Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Through Snow and Space

There may have been something strange in the boiled green beans that I ate at the Tin Can on Saturday. The side dish was more than a bacony compliment to my meal—it was the start of a waking dream.

The evening was lovely and dangerous.

“In fact,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports, “thundersnow was observed in St. Louis County.”

My friend, Shannon, and I drove to the Contemporary Art Museum at speeds in the teens, fishtailing through the turns. The false twilight helped us see.

We parked in fresh snow next to a roofless church. I worried that my car would be buried when we returned. We hadn’t worn boots.

The museum lobby was dark and curious—handmade dolls and simulated waves. Our friend, Lori, later posed in a carnival cutout.

We got some wine and sat in the first of three rows. The stage was set with musical instruments, a giant plastic bubble and a length of red fabric hung from ceiling to floor. Maya Lin’s Systematic Landscapes seemed to breathe in the background.

The production began with Christmas songs, performed by Ceilia’s Yuletide Express. Lyrics were provided in the program, and I noticed a few people mouthing the words.

A woman in a neon green afro and white unitard invited us to release our bellies and observe a brief silence. She washed the makeup from her face in a large wok, pulled off her wig and invoked the memory of her mother singing in her kitchen. Others joined her song, and as the goose pimples spread over my arms, a concept—something about love and transformation—emerged from the weird.

Rebecca Rivas, who facilitated this nearly fifty-person collaboration, explained that the band, Fire Dog, had composed the show’s title track, May These Changes Make Us Light. The dancers and various artists then created their own superheroes or mythical personas. Rebecca, for instance, was “the Hunter.”

With the two other members of the Amazonia Belly Dance Troupe, “Pin Oak” and “Desire,” Rebecca hunted and gyrated all over the stage.

“How can it be,” an unseen narrator asked, “that in our most joyous moments, we let doubt and fear creep in?"

A brief fashion show ensued, demonstrating some stylish uses of muslin, electrical tape and battery-operated lights.

Then a white-haired man, who had seemed out of place during the caroling in his trench coat and lobsterman’s hat, laid three yoga mats on the floor.

“To the people,” the narrator said, “he was the janitor for the museum beneath the St. Louis Arch. But he was truly much more than that, much more than even HE realized. You see, this was his plan: to use the Arch itself, as a gigantic transmitter of a good thought, broadcasted repeatedly day and night, unbeknownst to the officials of this so-called, Gateway to the West.”

We are all one, and love is all there is. This was the phrase that he had chosen to project.”

According to the story, the message reached a clan of yogis from across the universe, who responded with movement. In fact, they were acro-yogis, and the audience applauded their every feat.

This is the part of the dream that starts to unravel into a series of disjointed images, provoked by the giant plastic bubble that turned out to be a projection screen. I know how the listener’s eyes glaze over during the retelling of any dream, so I’ll skip ahead to the pole dancers.

A portable pole was rolled into view and two women with similarly powerful-looking bodies appeared in their underwear. The music got heavier as they worked through their solo routines before crawling upwards in unison—gravity defied, limbs akimbo.

“We have been sent nothing but angels,” the narrator said, as a woman spilled beads from the vase on her head.

The next act took graceful stunt-making even further, ascending almost thirty feet up the red length of silk.

Fire Dog kept the momentum rolling skyward with the reprise, Ahh, ahh, ahh, ahhhh, achieving a new register with every ahh.

The lights went up as the Yuletide Express finished with It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Happy Christmas (War is Over) and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Reluctant audience members were dragged onto stage, only to discover that Christmas songs are particularly difficult to dance to.

The music ended, photos were taken and people mingled with holiday-charged hearts before trickling out into all that white.


Your biased Mom said...

What a surreal evening! I suppose it was in the green beans - but I think IT was in the Contemporary Art Museum. Thanks for the show!

Ben West said...

Pictures taken at 12/15 Show @ Contemporary Art Museum:

http://myspace.com/stereohappy (must login to see)
http://myspace.com/emihemeyer (must login to see)

Video/Photo Montages:

Anonymous said...

Nice to meet you!!!