The InsiderOne Daily Report

  Tuesday, April 10, 2001

1000-Watt Bulb

InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: Inside the old school auditorium the room, with its beautiful hardwood floor, is semi-dark. Candles have been placed on the floor, near the walls. You can see the shapes of the 30 or so dancing people — including me — but you can't always make out their features. Some move their arms in graceful snakelike gestures toward the ceiling. Others lie on their backs, gently twisting and turning. A bearded man dances around the room, slaloming around other dancers. On other occasions this hall has been the site of community meals or art classes; now it's transformed into a kind of temple, and the dancers offer up their spirit by losing themselves in the dance. At the front of the room one man plays acoustic bass; another, seated before an array of drums and other percussive instruments, is rocking a four-foot long rain stick. Their music, a kind of freeform rhythmic jazz, sets the mood for the dancers; the dancers inspire the music. A kind of soul music, this comes into being almost free of expectations from the accepting audience. This dance temple asks little of the musicians: that they listen to the dance, the dancers and each other, and let that be their inspiration; that they are honest and true and really play what they feel. The sounds range from quiet bass moans and subdued conga rumblings to rapid-fire explosions of rhythm as the bassist uses his instrument as a drum too. To find music being made like this is rare. Too often, there is the audience on one side, and the performers on the other. The audience has paid good money to be entertained; it is the musicians' job to leave them, if not happy, at least satisfied. In this place, we are all performer and audience, the musicians inspired by the dance, the dancers by the music. Together, we make a work of performance art with no witness other than its creators. Dancing and watching the others is like looking at some huge painting in which the lines and colors are constantly shifting, rearranging. On another level, this is a kind of communal meditation, or group prayer. For some weeks, I would come, dance and thrill to the music. And when it was over, it was over, this improvised music that would never again exist other than in the memories of those who were there. I wondered, is this music really as good as it sounds when we're all dancing, when we're all caught up in the mood and the moment? So one night I brought along a digital tape recorder, and, with the musicians' permission, I recorded their jam. It's playing now as I write this, and it is just as thrilling, removed from the dance temple. Listening brings back some of the feelings I had while dancing. At the dance sessions there's a teacher. The other evening, she said that what we do when we come dance, what you could call a "practice," is practice for life. She spoke of people going around like 1000-watt light bulbs that have dimmed themselves to 75 watts, so as not to be noticed. "Be as big as you can here," she said. Don't be intimidated. "If you can't feel free to be yourself here, then where else? Then take some of that out into the real world." As Thurston Moore put it, "There's no finality to any of this."

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Michael Goldberg is the president of He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.

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