Drooling on the Pillow

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Irony Stops Fifty Feet Up 

I took Grace into the City tonight to the New Victory Theater to see the Golden Dragon Acrobats. I blogged about the New Victory previously here and I highly recommend pretty much anything they do for kids under twelve or so. Very high production standards, very together organization and they put on great shows on the New Deuce for not that much money. Our seats tonight were somewhere around seven bucks. Links to the New Victory are there under the link above.

The Golden Dragons are as amazing as, well, Chinese acrobats. Hoops, balls, flags, drapes, chairs, hats, poles, spinning plates, ladders, umbrellas, bikes and yo-yos all perform perfectly impossible tasks. You see it; you don't believe it.

However, take away the astonishing tricks and the unearthly skills and you've got the Power Rangers. Same costumes, the same operatic pose queens. We once put on a show in college that consisted of nothing but curtain calls. The act of soliciting applause and accepting acclaim at the end of the show or the completion of a trick reminds me of the discredited notion of "ontology recapitulates phylogeny". In fact, what a curtain call does is sum up and recreate the essential elements that took months or years to develop in putting together the piece. And it calls upon you, the audience, to render an opinion whether you want to or not. Standing up, sitting on your hands, golf pattering or cheers and beating your hands bloody; they all make you a part of what has happened and the way the bows are presented usually says something about the process that's brought you to that moment. Or at least something about what the creators intended.

Chinese acrobats solicit applause in a very imperious and stylized way. The moment is taken and a specific response is demanded. I like it, though. I like the confidence of it and the formalism they adhere to in the presentation. Six to ten year olds are taught dramatic structure by Sponge Bob where, not only can anything happen, but nothing happens without a heaping ladle of irony. Perhaps the irony is the come-on for the adults (and I do laugh out loud at Sponge Bob occasionally), but maybe snarkiness isn't what we want to lock our kids into before they get to Mark Twain.

The headline act is a kid that does the stacking chair act where he puts one chair on top of another straight up into the air and does his one-armed handstands at each level. He eventually got up well above the proscenium, probably fifty feet above the stage. Then he starts putting the last chair at queer angles and doing his handstands. It was terrifying, frankly, to watch and when he started milking his applause and teasing us with 'one more' and demanding applause, the house gave it to him willingly. His demand broke a spell of disbelief and brought us back to realizing it was a real guy doing a seemingly impossibly dangerous thing. The audience adored him for his demand. Most people, I bet, like me, were forced to the realization that, even if I could do it, there's not enough money in the world to make me do it. Great stuff.

For those who didn't get their nightly dose of irony at the New Victory, a couple doors down at B.B. King's there was a long line to get in to see Davy Jones of the Monkees.
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