I was sitting in the theater recently, waiting for a dance performance to begin, when someone I’ve known for awhile sat down next to me.
We exchanged hellos and chit chatted, which was fine, but then something shifted when I mentioned Dog Dance, my excitement of it, this odd little dance I do when I can.
She turned to face me directly: “Is Dog Dance about climate change?”
“No, why?” I said, in that laughy, light kind of voice I tend to use when something isn’t right, but I’m not sure what.
“You’re wasting your time, and ours, making dances that aren’t directly addressing climate change.”
“Umm…” (that’s me stammering, still trying to be laughy and light).
“You have a responsibility as an artist to make work that is about climate change,” her voice got louder, and the people sitting around us got quiet.
Everyone leaned in and exchanged glances.
From here I don’t remember exactly what happened, except for my stammering that continued throughout, and words like “Genocide” and “Devastation” and “You”.
The talking ended, awkwardly, when the lights went down in the theater, and the dance performance, which had nothing to do with climate change, started.
I wish I had some kind of take away or understanding I can give you from this exchange, but I don't.
I was, and still am, utterly confused.
I have a couple of endings though.
I don’t know which one is right.
What I should say to you is:
“I wish I hadn’t left that conversation. I wish I had slowed down, and waited. I wish I had looked her in the eye and said what, I have no idea, but something something something to repair the tear in the circle that was ripped.”
But I won’t say that.
I won’t say that because what I really want to say is WHATEVER LADY.
I’m as freaked out as you are about climate change and I get your need to shake us all, by the collar, to friggin’ wake up -- but that’s not my dance.
But is it?
All of our dances?
We spoke about it in class today, that the focused listening, and the connection between the body/mind that takes place in any kind of art making, in a zig zaggy way, is kinda about climate change.
That feels like a big leap to make though, and this person’s pain and fury were FLYING because, Jesus Christ, the pain and fury of all of us who are living, or are yet to be living grappling with climate change, I mean, holy fuck.
I’m thinking about making a dance about climate change with a friend.
I heard this amazing interview with Amy Goodman when she was at the Katowice Climate Summit in Poland last week, where she is literally running after a US Government Trump Appointed Oil and Gas Guy, trying to get him to answer questions, and he is RUNNING as fast as he can, away from her.
At one point, she says between gasps:
“He’s taking…..the stairs….two at a….time. He....just switched…..direction…..and is now…..going back down….the stairs…..Sir?…..Sir!”
Microphones are crashing and falling, and you hear their feet hitting the ground — running.
You hear their labored breath — running.
I could make a dance about that with my friend.
I probably won’t ever make a dance about climate change, to be perfectly honest, but I do understand this person’s desperation in wishing that everyone in the entire world would make every single piece of art, write every single book, sing every single song, and make every single dance about climate change to help turn this ship around.
Dance and dance and dance -- for as long and as deep as you dare.