1. Shake your groove thing. This week I was invited to a performance of the legendary Alvin Ailey Dance Company at the Apollo Theater. I don’t know much (okay, anything) about professional dance. In fact, when I was a kid, my mom signed me up for tap dance lessons and after a few sessions, the teacher gently suggested I find another extracurricular activity. Let’s just say graceful movement is not my strong suit. But I digress…
The Alvin Ailey Dance Company started in 1958 with a group of African-American modern dancers. They have toured around the US and 71 countries, worked with Duke Ellington, and have a dance school for the young ‘uns. There is something about the energy of a live performance (be it music, theater, dance, etc.) that makes a recording pale in comparison. Maybe that’s because there are no “do-overs.” You’re there with the performers who have trained for many months, probably years, likely decades, to bring you this one-of-a-kind show. They show up and put it all out there every night, and I admire that.
The Apollo is notable in its own right. Opened in 1934 in Harlem, the theater has hosted legendary performers such as Billie Holiday, James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald and Stevie Wonder. Aretha Franklin won the Amateur Night at the Apollo competition and was paid $25 for her efforts. Can you imagine watching young Aretha perform from these seats?
I couldn’t take any photos during the performance, so I took one of my program.
Here is a short video featuring clips from different performances. Don’t they make it look easy?
Have you been to any live theater lately?
2. Platform Diving. This mosaic adorns the wall of the subway station near my office. It’s one of those things that I look at but don’t really see every day. Then, for some reason, I took notice of it last week. Check out all of those tiny glass tiles that create the picture of whales swimming on the subway. I wonder how many tiles are in each mosaic. There are seven mosaics in Deborah Brown’s installation along the platforms. Some have turtles, manatee and octopi. Brown was inspired by the way underwater creatures navigate in passageways and tunnels just like subway commuters.
Is there anything that you pass every day but don’t really see?
3. The danger of a single story. In my first novel set during World War II, the main character, Rose, questions the US propaganda machine pumping out horrifying images of the “Nazi devils.” She figures that there must be German wives and mothers, much like herself, who are concerned that their husbands won’t make it home alive. From there, a sort of compassion develops for her counterparts on the other side of the war. When I submitted these pages to my workshop group, a woman derided the scene. “This would never, ever happen,” she said, waving her hand dismissively. “You make it sound like Rose doesn’t support her country. You make it sound like she’s changing sides.”
“You don’t think that a person in her situation might consider the opposing point of view, especially when the goal is the same on both sides?”
“No. A person with Rose’s background would not have been open-minded enough to consider that possibility.”
Ironic, no? I was a little surprised by this woman’s vehemence. Then I realized that she had developed a single story of an entire generation and clung to it without reservation. It didn’t occur to her that in every country and culture, past and present, there are many stories. While there may be a pervading opinion or situation, to say that everyone believes this or everyone lives like that leads to stereotype and critical misunderstanding. Some of this is reinforced through literature (and media, but that’s another post!). Which is why, I think, we often find “truth to be stranger than fiction.”
Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie discusses this beautifully in her TED talk as she relates how, time and again, she has misinterpreted others or been misinterpreted by others due to the single story. A wonderful reminder for everyone to stay open in the face of pervading evidence to the contrary, especially poignant for those of us who are writers.
“The consequence of the single story is this: it robs people of dignity. It makes recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different, rather than how we are similar…Stories matter. [Having] many stories matter. Show a people as one thing — as only one thing — over and over again, and that is what they become.”
4. A tree grows in Brooklyn. A mural in a community garden near my apartment where I sometimes stop to read a book with a cup of coffee.
5. Search Term-apalooza! It’s time, once again, to play Search Term-apalooza! This is a fun game when we take a look at the search terms people have entered and found themselves, for better or worse, at this blog. Here we go:
- Clown car min-van
- Cangro mating (I’m feeling a little exposed)
- Numerical reasoning (clearly they are in the wrong place)
- How to be a captain at a party
- Help me come up with a rhyme for my sales pitch
- Wash your dishes
- Raising worms cinnamon
- Hiding under desks
- Creamed in fishnets
- Bubbling in wall
- Nutella crepe hangover (my favorite!)
- I’m crazy about you
Are there any usual search terms that have led people to your blog?
Have a great weekend, everyone! Happy Mother’s Day to those who are celebrating this weekend.