FELL Dancers Fall on Stage and Feel the Pain
I am not a dancer. Secretly, in my room, I’ll flail about in a sort of ecstasy of movement, but I do not dance. Even at concerts, where I am often one of the few to be up and moving about in some way — frolicking, if you will — I do not consider myself to be dancing.
However, when senior Jeremie Chetrit asked me to be a part of his piece in FELL, the dance recital that took place last Sunday, I took the opportunity offered to me.
I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting or why I did it. I didn’t really have a sense of what it meant to dance in a production, no matter how big or small. I had been sitting in the lounge, caffeinated and teaching a friend, fellow first-year Sasha Vidalon, to knit. I suppose it was in the creativity of the moment that I agreed to dance.
Jeremie had always pulled at the corners of my mind, as endearingly eccentric people always seem to do. To be a part of something he had put together, regardless of its nature, was likely to be an experience.
And of course, that’s what we’re all looking for in college, right? Experiences.
I arrived at the first rehearsal, slightly late and slightly apprehensive. My fellow volunteers stood in lines roughly four people long and three deep. They were jumping. I stood for a moment and admired the unnatural state of being. Hair flew up and down, creating a visual of the rhythm I could hear in the beat of the feet hitting the wooden dance floor.
When the music stopped (rather, the electronic and metallic sound of rhythmic breathing), the jumpers shook me out of my momentary trance by rushing to pick up someone who had fallen.
In the silence, Jeremie had called out a number. It took me a moment to put his words and the actions taken together. Later, I understood.
I took my place among the ranks of the numbered, literally. Each body on that dance floor had been assigned a number, and when that number was called, fell.
Why? It wasn’t until the next rehearsal, when we were all sore and massaging each other’s calves, that the idea was explored, sitting in a circle of mutual pain. I will not explain precisely the meaning of the dance here, mostly because I do not know it exactly, and partly because it isn’t meant to be known, since there is no one general meaning that can be packaged and set up on a shelf like a demented self-help book.
There aren’t answers.
It was a ubiquitous sense of communal suffering, communal action and even communal exhaustion that grasped me. In the dance, but in the act of dancing as well, we were putting out this message that had something to do with community and affliction and in the same moment we were living this message.
This is not drama, for anything can become dramatic if you only use the right words. However, I did indeed have an experience. I think I learned how to “be” in movement, how to relate to those around me through actions rather than words.
Which, frankly, sat well with me, considering the fact that I’m rather reserved and don’t talk very much.
Jumping, we were a part of a group: cohesive, structured, but somehow unfeeling and emotionless in our stoicism (the piece was later named “We Hurt” for a reason, since jumping is actually quite painful after the first half hour or so). Even chaotically falling, somehow, we were even more a part of this group. The destruction of physical guidelines strengthened the emotional ties between the group, both symbolically and in reality.
At the end of the piece, senior Milly Boksenbaum began a solo dance, after all the other dancers had fallen in numbers beyond her ability to pick them back up. The nature of this dance (which I spied, during rehearsal, turning my head obviously while supposedly immobile) was disjointed and broken. I took it to be a commentary on the nature of being alone.
Now, having been a part of the production, I am still not a dancer.
For one thing, no dancing was necessary in that particular piece, at least in the traditional sense. However, I think parts of my being have learned to dance, to connect to those around me through a different and unintentional form of expression that is less noticeable.
When passing my fellow dancers on the sidewalk or running into many of them in my home, Harkness, the communal nature of the dance transcends the setting, and there we are again, understanding one another and less afraid of any differences that may exist between us.
At least, this is how I feel. “We Hurt” could mean a myriad of
things. This is only one interpretation. Here’s to trying something new,
making that small world in which you’ve enveloped yourself (ah, the
Oberlin bubble) a little bit more spacious.