Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Dance concerts

For each of the past two Sunday afternoons, my family has gone to a dance production--both very different from each other and both equally rewarding.

Beyond the Borders

Two weeks ago, we attended the Habibi Dancer's Beyond the Borders concert which was a fundraiser for Riverwalk Theatre. They were one of the first outside groups to perform on Riverwalk's stage when they first opened, so the 50th anniversary committee wanted them to come back again for their celebratory year.

For that concert, Habibi and guest choreographers chose to stretch beyond some of their more traditional fare and to take risks with some more unusal dances. In each case, it paid off. There was a fantastic number in which a solo dancer came out with a picnic basket and proceeded to dance atop three glasses. It was an impressive feat made all the more enjoyable by the dancer's delightful stage presence in which she flirted with the audience and engaged in an entertaining storytelling dance style.

The troupe's artistic director also danced a fascinating number with a large, live snake. It was mesmerizing to watch and the snake never missed a step. ;)

As always, I was struck by the diversity of the Habibi dancers--diversity expressed in so many different ways. There were dancers of all ages, colors, and sizes and all of them were beautiful in their own way.

The Nutcracker

For many people, seeing the Nutcracker is an annual tradition. Many of the dancers I've interviewed over the years have said it wouldn't feel like the holidays to them if they weren't participating in The Nutcracker in some form or another.

Despite the multitude of shows that I attend each year and despite having a husband who loves the ballet and used to treat me on Valentine's Day with tickets, I had never actually seen the Nutcracker. Not until this past Sunday, that is.

On Sunday afternoon, our whole family headed off to the Wharton through the snow-bedecked skies to where the Children's Ballet Theatre was performing Tchaikovsky's classic ballet. It was an amazing experience and I was enchanted and moved. Indeed, there were points I was so swept away by the beauty of it all that I was moved to tears. Nor was I the only one in my family who had that experience.

Two Hours

Afterward, I found myself wondering what a different world we might have if everyone were able to experience live something of such breathtaking beauty for at least two hours every week. We often consider the arts as a luxurious expendable. Something "extra." Certainly that has been our civic policy.

Yet, few will argue against the benefits of art and research continues to show new benefits to art--whether it is that those who listen to classical music regularly live longer and have healthier hearts or whether it is that high school students who participate in a single school theatrical production are substantially less likely to be racist than their peers.

So as people continue to predict that the economic times are going to worsen, what can we do to keep arts alive in our lives? How can we make sure that as we meet our physical needs that we are also meeting our emotional and spiritual needs?

The arts enrich our lives. They are not, though, a luxury.

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