When I was a kid my parents exposed us to all kinds of “cultah.” They had subscriptions to every major cultural institution in New York, including the New York City Opera, Ballet, and the Philharmonic. But even though they were equal opportunity cultural consumers, I’m not sure my parents actually liked all the diversions they introduced us to – especially the dancing ones. But despite not being true fans, they exposed us to a broad mix of dance, from the Nutcracker at the holidays to obscure dance companies premiering works of dubious artistic measure. My best friend Susan recalls that she thought I had the coolest parents after coming with us to the semi-nude modern dance version of Spoon River Anthology at some loft in the Village.
I finally realized that my parents weren’t all that cool; they were just looking for something to do where we’d all be “strapped” into a seat in a dark theater. This occurred to me after watching my Dad instantly fall asleep as soon as the lights dimmed during every performance of an entire American Ballet Theater season. And when I asked my mother if she understood the crazy modern dance piece we’d just seen at BAM and she just complained that her back was hurting from sitting in the hard folding chairs. My parents might have been big at consuming dance, but not at discerning or enjoying it.
Still their capacity for consumption helped to school me in the world of dance and lead me to a love it as a spectator and for that I will be forever grateful. I watched Nureyev and his partner, Dame Margot Fonteyn in awe. (I even loved that she was a “Dame.”). Baryshnikov held me in thrall. Pilobolus made me smile and the Alvin Ailey troupe made my cry.
And then I married my cultural antithesis. The guy who honestly who won’t even pretend to like dance (or anything else cultural for that matter). As my son says, “he’s just not feeling it.” Ballet makes him squirm– especially the old fashioned ones where the men wear really tight tights. Modern dance makes him perplexed or down right sleepy. Even Stomp, which was the “dance” experience I thought he would actually like, he thought was just loud.
But something shifted when we moved to Rochester. He learned about Garth Fagan and admired the story of the man, so he was willing to see the troupe perform and didn’t play with his wedding ring like he usually does in a dark theater. Then we went to a party with the dancers from the Rochester City Ballet and I saw him chatting animatedly with the dancers, like they were real people. And after they performed he practically gushed about his new acquaintances. “That was good,” he said. High praise indeed.
So imagine my surprise when offered the chance to go to a performance of Rochester City Ballet’s Blood Countess next weekend the husband actually said “yes” without hesitation. Of course, this was after he saw the promotional materials which are brilliantly evocative of a steamy romance novel cover. Whatever it takes to put butts in seats is my take on that form of marketing. Especially my husband’s butt.
All of this made me realize that unlike my parents, I don’t expose my family to all the “cultah” my adopted city has to offer for no other reason than, “just because.” I confess, I’m often too busy, tired, or, I just forget to go or I think “they won’t like it anyway.” And I really should work harder at putting our butts in seats. So I’m grateful to all the home-grown dance companies and festivals for keeping on dancing, so those of us who may not be regular or even discerning consumers of dance, but who are hungry for culture all the same, can experience dance right here at home. And I guarantee, once your butt is in the seat, the chairs are pretty darn comfortable.