July 10, 2009

The addiction dance

Addiction is a powerful thing. I don't think anyone could deny that, yet I do believe that most people don't realize that we're all, each and every one of us, susceptible to it. It's so very obvious in the form of compulsive, physical craving for drugs, alcohol, child porn, or even caffeine. But how often do we explore its less obvious forms?

My own strongest addictions take the forms of the intarwebs and driving fast. Like many other folks out there, I see the 'net for the time-suck that it is. And yet, there's just so much out there to explore, so many people from all over the world to converse with at almost any time of the day. With every new social networking site, every new message board or blog, I give more of myself and my time to it. Like a junkie I sit, jumping from tab to tab, refreshing pages, looking for that next fix, all the while knowing that I need to get my ass away from the computer to do housework, or sleep, or get ready for work, or just plain get outside.

Driving, on the other hand, has a tremendously narcotic effect, which I've described before. There's been many a day I've sat at my desk at work, or stuck in rush hour traffic, when I've found myself almost literally aching to be on some back road in West Va, swooping around curves and flying along straightaways. I had enough accidents in my younger years to fully realize the potential dangers of this craving, but I can't fight the excitement that arises when I picture my favorite roads under a sunny blue sky and I know I'll continue to indulge as often as I can.

I wish I could say that I'm addicted to physical movement, but what I have is really more of a deep appreciation that's easily overwhelmed by an apparently stronger appreciation of sloth. But I've always loved movement. Ballet class at 5 years old, a month on the middle-school track & field team, short-lived dance classes again in my teens, cycling, martial arts, vinyasa yoga... The flow of movement is both soothing and invigorating.

That deep appreciation that stops just shy of compulsion is what's behind an annual addiction to which I've succumbed: the reality/contest tv show, So You Think You Can Dance. Most people I know have gotten hooked on SYTYCD's elder sibling, American Idol, which I've never watched. But I happened to channel surf past SYTYCD a few seasons ago and stopped to check it out. One episode was all it took, and now I plan my weeknights in July and August around its air-times. And, yippee!, it'll now grow to a bi-annual addiction, as they're adding a second season later this year.

The show has all the elements of every other reality/contest show: Beautiful young hopefuls who put their heart and soul into claiming the title of "America's Top Dancer", and a suitably sympathetic, magnificently appareled emcee who shepherds them past a panel of sometimes annoying, yet always quirky judges. But it's also intentionally being used as a platform to introduce the viewing public to the art of dance. They've included expected styles such as jazz, hip-hop, and tango, but also surprises such as paso doble, Bollywood, and Russian folk dancing. And each season contains at least one performance that is flat-out, amazingly impressive, technically fantastic yet also emotionally moving. This week's episode included one of those sequences, the addiction dance...

Choreographed by Mia Michaels and performed by Kupono Awaeu and Kayla Radomski
, this routine is a perfect example of just what makes dance an art. Purely through movement and expression, these two young dancers tell a story that so many of us can identify with, if we've looked deeply enough into our selves, or into the souls of those around us. From the first moment that Kayla runs to him and he wraps his arm around her, Kupono incredibly embodies the way that addiction controls us. She's drawn to him, and he in return man-handles her, plays the puppet master, tossing her around, taunting and stifling her, soothing then throttling her, all with a chillingly dispassionate expression on his face. And when she desperately tries to break free, to reach up and away from her craving, he grabs hold and shows her, with condescending ease, just how much stronger he is. Malevolent, one of the judges called Kupono's performance, and that's exactly what addiction is, in all its forms.

I'm addicted to this dance.