lend itself rather well to comic re-interpretation.
So one fine day at home in the far reaches of Melbourne's sprawling suburban flab, my brother and I, evidently having come to the dead end that is the final credits of the last in the Indiana Jones trilogy, began to discuss my pocket of life at the College. My brother did, for a good portion of his early years, find that the arts generally gave him gas, but he had his reasons and is now more or less reformed, so we can all breathe easy, as it were. I doubtless began to bemoan the attitudes of some of the dancers, in response to which he suggested that he infiltrate the dance department in order to reform them from the inside. Being a strapping 5'11'' and around 100kg, we surmised that this would take some persuasion, and that perhaps classical ballet would prove the least yielding route, unless his audition piece were to invlove the imitation of several different species of tree.
And so it was that interpretive dance presented itself as the common man's most viable means of expression. He began to demonstrate some possible moves, such as writhing in no discernible sequence on the floor, running fairly erratically between each end of the house with arms whirling perilously close to his face, and periodically striking impassioned poses worthy of Marcel Marceau before continuing on to roll towards my feet with a pained expression. I agreed that based on what I had witnessed of the College's previous interpretive dance programs, he would be running the department in no time. When our mother arrived home from wherever it was she'd been hiding out (whatever for?), we triumphantly announced the career epiphany set to vanquish all dependency on our respective cafe and video shop jobs, and treated her to a preview of our startling interpretation of Benny Goodman's 'Sing, Sing, Sing'. She also smelt success in the gusts generated by our flailing limbs.
Sadly (?), we never did audition, and the dancers in question remained safe up on their high tulle horses. I continued my work at the College for another year or so, and Tom garnered a design degree, and then I unceremoniously departed to another state and another life with five days' notice. But in the intervening months, in between the squabbling, we shared the satisfaction of throwing ourselves bodily into a spontaneous expression of bemusement at those instances when art would simply get lost up its own bottom.
The man pictured above now runs a successful design business. I still work in a cafe. I have also learnt to spell out 'karma' with my legs alone.