Monday, November 16, 2009

L.A. Not So Unbound

Last weekend, I went to a performance given by the dance troupe LA Unbound.  I went to support several of my pole dancing teachers, who were performing an erotic pole dance number in the show.  Quite a few other students and some teachers from that studio were there as well.
There were about twenty routines in the show - maybe more- with everything from tap, jazz and modern to belly dancing and hip hop.  There were also a few "burlesque" type routines, with women in various states of undress tilting their heads and shaking their rumps. I was not particularly blown away by the performances.  Until my teachers came out.  Now, let me just say that there was a fair amount of anticipation prior to their particular performance because the curtain actually dropped before they started, which did not happen for anyone else.  Behind the curtain you could hear a bit of clanking and rumbling.  In addition there was quite a bit of whistling, cat-calling, screaming and general noise from the audience.  Finally, the curtain went up.  Four women lay on their backs in a circle, toes pointing  towards one another, their bodies dwarfed by their voluminous tutus. The music started and the women began to stir.  They rose slowly, in synchrony, chest first, as if invisible strings were pulling them from their hearts.  As they danced, the tutus and tank tops were shed to reveal corsets and panties.  The women's movements became progressively bigger, fuller and more powerful.  Their bodies were charged with emotion and even though they were undoubtedly trying to communicate something to the audience, they really didn't appear to be dancing for the audience.  Rather, they seemed to be dancing for themselves.  They swirled, and flipped and climbed and circled their hips and tossed their heads and touched their bodies and rolled around on the floor oh-so-deliciously.
And then it was over.  The next act came on.  A sassy little number that was, I think, also meant to be sexy.  But somehow, after all of that raw emotion, that deliberate, genuine display of female sexuality, it seemed...silly.  A few more "sexy" dance routines followed, most notably "Unstripped", which was the grand finale.  I watched these women dance, shed their clothes and shake their asses and I felt uncomfortable.  Rather than enjoying the deliciousness of their movements, they seemed to be "putting on a show".  It was like watching a little girl put on her mother's dress and pearls in an attempt to look grown up.  I just wasn't buying it.
Now, I am not a dancer.  And choreography is not something that I can pretend to understand all that well.  But I do understand movement and I understand emotion and I really understand how the two of them work together.  A critic once said this about dance, "Only when skill is illuminated by animal power does the stage begin to glow…animal power is high-octane emotion-life, trying to burst through the performer’s body.  That emotion, that life force, is indivisible from the sex drive.  It takes us very close to the ultimate, orgiastic release that is the closest we can get to the instincts of our own private animals.”  
Hmmmm.  No wonder the pole dancers were so hypnotic.  Those women spend hours every week delving into, rolling around with, and otherwise reveling in that sexual life force.  They understand that their emotions are inextricably linked to it.  And they understand that the more they let that sexual life force live in their bodies, the more powerful and inspired their movement will be.  Sexy choreography, hot costumes and a come-hither expression certainly suggest a kind of erotic allure.  But to be truly sexy means to be not just comfortable and present in one's own body, but to be deeply connected to the sexual life force within.  And to let that sexual life force explode, ooze, drip - to let it  to find it's way out through your body and into the world for everyone to see.