15 September 2008

The Greatest Show in Long Island City


Last night I helped set up, then attended, one of the best shows I've seen in a long time. It was the wedding of Friends Zoe Klein and Dave Paris, of Paradizo Dance fame, and it was quite an affair, both ambitious and intimate. Dave and Zoe put together a circus-themed wedding at a really cool venue in the LIC: The Foundry. Check out some pictures of the venue, then imagine that, with aerial rigging hung and a different circus-themed booth in every nook. As I said -- ambitious -- but with all the spectacle and performances, it was still a ceremony with its head on straight. One really felt that the best and most important thing happening last night was the union of two people with a special relationship. It was, in many ways, a far more successful and satisfying piece of theatre than I've seen in years.

The whole shindig didn't start until 5:30, but I sprouted up around 1:00 in promise to help Zoe pull it all together. I found there Friend Tiffany Kraus, of Kirkos association, which was a very welcome reunion indeed. I also found Friend Cody suspended from the rafters on white fabric -- she was scheduled to perform that evening, after the ceremony -- and it began to occur to me just how much of my former circus life might revisit me that evening. This is not necessarily all good, as I did more circus at a time when I was somewhat younger (read: a whole lot stupider). Nevertheless, I was excited by the prospect. I miss my days of regular ceiling-hanging and handstand-failing. Tiffany and I threw ourselves into candle placement, sunflower trimming and chuppah building, and the time flew by.

One of the splendid things that Zoe and Dave requested of their guests was that everyone dress in exuberant colors, along a specific circus theme of their choosing. Suggestions included ring master, trapeze artist, elephant, side-show denizen, etc. As things got under way, a completely various assortment of characters rolled into the place, some simply a little on the colorful side, others costumed to the nines and, of course, many genuine circus sorts didn't even have to try. Dave and Zoe themselves dressed in performance clothing for the ceremony, rather than a tux and gown. You might imagine this made the whole thing a boisterous occasion, and it was, but also very friendly, very communicative. Friends Kate Magram and Bronwyn Sims (Actor ~ Aerialist ~ Acrobat) were in attendance, too, bringing the total Kirkos number to five. It was, in brief, unexpectedly meaningful in a very personal way.

The most impressive part of Paradizo Dance's work for me is the way in which it blends Dave and Zoe's backgrounds and enthusiasms to create really flavorful performance that just about deserves its own category. Dave has been a competitive salsa dancer for years, and Zoe a more modern dancer and acrobat, and together they do inspired partner routines that are big on lyricism, lifts and lusty lunges (consonance is my big contribution). If you haven't seen any of their video, do. Even if the picture quality is poor, you'll be impressed within ten seconds. In fact, the movement and stunts are so impressive that it takes one a while to appreciate that everything is working on a higher level than that, that the grace of their movements is connected to specific emotion, choreographed with pleasing synchronicity to musical accompaniment. In other words, they've learned from each other's craft and used all of it to bring out a clear, urgent and rewarding communication with the audience. It's just lovely. That aesthetic is one they share with their friends, as was proven by the performers there last night -- dancers, aerialist and juggler. Paradizo Dance ended the evening's performances with a duet of their own. Needless to say, it brought the house down.

What was more impressive than the lifts, tricks and decor, even more than the example of a successful and happy life lived somewhere on the edges, was the way in which Zoe and Dave are so at ease, so at home with that life. It was a beautiful thing to witness, a public acknowledgement and demonstration of that agreement, that accord. Weddings are funny, in that no matter what your aesthetic or priority, they're invariably idealizations of your life. You work pretty damn hard to make them a concentrated dose of the goodness you wish for yourselves, and that others hopefully will wish for you. So, like theatre, they're not real. Oh God, how we'd hate them if they were.

As unreal as they may be, still, they are very, very important.

4 comments:

Kara Tyler said...

So, like theatre, they're not real. Oh God, how we'd hate them if they were.

Indeed. As much as we loved our wedding Don has a recurring nightmare about having to do it all again :) Weddings are magical things. A moment in time stolen for two people to declare their love before the world and god. It's a spectacle and a fantasy and little bit mystical. Just like good theatre should be.

Jeff Wills said...

So glad to be agreed with by one of my first directors, Kara! It actually took me a while, during college, to accept the notion that direct immitation of life does not good theatre make. I thought prolonged awkward pauses would make for good drama; little did I know that in a about a decade's time they would become a staple of sitcoms!

Patrick said...

Weddings are one of the few occasions where our culture still feels a need for an elaborate ceremony (maybe funerals too, but I have been to few of those). Sure, we'll celebrate birthdays with a lot of hooplah, but other than the cake and some singing, we usually don't do much. Nope, weddings are still the occasion when a vision of a future life is still created, in the hopes of helping to bring it to pass. I'm always delighted when I hear about moving, effective wedding ceremonies. It makes me believe those couples have actually asked themselves what the point of this marriage actually IS.

Jeff Wills said...

I wonder if a parallel is to be made between "bad" weddings and "bad" shows. Yes or no, I think we can agree that both suffer from insufficient thought and caring. I love ceremonies, too. It's strange to me how resistant (or at least apathetic) to them people have become.