Performance and dance buddies

Alana and I were performance and dance buddies.

We shared a YBCA membership for a while, went to the Intersection for the Arts regularly for a bit, and had season tickets for the Berkeley rep. We’d see music performances too (Yo Majesty stands out as one that I never would have seen if Alana didn’t suggest it, but it was awesome!), but we were really into seeing theater and dance together. We especially shared a love and amazement of what the human body could do. Aerial acts, yes. Keith Hennessy, yes. Alvin Ailey dance company, definitely. Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Dance Company, of course. Marcus Bamuthi Joseph, we are there. Inversions, unusual gender combinations, the use of body weight, stillness amidst rhythm – perfection. We’d send breakdancing videos to each other. She’d send me an awesome Bollywood music video clip and I’d send her a clip from the Pina movie. She accompanied me to an absolutely incredible butoh performance at the Asian Art Museum. (Butoh is a type of Japanese dance/theater that is unlike any other type of dance I’ve ever seen and usually involves skinny people in white body paint doing things that many people may not recognize as dance.) We saw another incredible butoh performance later, where a child-sized person in rags crawled along the balcony in front of us. It’s very hard to explain, but it was so surreal and we loved it. And then, as happens with performances, we also saw a terrible version that called itself butoh involving a fat powdered white man with a red stripe painted down his hairy belly. I think we stared at him for about 2 minutes before deciding to not subject ourselves to that. It was a definite “do you remember when…” event.

I also had taken dance from a young age, but I’m not a serious dancer—I just enjoy it. I’d take classes at community colleges to keep in practice but not spend a fortune. However, I had been eyeing classes at Dance Mission and ODC Dance Commons. Alana, brave and fearless soul that she was, decided she’d go with me. She wasn’t a natural at learning choreography, but she kept with it. (After I moved, she even took a beginning modern dance class that I had taken a couple of semesters before and found too basic so she could better learn the terminology.) We rolled across the floor in one modern dance class, trying to be suave and not crack up, and tried to be extra-cute in a Bollywood class. We were works in progress. It was so wonderful to see her determination to learn something new and her joy when she got the steps down.

I wish I had even more dance and performance memories with Alana, but I cherish the ones I am lucky enough to have.

Posted by Nalani

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