Thursday, September 27, 2007


Christopher Cross's 'Sailing' reminds him of the odd suspense he experienced during, of all things, a dance performance. Downtown at the Capitol Theatre there was an annual children's performing arts series, to which his mother took him and his sister. Most of the performances have faded from memory; he remembers an instance when one section of a dancing glow worm fell into the pit while dancing to, of course, 'Shine little glow worm, glimmer...' That vignette conveys the quality of entertainment inherent in the performing arts series quite well.

But he remembers a slightly higher-minded modern dance performance to 'Sailing' which involved three women in floor length wrap skirts, and three narrow vertical screens with abstracted sailboats on them, spaced apart across the stage. There may have been similarly abstracted sailboats on the skirts, too. The dance consisted of rather unadventurous movement executed in staggered timing: one woman comes out from behind her screen and starts the phrase, followed shortly by the second woman emerging from behind her flat and doing the same phrase, eventually followed by the third woman... As the phrase ended they would return behind their screens, one after the other, and then start over again on another phrase.

With this clearly established structure, it was easy even for a child to notice aberrations, and halfway through the dance, aberrations started to happen. One of the dancer's skirts was apparently not staying on well; whatever was holding it closed, velcro or button, was failing, and the dancer was increasingly concerned about it falling off. She began cutting her phrases short to retreat behind her screen, presumably to try to fix her skirt before she had to come out again. The whole ABC order of the dancers was disrupted.

It was the most riveting thing he ever saw at the Capitol, because it was completely real; this unctuous song about relaxing had become the soundtrack for the real life drama of a woman fighting to keep her skirt on and go on with the show. He remembers the tension in the audience as they all focused on her, oblivious to the two other women who stuck to the proper choreography. It was hard to know if they hoped she would make it through without the dreaded wardrobe malfunction, or if they were rooting for an early climax to the number. He was drained and relieved when it was finally over, her modesty preserved.