Chuck Bartowski: So listen, I’ve been thinking a lot about last night. And you know, you guys was talking about how this spy could be, you know, valuable, to us. So I was thinking what if we could convince her to, I don’t know, like give up… some secret stuff…
Sarah Walker: You mean defect?
Chuck Bartowski: Defect, yes! People do that kind of thing all the time, right? The Hunt for Red October… uh… White Nights…[Casey just stares at him] White Nights? Gregory Hines, Baryshnikov, dancing their way to freedom?
John Casey: [sarcastically] Well, as long as you’ve done serious research on the subject.
—Chuck, “Chuck Versus the Sizzling Shrimp” (10/22/07)
This past weekend, Wife and I traveled up to New Paltz, NY to visit Daughter, who had a show going on at school.
Now, Daughter was the Assistant Stage Manager for the show, a position she describes as, “I sweep the floor, I move a table shortly before the first act ends, and otherwise I don’t do shit.” But we haven’t seen her in weeks and, when you’re a parent, this is What You Do. So, Wife and I got in the car on Friday afternoon and trundled our way to this little college town a few miles outside of Poughkeepsie.
We got there late Friday night and settled into the Super 8 Motel in Highland, the next town over. Throughout the trip we tried calling Daughter but her phone was constantly going direct to voicemail, so she really had no idea that we were coming up, since I’d kind of left it up in the air the last time we’d spoken. Saturday morning I called her mother to find out what was up. It turns out that she’s been having problems with getting the phone to charge. Now, when you’re a parent of a daughter who’s in her freshman year on a campus that’s two hours from the nearest relative, you want her to be able to break out a phone and call for someone nearby to save her ass from whatever imagined dangers there are out there in this Big, Bad, Evil World That’s Much Worse Than The One We Grew Up In. So getting the phone fixed was a priority. Her mother told us where we’d likely find her, so we went to the campus and, sure enough, she was there in the theater building. (There are two buildings; she was in the OTHER one.)
Daughter was, naturally, surprised and pleased to see us, but since there was also an early show, she couldn’t break away until late in the afternoon. Fair enough, we said. We’ll wander the area until later on and See You Later.
So we did that, exploring some of the things that New Paltz and its immediate surroundings had to offer, getting deliberately lost and re-found, and enjoying the Catskill Mountains in general. There’s still snow all over the place up there, although the roads were perfectly clear.
We picked up Daughter and, naturally, the first place we popped in was the AT&T Store in town to see what could be done with the phone. With any luck it’d be something easy to fix. Turns out it wasn’t, but they were able to classify the problem as a “Warranty Return”, so it didn’t count against the phone’s insurance. She had to get a replacement phone sent to her, so she’d still be without a phone for another week. Being a Dad, I gave her my phone and suggested that it’d probably last the week if she shut it off at night. “How do I get it back to you?” she asked. “Go to the Post Office, buy a padded envelope and mail it to me,” was my out-of-left-field suggestion.
My Daughter, the Honor Student.
So, to the show itself, which was really the point of this post. The show is called Fresh Dance. This is the tenth year that New Paltz has presented this show, which as I understand it is not limited to Performing Arts students, although it certainly has its share. It’s a series of dances performed by several student groups, plus a couple of guest performances: one was a youth dance group from Poughkeepsie, another was a guy named General Hambrick, who has some professional cred out there in the Real World.
The student performances weren’t bad: they all worked on a more or less bare stage, with few props. The lights would go down, the curtain would open, the dancers would be onstage, the music would play, they’d do their thing, the audience would applaud, they’d take a bow, the curtain would close, the lights would come up again in between performances. Presumably this so that audience members could consult their programs to see what was up next. There was a variety of music and all of the dance had a pretty modern flavor, hence the show’s title. Some performances were really good, others I won’t pretend that I necessarily got the point. One, I thought, was missing an ending. But overall I liked the whole show. Until…
…the last dance.
Which was performed by the director.
Who is a member of the faculty.
And who chose something called “Six Romanian Dances” which he performed with his wife, who was probably in college around the same time I was. (Coincidentally, at the same school that I attended.) This? Not so much with the freshness.
In addition, once his dance was done, he came back out on the stage and did a little bit of a closing speech, commented on it being the tenth anniversary of Fresh Dance, and assorted other mumblings that said to me, “You read between the lines, this guy’s leaving the school.” Wife thought much the same thing and said so, aloud. Someone behind us noted that he’s leaving because he was denied tenure. Wife said, “Yeah, I can see why.”
So after his little speech, Professor Leavy McNoTenure said that he wanted to do one more dance with his wife as a “happy anniversary” to Fresh Dance; a piece that he’d created in 1995. So again, not so fresh.
So basically, in a few short minutes he took a celebration of the young adults in our society and their exploration of music and dance, and turned it into a self-indulgent morass that was mired in the past. It became an All About Me, Me Me-fest. I’ve railed on about this sort of thing in the past here, here and here, and while the specific circumstances were different, the overall intent, and the final effect, is the same: “Never mind those kids and the work they put into this show…Look At Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Aren’t I just so effing great for bringing this to you?”
I’ll say this, though: the students rescued it with a goodbye bouquet to the teacher and an impromptu dance that even he didn’t know was going to happen. The entire bunch came onstage and danced to “Let the Sun Shine” from Hair, and even dragged a few audience members onstage to dance with them. (This is where being way back in Row N comes in handy.) That was the thing that brought it back from the brink, that the kids were able to take the focus back away from him and bring it back on themselves, even if that wasn’t their intent.
And I say: good on you, gang.