Home > Critic-At-Large > Dance Recital Purgatorio
Dance Recital Purgatorio
By Chris Colcord
Fort Wayne Reader
It always starts innocently enough, you get invited to some kid/school event that's coming up on a Saturday, some dance recital or winter concert or something, and while you know that your attendance isn't mandatory (not your kid, it's a niece or a nephew or a friend's child), you recognize that your support will certainly be welcome and appreciated, and since you've got nothing going on, anyway (it's the dead time of year), you decide, what the hell, I might as well go.
So you call the parents, and you call the kid, telling them you'll be there, and already you're thinking about how noble you'll look, in the audience, with your suit coat on, the Supportive Uncle/Loyal Friend, the good citizen, smiling appropriately at the appropriate places, the benevolent, generous-hearted Champion of Youth. And while you know that the dance recitals/winter concerts aren't exactly your cup of tea, really, you're committed to seeing the event through to its conclusion, thinking — tragically, as it turns out — How bad could it be?
So you get there and almost immediately you start to sense that things are a little darker and more difficult than you initially imagined. You had been advised to get to the auditorium early, 20 minutes or so before curtain, but that seemed so patently absurd that you rejected the idea out of hand--early to a kid's concert? What for? But now, in person, you begin to see the wisdom of the notion, for there are about a billion people here, and since this is Indiana about half of them are large and misshapen, and because all the good seats have been snapped up all those big Hoosiers are crammed into utilitarian cafeteria chairs, they're spilling out of their seat cushions and metal legs and into the aisles, and you're just now figuring out that this is where you're going to be residing for the next couple of hours, smack in the middle of all that Hoosier hospitality.
Before you can take your seat, though, you have to get your ticket, and that becomes the second big unpleasant surprise of the afternoon. You hadn't really put much thought into ticket prices for the day but you figured a five-spot ought to cover it, at the absolute most, but lo and behold, the chirpy professional mom at the ticket counter informs you that today's burn is 15 dollars. Fifteen bucks! You recognize pretty quickly that there will be no negotiating here — those perky theater moms look sweet but at their core they're as inflexible as loan sharks — but you do make a point of politely asking why the cost is so high. High? she smiles, uncomprehending. What do you mean, high? She then reminds you, in a voice usually used to reprimand infants, that the concert is the big moneymaker for the club for the year, and that it's necessary to defray the costs and the overhead. You want to point out that you thought that's why the parents had to pay those exorbitant and insane tuition fees, some of which you know cost thousands of dollars for a single semester.
You want to know why the club is shaking down family members at the recital/concert as well, when it seems like they've already been paying through the nose. You want to say this and a whole lot more, actually, but you don't say a thing, for there's a line forming behind you and you don't want to be the guy who causes a big scene in public. Besides, you already know what the final, trump-card answer will be to your inquisitions, the sure-fire justification for any behaviors or practices whatsoever: "It's for the children, for gosh sakes!"
So you wedge yourself into your seat, finally, with the program in your hand, and as you begin to peruse the list of performers for this event you start to wonder exactly how long you're going to be trapped here. The list is enormous, there are 22 separate performances in the 1st act, then an intermission, then 20 more in the 2nd act. You discover with a sinking feeling that your "act," your particular performer, the reason you're here, isn't scheduled until well into the second act, so there's no chance of sneaking away early like you used to do in Church. The first couple of acts begin and you barely notice them, for you are so intent on looking at your watch and timing the length of the performances that you don't even know what they're doing. The first 2 acts clock in at 4 1/2 minutes apiece, so some quick calculations inform you that you're looking at at least a 3 1/2 to 4 hour day here, longer than Titanic and Godfather II and Return of the King and equaling some of Wagner's most punishing operas.
Surprisingly, you don't bolt for the door immediately after figuring out the death-sentence time frame, but there is a reason: you're so completely out of your element that you're almost too intimidated to move. So you remain, frozen to your chair, and finally, after a grinding moment of resignation, you decide to make the best of it: you start watching the performances. Perhaps in them you will see a silver lining to this hideously awful day, maybe the performances will be pleasant or surprising or interesting and the day won't seem like such a total, deadening failure, But no, no, and no. Each successive act is more excruciating than the previous; even the acts where the kids just have to play annoying kids, they can't even pull that off. And everything is clouded with an almost horrific lack of common sense: there are 10 year-olds singing torch songs, for God's sake. There are pre-teens here wearing more make-up than Reno call girls. Nobody saw this in rehearsal? Two kids in baseball uniforms are doing an interminable "Who's on First?" rehash that somehow manages to miss every punchline. And on and on. There's a lot of canned muzak and cutesy choreography and even the ancient grandmothers started looking at their watches twenty minutes ago.
So you sit there, wading through the minutes, and finally when "your" kid performs you don't even care, you're like a wet cat and all you want to do is leap through the air with your claws out, and the only thing you can think of, as the final moments of the recital play out, are all the indolent, wasteful, selfish, slothful ways you're going to massacre your next Saturday. And every Saturday after that. It's one of the surprising things that happens when you consciously set out to "do good"--you usually suffer a "good" hangover. But don't worry--I'm sure there will be somebody there to take your place at the next recital. Somebody who'll do it for the children! For gosh sakes.