Dance Without Music Nov 16, 2013

by Anastasia Parker

Cédric Andrieux got on stage, and the entire time, danced without music. NO MUSIC, whatsoever, until the very end of his performance to a piece, entitled The Show Must Go On, and even then, he just stands there, smiles and stares at the audience….This kind of blew my mind!

I am by no means a connoisseur of dance - especially not this type of dance. In my tradition and culture dance is always accompanied by music. Even when the music breaks - being stripped down to its bass parts or disappearing wholly - a strong rhythm pulsates through heartbeats, handclaps, and/or a collective moving of spirits. Even if you are not the individual dancing, you are still an integral part of it, by virtue of the rhythm, and the rhythm is based in the heartbeat, which we all have. 

This man's presentation was silent, isolated, monotoned, and precisely calculated. He talked about the walls between him and the audience, loving pieces that didn't require him to emotionally connect in a certain way, and how for 8 years, under the tutelage of Merce Cunningham, he never rehearsed with music, resulting in music being an aspect of performance he ignored, hence the presentation I previously described. 

For me, this was disturbing. And boring. And sad. It felt so disconnected from the spirit - from the heart - that I had no means of digesting or connecting to what I was seeing. During the question and answer portion of the event Cédric Andrieux was asked how telling his personal story made him feel - did it feel empowering? Liberating? His response was to talk about how Jerome Bel viewed the piece, though he did mention how he came to realize the different emotional states of being he was in at different points of his career. Again, I thought, this is disturbing, and very, very, sad. 

Now, with a couple hours separation and reflection, I realized, this man was feeling a lot, and feeling deep, though his chosen articulation was completely foreign to me. It was most definitely not by chance that his self-expressed favorite piece, which he chose to end with,  was one which included music, was absent of obsessive expectation (from himself and others), allowed him to be himself (he was dressed in plain, everyday clothes), and gave him a chance to look into the faces and eyes of those who are constantly piercing their gaze onto him. 

At some point in his performance talked about his core desire to be free. He talked about his angst and discontentment with Merce. He talked about his need for emotional engagement even as he talked about not liking to engage with dance pieces that required a certain emotional engagement. He talked about love, sacrifice, politics (not liking George Bush), and his grandmother. 

In the moment I couldn't hear or connect with these things because even as he communicated them - verbally or through dance - he was distant, monotoned, emotionless. I JUST COULD NOT GET IT.

Now I do, and I'm thankful for it. This man, came onto the stage with some old school striped tube socks, sweat pants, a zipped up hoodie, and a t-shirt and he shared his story. And he danced beautifully. He conveyed emotion when and where he could, and the only ways he knew how. By his dress, by when he choose to remove clothes, or drink water. With subtle, subtle manifestations that my experience has not taught me to recognize. 

I am a product of the African Diaspora. A Black African. American. I know what it is to be misunderstood. To communicate and not be heard. To be overlooked and disregarded because my words don't sound like someone else's, because my emotional expression is different from yours.

A core lesson came out if this experience, though its not such a new one. We all have our own collection of experiences that bring us to wherever we stand. Even as we try to break free from things we find oppressive, we can reflect and embody those very things - they can become part of us. Sometimes we learn things we found oppressive are not all bad. Sometimes these things are all bad but we still haven't found a way to conquer them.  Also, the obvious truth is - we are still beings in process, still engaged in growth with many more journeys before us. I learned something today, and I'm thankful for it. So to Cédric Andrieux, thanks for sharing.