Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Derpsichorean muse

Sam Beckett had his characters discuss the best way of extracting entertainment from Lucky:
VLADIMIR: I’d like well to hear him think.
ESTRAGON: Perhaps he could dance first and think afterwards, if it isn’t too much to ask him.
VLADIMIR [to Pozzo]: Would that be possible?
POZZO: By all means, nothing simpler. It’s the natural order. [He laughs briefly.]
But Beckett's bitter irony was too much for the philistines and ignorant numpties, who lost no time in mistranslating and reassembling his lines into a triumphant acceptance of the primacy of physical performance above intellect.

Case in point, here is Shelagh Magadza -- Artistic Director of the 2016 NZ International Arts Festival -- bandying Beckett about as an empty signifier of High Modernist Cultural approval for her smug aesthetic preferences, and puke-funnelling a fabricated quotation:
Dance first. Think later. It's the natural order.” So said Samuel Beckett. Smart man. Sheer power, adrenaline highs, poignant lows, pain and joy – experience dance that will take you out of your head and allow you to FEEL.
If only the Artistic Director were sufficiently familiar with the arts to have encountered Beckett's actual work and sensibility. Then she would not sound so much like Everyone's Email-forwarding Halfwit Uncle. Then she might not have booked the Jumping Jews of Jerusalem as the Festival's keynote act.

Then there's the Jumping Jews of Jerusalem!
And what do they do?
They jump, my lord. A lot.

I for one would pay many shiny milk-bottle tops to watch a modern interpretive dance version of "How It Is", with terpsichorean performers writhing through a vast arena of mud, dragging sacks of tinned food and poking one another in the buttocks with their can-openers.