This is what often happens when I go watch a performance with Chi.  

Listen while you read to an early draft of “Inside the Circus Tent” that may make it onto an EP of odd-metered dance pieces if The Panache Orchestra survives Chi’s increasingly disturbed behaviour.  As much as I would have loved to soundtrack this post with “Brain Damage” from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album, I will stick with Panache tracks rather than use material whose copyright is owned by others, for which permission to use may be complicated and/or costly to obtain….

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Thursday, May 5th, 2011

As musicians, it is vitally important to continue our professional education while loading up on inspiration by regularly attending excellent performances across the spectrum of the arts.  Excellent ones are best, but even terrible ones can still be still educational.  On Cinco de Mayo I was able to get tickets for us to go to see the Mark Morris Dance Group perform “L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato,”  in a collaborative performance with the L.A. Opera.

A month or so earlier we had seen the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre perform, and the first piece absolutely radiated pure joy, camaraderie and electrifying energy.  (Chi walked out of that one because he took umbrage at one selection of music they used.  Thankfully though, he just walked home and didn’t ruin the whole evening for me – keep reading.)  It made me wonder if dancers have as miserable lives as musicians??

I know we (musicians) generally get paid more, yet most of us still scrabble along at or below the poverty line while deadlocked in intense competition with each other, which is quite distressing, are more likely than not living in toxic situations with long-suffering partners and/or parents fed up with having to financially support us since we can never quite make ends meet, and more than a few people in the creative professions (I can only speak with authority for Music) are radioactively toxic, mentally disturbed types (like the one I’m married to).  This might be because narcissists and addictive personalities are naturally attracted to the “life in the spotlight” (that plays into addictive personalities since being the center of attention and the subject of fans’ adoration can become an addiction).  Dancers would logically be at least physically healthier since their art is primarily expressed through their bodies.  However just like us and professional athletes, they are in pain a lot of the time due to having to use their bodies so rigourously.

Anyway, I was alternately mesmerized, amused and amazed by this performance.  The acrobatic, “wow!” moments were subtle and used sparingly, usually involving an intricately-timed rhythmic sequence with a large ensemble.  There were understated, literal interpretations of the music and wildly humourous ones.  The thing that stands out to me about Mark Morris’ choreography is the playful imaginativeness of it and the front-and-center gay humor.  I don’t have a problem with that.  Both are perfectly truthful aspects of the Dance art form.  During one piece when the male dancers gently lifted their female partners, I thought that in working so closely together day in and day out, presumably with performer egos going full blast (plus the well-known animosity between gays:lesbians:TSs:straights:etc.), surely they must get on each others’ nerves a bit.  Given what I go through with Chi every day, I marveled at their restraint in resisting the almost certain temptation to throw their partners right off the stage into the orchestra pit instead of cradling them in a convincingly poignant embrace.

The set was fairly simple and austere in this production and easy to mentally grasp.  I noted the various aspects of it, i.e., the set, lighting, use of the scrim, etc., and the moods and images the combination of various elements evoked.  I enjoyed the effect of the colorful, flowing costumes too.

Mark Morris apparently isn’t afraid to speak the unmasked truth with his choreography.  I think that’s the most difficult aspect of it for Chi to stomach, as he apparently just can’t let things be what they are.  He absolutely insists on trying to force everything to be whatever he thinks it ought to be, and whenever he fails to force something into his fairly narrow personal frame of reference and Taliban-esque sensibilities, he categorically and automatically writes it off as shit.  Another pathological narcissist I was in a relationship with (the one I quit the whole f***ing country to get away from!) was just like that too.

This made me wonder about the right or wrong of enthusiastically supporting everything or relentlessly condemning everything just on general principle.  It would seem that consciously projecting positive energy results in a net positive, while refusing to tolerate anything short of absolute idealistic perfection and constantly broadcasting virulently toxic negativity is just…well…toxic and negative.  While I’ll admit that on the one hand, if you praise everything to the sky just on principle, you inevitably dumb everything down and degrade standards of quality, but on the other hand, if you refuse to let anything in that is less than absolutely idealistically perfect, you end up with…um…practically nothing.  Naturally, the answer lies somewhere between those two extremes.  I have long since tired of Chi’s vexatious insistence on everything having to meet unattainably idealistic standards of absolute perfection with the implication that he alone is the arbiter of that standard

I gave a standing ovation to the vocal soloists who all came out together during the curtain calls since I thought the soprano and mezzo soprano were especially outstanding, and I particularly enjoyed the music.  Chi just sat there sulking.  He demanded my attention and motioned to his right, saying “Do you see what the people still sitting down think?  They are angry!”  I looked around and saw a group of about six nonagenarians in the middle of our row who were still in their seats with frozen looks on their faces while practically the whole rest of the audience was on their feet in rapturous applause.  He said something condemning the performance as being for the delectation of children, and then stalked out as Mark Morris came back out for a final curtain call.

“What an absolutely pathetic mental case!”, I thought as I wove my way through the other patrons heading for the exit.  I saw that Chi was waiting in the corridor.  When he saw me, he motioned for me to join him standing against The Wall.  (Boy, we’re really on a roll with the Pink Floyd allusions!)  He remained there as the crowd thinned out.  I had absolutely no bloody idea what he was playing at, so I simply improvised my own role in this unfolding Absurdist drama as an Alzheimer’s patient waiting for an imaginary person who hadn’t yet exited the theatre when a colleague from my day job walked past us, noticed it was me, and asked if I enjoyed the performance.  I answered perfectly honestly, “Yes, I did!”  Indeed, I had not let Chi ruin it for me.

After practically everyone had left, he finally started walking, berating and excoriating me, attacking me from every angle he could possibly come up with, demanding that I account for why I had given a standing ovation to such a despicable performance (in his oh-so-righteous opinion) digging deeper and deeper trying to provoke an emotional reaction out of me.  I resolutely held to my mental image of the dome-shaped containment structures of the nuclear reactors at the San Onofre power plant we pass every time we drive back and forth to and from San Diego, and steadfastly refused to allow him to breach them and access my vital energy that he was obviously desperate to prey on.  When he finally gets the message that this source of narcissistic supply has run dry, he will inevitably either have to stop being a narcissist and figure out a less toxic and destructive way to interact with me, or leave in search of a softer target.

I must admit that I found it screamingly funny how despite all his bloviating and vituperating at me, how he’s oh-so-superior and all, he wouldn’t have even been able to find the fucking car if I hadn’t lead the way to it.  It’s times like this that give me the creepy feeling that my life story has been written into the plot of a Pinter play without my permission…..

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