Several years back, as a favor to a dear friend, I created a piece on a fledgling company for their Gala. Well, that’s not entirely true; by “created,” I mean that I revived the better parts of my undergrad senior comp project about tumultuous relationships and re-investigated them on a company.
Anyway, the ballet was so well-received that the artistic director insisted I come back and finish it - a blessing that happened once before that same year, probably less an ego token and more a sign from God that my enslavement to things that needed my attention would not end until I brought them to completion. I digress. The point is, the ballet, “If the Walls Could Scream,” became a curtain closer and major staple for the company from then on. Able to oversee only a few of the second generation cast changes, I was out of touch with how securely these new folks owned the parts. It was difficult at times to remember, for example, that the dancer in the most tumultuous relationship of the ballet, did not originate the part, so sturdy was her performance in it.
So it is with a great sense of irony (and divine intervention) that I should find out now, years later, that “Walls,” helped get her through a divorce from an emotionally heavy-handed husband. Sure, levels of abuse can be subjective, and her relationship fortunately lacked the volatility that her character endured on stage. Still, there were pieces of herself that were chipped at, that she lost. The art that life ultimately imitated to some less dramatic degree resolves in a section that allows her to leave, to triumph, to literally push the male dancer to the floor.
The other day as I combed through tweets about domestic violence, activism reheated this time by Ray Rice’s idiocy, I avoided commenting in solidarity on Meredith Vieira’s cause. How could I justifying adding
#whyIstayed or #whyIleft to a tweet? But I did not realize the degree to which I had already participated in the dialogue.
It’s not about credit (in this case it belongs to God), but more about how the consequences of our actions – and art – having wider, deeper impact than we know. [My first book of fiction, “12:34,” was a tome on this causality theme.] The steps I choreographed were my commentary about whyshestayed and whysheleft. And hearing recently of the stunning dancer finding profound inspiration in her craft reminded me that the conversation about ills going on in the world and trending on Twitter belongs to us all. Each time someone speaks, in person or on social media, the words have impact somehow, just as every step a dancer does, and every line an actor delivers, and every note a violinist plays has the power to change the temperature of a soul.
So while we’re on the subject of responsibility, mine is to comment on Ray Rice, to be unabashed in my disagreement with those who lament his expulsion from the NFL. Other sports figures have escaped various levels of punishment behind their crimes and indecencies in the past. But the cost of adding privilege and/or sports stardom to national adoration in a digital society rife with technological conveniences (i.e., insta-share footage) is that leveling your wife in an elevator means your instant demise. Instant.
Ask the Delta Kappa Epsilon frat boys at Yale whose pro-rape, “No means yes, yes means anal” chant went viral. Or Donald Sterling, enough said. Except (apparently) in cop vs. unarmed-black-person shootings, or any crime in Florida, accountability rises with the speed and spread at which ones actions can be “televised.” When the touchdown happens and the trophy goes with the team, the positive consequences are plain. God forbid we deprive sports figures of negative ones for wrong-doing.
I have no sympathy. Because if I, a dancer whose income and individual art have little impact on the economy of a city, punch a woman in the face, nobody is going to have a conversation about whether I should at last be permitted to continue my career. Few are going to wait for my words of contrition to thereafter offer me the blessing of getting on stage with any living legend including Cher, the one I work for.
The blessing is that now there is an instant dialogue trending about domestic violence. It is the kind of thing that gives me hope, and makes me more conscientious about the emotional abuse I explore in “Toss in the Ether.” Social responsibility is still alive and hanging on. And it one of the reasons #whyIwrite.
Luminario Ballet performs excerpts of "If the Walls Could Scream" September 19th - 21st at El Portal Theater in West Hollywood.