My vacation has been proceeding well, except for computer difficulties. I realize how much my life has become so dependent on the machine on which I type and create. With all of the lagging and freezing, it is my constant fear that the machine will crash... and I just put a new motherboard in it several months ago. Tis vexing, to be sure.
Yesterday I went to Robinson's department store (now defunct in America) in Kasukabe City, Japan (where I live for the time being) and attended what I thought and hoped to be a belly dancing show--the Turkish dance has been an intriguing subject of conversation these days.
I got there for a 3:30 show, but it did not start until 4:00. So I browsed through Hawaiian wares, as well as Turkish and southeast Asian. I got a seat in the front row, and I learned that I misunderstood. Instead of belly dancing, it was to be Bali dancing. I thought it would be relaxing, so I kicked back to enjoy the show.
The music started, and instantly the mood was set. My stress level increased a thousand-fold, as the dance music began. It sounded like the soundtrack of the Japanese animated movie Akira was being played on Coca Cola bottles by marimba players. Three Japanese dancers came from behind a wide screen dressed in Bali traditional costume. They were in their fifties and proceeded to dance. The one on stage right I presumed to be the teacher, since her moves were sharp and crisp compared to the other two. She was long and lanky with a long face to match. No smiles were let loose at all by the dancers during the traditional dance, and her face, with her makeup and all(I hate to say) was a bit unnerving (think <em>Close Encounters of the Third Kind</em> end alien with makeup). The dancers were not synchronized (I presumed the other two to be students) in routine and seemed to be out of synch spiritually, as well. Maybe if they had been from Bali... To their credit, though, they remembered the repetitive, simplistic, somewhat symbolic dance maneuvers that spread themselves like a small amount of butter over too big of toast in a fifteen minute (it felt longer) number.
Then the second dance came out. The soda bottles kept chiming out, with the addition of wood being struck together from time to time. The dancer was a woman who portrayed a traditional boy's dance. Her makeup, costume and mannerisms were huge in scope. What the first dance lacked in emotional flair, the second one made up for with an overabundance of emotion. Her eyes peered out piercingly to the audience, opening and closing. Her expressions almost became comical, and I had to keep myself from laughing for decorum sake when her eyes met mine (and they often did), especially since I was in the front row. The story of the dance seemed to be of a scaredy cat who went on some quest. Fear and shock was constantly expressed. I wondered if the character was facing a dragon or something. I will never know.
Now, I like to consider myself somewhat worldly and open to a myriad of cultural ways and practices-- I live in Japan. However, the Bali dance left an odd feeling within me. My mental state was shocked into another consciousness. I guess I expected to be relaxed, but became more agitated. The experience left me with a reminiscence of when I was in University and studying theater and attended several avante garde performances. I saw them and did not know how to process what I had just witnessed. The same thing happened, and to this moment I still wonder what happened.
Perhaps it was the music which struck an inharmonious chord, perhaps it was my sleepy mind...
Now don't be thinking, "Chris is so biased against other cultures and their dances because he's an American." Please note that I have little mercy for polkas (especially the chicken dance) and crump.
Dance, as with any art, can be therapeutic, transforming and enlightening, so I will keep attending performances to expand my horizons. But yesterday's experience was like eating at some mom and pop restaurant. Maybe the food was a bit off, so I won't go back there again. But then again, perhaps the cook was having a bad moment with bills to pay, a disenfranchised girlfriend and a computer with viruses, so the restaurant may be worth giving another shot. Time will tell.
At any rate, I am going to see belly dancing today at 11 a.m. I hope there are no more surprises.