Making Room

By now, you’ve likely seen this video. It’s been making the rounds on the internet and, if you follow me on Twitter or Tumblr, you’ve seen me gush over it. I’ve probably watched it from start to finish a half a dozen times and I’m still thinking about it days later.

Part of that is because I love dance. I’m moved by the immediacy and vulnerability that’s so specific to dance. There is no hiding for an artist once they’ve taken the stage. And the best dancers can take who they are in the world around them at that exact moment and use it to add depth and nuance to their performances.

You can see that happening here. It’s sunrise in downtown New York City on September 11th. Twelve years separates these two dancers from tragedy. Like any other piece of art, the performance is up for interpretation. But, I see two people treating a very specific moment in time gently, with grace and care.

I was in my senior year of college in 2001, attending Pace University in downtown Manhattan. Somewhere I still have paper copies of our university newspaper from that week. Every single page was dedicated to coverage of the attack, and that felt necessary. Students with jobs or internships in the towers had lost their lives. Hundreds of people living in university housing were displaced, and the rest of us found our neighborhood – our coffee shops, our subway stops, bookstores, late night breakfast spots – destroyed.

I remember a young woman in my creative writing class breaking down while reading aloud part of our most recent assignment. Weeks later, school was finally back in session and she said, “I just don’t think we should have Christmas this year.” It made sense to me. How could we begin to even feign merry? The idea of even going through the motions – hanging lights or buying gifts – was exhausting. Just like there was no space for any other stories in our student newspaper, there was no room for Christmas.

If someone told me 12 years ago that I’d fully appreciate these two dancers perform in the footprint of everything we’d lost, I don’t think I would have understood. I’m pretty sure I needed 12 years to fall in love with this particular piece of art. People say that time heals all wounds, but (for me) it’s more about room and space. The wounds are all still there, but time slowly creates space for other things like dance, love, sunrises and Christmas.

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9 thoughts on “Making Room

  1. So it’s not enough that you share this beautiful, thoughtful dance piece (that made me cry), you go and write a beautiful and thoughtful blog post (that made me cry)? I’m starting to see a pattern and I appreciate it. You captured what I think a lot of people feel about that time and this time and how something seems far away and long ago enough to be put away into “the past” but then a video gets watched and one finds oneself crying more than one expected to about something that now feels not very far away and long ago at all.

  2. This is very moving, Jenessa. I read your article first, which helped me understand the dance much better. (Don’t worry, Heather always had to interpret for me when we went to musicals to help me comprehend the dances). Good Morning America featured an article written by one of the fireman’s wives whose son was in his 2nd day of school on 09/11 and is now in his senior year of high school. I guess that measurement of time is what struck me the hardest this year. Relating it to your senior year of college touched my heart. We should never forget that day or the feelings we felt. Thank you for sharing this.

  3. Beautiful thoughts! I’m so glad I came across your post. I am a recently semi-retired ballerina who moved to NY almost a year ago. I am gushing over this video and posted it on my blog as well! I think it is the perfect testament to how visual artistry can say so much more than words. It can help us to process our most complicated emotions, for which our limited verbal language is sometimes just not suitable. Movement is also a universal language, encompassing all people and beliefs. What a perfect tribute to rebuilding a symbol so central to NYC. Anyway, I look forward to reading more here.

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