As should be rather obvious from the large majorities of postings on this blog, as well as from my professional work and academic background, I’m a bit of a dance fanatic. Particularly concert contemporary dance (in short, dances created for the stage). Yet My Two Left Feet has a growing archive of theater reviews. Especially musical theater (see examples here).
And so reveals my deep dark secret – I’m also a bit of a musical theater fanatic as well. Blame it on my parents who started bringing my brothers and I to the theater at a young age (my dad’s accounting firm did the books for the Music Theater of Southern California, so you can blame the IRS too).
In many ways, the two loves seem to be almost mutually exclusive aesthetically. How can one champion the mysterious ambiguity of non-narrative dance that tends to be so simple and sparse in design yet rich in concept while simultaneously celebrating the over-the-top extravagance and clichéd emotional extremes of musical theater?
Good question. I’m not sure I have the answer but will venture to suggest that both somehow tap into something profound at various points on the emotional spectrum. It’s the bare intimacy of dance that reminds me of the interconnectedness of people and bodies. It’s the belted anthems in musical theater that distill the purest themes of love and hope and send them to the high heavens.
And at their best, each can do both: contemporary dance can speak in universal broad strokes with epic grandeur and musical theater can be brought to a tangible human scale and grounded in touching simplicity.
I got to thinking about why I’m so excited by these two opposing forces after I went on a recent Broadway Binge a mere week before relocating to Tel Aviv for a serious exploration of dance in Israeli society. Before a year of looking at a rather conflicted nation through the lens of dance, I couldn’t think of anything I want to do more than splurge my savings on a few Broadway musicals. Let’s take a look: