One of my favorite lines from Rumi is "Let the beauty you love be what you do. There are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground". Maybe at first the connection between a thirteenth century poet and mystic and a contemporary hip hop group isn't that obvious. And I'm not insinuating that I'm an expert about either of them. But the connection is what comes to mind after my trip to New York yesterday to see a Groovaloos performance.
This started out as a Christmas gift for my grandson (see previous blog 'A Business Lesson'). Shawn and I were both so excited about the concert itself and the idea that we'd get to meet the cast after the show. I was expecting skillful and energetic dancing, lively music, and hoping that the performers would be as gracious as my few brief contacts with Bradley Rapier's wife via Twitter. And I was hoping, also, that Shawn would see something that would somehow inspire him, to see that there are things worth working for.
Our experience surpassed our expectations. The show was fantastic! There were life stories movingly or explosively told through music, dance, poetry, and individual voices. There was such connection with the audience. It didn't feel like just performance. You were brought to care very much for each of the dancers. I thought of so many young people who face similar conflicts, roadblocks, and decisions - who may not have the outlets provided by movement, but who might be encouraged by these stories to find their own paths.
The audience was invited to meet the cast after the show in the lobby - autographs were signed, pictures were taken, conversations were going on all around us. I was so impressed by the graciousness of the group.
The difference between art and craft is much debated. For me, the distinguishing factor is that the artist makes meaning out of the tools at hand. So something can be beautifully made - but it would be the meaning of it that makes it art rather than craft. And there was plenty of art in this production.
One of the most inspiring stories of the group belongs to Stephen Stanton, who suffered a spinal cord injury in 2003. Told he would not walk again, he shows up on stage, often with his cane, but definitely not only walking, but dancing. I loved that among this group of young people who often look like rules of gravity do not apply, he demonstrates that dance is so much more than just a well behaved body. It makes me wonder "So as these dancers age, will they still be telling their stories through their movement - what kind of art will they be sharing?" Maybe it will be through teaching, maybe they will morph into other things like so many of us do. But I have to admit that I would LOVE to see an older version of this sometime. If we learned nothing else yesterday, we were certainly inspired to dream - and pass it on.