When we enter the theater, the lights are dim and a slow turning of colors draws our eyes to the stage. Green progresses to blue progresses to purple progresses to red; I blink and the whole stage is orange and yellow with a blue base. We find our seats, front and center, and, removing our coats, sit down. There is no coat check at the university facility. We stuff our wet jackets under our chairs and wait for the show.
With our cell phones off, we are secure in the knowledge of the nearest emergency exit. The dancers’ entrance picks up where our conversation leaves off. I am not surprised that it is all women on stage – they make perfect sense to me leaping around in their spandex shorts and baseball shirts. Their arms click with each downbeat and their thighs carry them from jazz through modern to hip-hop.
I can’t help wanting to be up there, wanting to be watched. The dancers’ parents must be so proud, I think. Especially the redhead tapdancing in streetclothes with the fattest smile on her ruby lips. Her feet make a parallel rhythm to Ratatat’s “Wildcat.” It is difficult to sit still while all this is transpiring not six feet from my own shoes, but, contracted by the rules of being in the audience, I’m riveted to the performance, and I can’t move. I imagine the bouquet she gets after another triumphant performance: tulips. It is, after all, practically spring.
A dozen darkly-suited, masked acrobats get down and do the worm in unison, then climbing one other, spiral in masses of humans atop shoulders that levitating with ethereal grace neither masculine nor feminine. A solo piece by a young woman in a satin dress interprets Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” (Just before our love you lost you said / I am as constant as the Northern Star / and I said, constantly in the darkness / where’s that at / if you want me, I’ll be in the bar) with rolls, lunges, plies, and a smile. At the high notes, I hold onto my chin with one hand to keep from crying and marvel at the performer’s dedication to her craft: she will – and does – smile through the end of the show, even when there is nothing to grin about.
This is the university at its finest: engendering creativity, giving us the freedom to be inspired. Of course, the annual dance show isn’t put on by a class; it is directed and performed entirely by students – part of what makes it so awe-inspiring. As happy as I am to be a student, when I attend events like these, I feel most like a member of society beyond academia.