Everytime I practice dance now, my thoughts start going towards editing. Basically thinking how to make it more dramatic and less boring. How to snip out all the boring parts.
I would never tell my teacher this though. For her, the structure of each piece is set and if you are dancing bharathanatyam, it’s your job to be true to the structure. There’s one piece I’m learning where a single line is repeated 4 times. I find it repetitive. When I saw someone dancing this piece on stage as well, I was thinking, “Alright love, we get it. Move on.” So I asked my teacher why did this have to go on four times? Couldn’t we shave it off?
She was horrified. Firstly, she said we need to allow opportunity for the different instruments to shine. So for one line, the mridangam player can take the floor and then the violinist and so on. “The audience is there not just to watch the dance but to appreciate the music and see how everything comes together.” She also said repeating the lines allows the audience space to reflect and really dwelve into what’s being said.
Who has time to delve these days though? Previously, audiences sat down without complaining for four hour stretches to watch a dance performance. Nowadays, anything past two hours and I get angsty. I keep thinking, I would have cut that down, she should have made it tighter. Blame my marketing roots, where I have been trained to capture people’s attention in the shortest time possible.
Bertrand Russell in his book, The Conquest of Happiness, writes about boredom in 1930s which is all the more relevant now.
“We are less bored than our ancestors were, but we are more afraid of boredom …
… a generation that cannot endure boredom, will be a generation of little men, of men unduly divorced from the slow processes of nature …”
Because you now what? Nature is sloooooooow. The bulbs that I planted in November have still not sprouted. Winter is STILL here (argh).
Lots of other things are slow as well. Like when you want to create a new life, you want to make things happen and you do things and nothing happens. You sit and wait. You see a trickle and your heart springs up again and then the trickle disappears like it was never there. And somehow through all this non-happening, you need to find meaning and strength to keep going on … everyday.
Henry Miller writes,
“To win through sheer force of genius is one thing … to survive and continue to create when every last door is slammed on one’s face is another …”
It’s hard to do that but perhaps like he observes, maybe what I’m acquiring now is maybe not the new life I see in my head but patience, gratitude for small things, fortitude and resilience.
Hmmm, anyone wants some patience and resilience?