A Working Man Nov 15, 2013

by Dylan Ward

Among the first things Cedric introduces about himself is his age: He is 36. And he is a dancer.  He has spent the last twenty-four years of his life trying to be good at contemporary dance, with an added urgency, because, according to his own description, he has little natural talent.  

What a conundrum exists here; his mother has planted the idea in his 12 year old brain that Contemporary Dance is egalitarian and eschews the elite, but there is obviously a conflict with this sentiment when he is asked to execute “cerebral” and idyllic movement as clearly as possible in front of an audience of high-minded contemporary dance donors and enthusiast.

In Cedric’s account of his experience with Merce Cunningham, this idyllic form is based upon the movements of a computer program. The instructions are just as automatic.  

The idyllic can easily be understood to be elitist: for only a few can master the idyllic, and those few we both revere and despise. However, the idyllic is also often provoked through glitter and light.

Cedric is before us with only his assigned choreography. It’s his desire to become closer to his form that becomes productive in our provocation, not his proximity to the form. 

Cedric quotes Merce’s assertion that movement “becomes interesting” when it becomes “awkward.”  

What does Cedric’s mother mean? Why would contemporary dance represent something “More Egalitarian, Less Elitist” in theory but seemingly not in practice?  And why did I keep thinking about Cedric’s “vulnerability?”

Is it because of the lack of glitter and light? 

It may be too obvious for Cedric to be vulnerable. 

The most interesting part of this evening, at least to me, was Cedric’s breathing.

Because, of course, after a while he turns the light on us to watch us breathe.

It may be that the most egalitarian thing about contemporary dance is that it is just as hard as the rest of anything. 

While we may idolize and covet the dancer and his youth, his prowess as a physical image of human struggle and his infinitesimal sadnesses, Bel has plucked the image of the dancer out of deification and into reification, by simply placing one before the audience. 

Cedric appears to be just another guy doing his best.