Last night's performance illuminated what dance is about: choreographing relationships with objects.
We tend to think of us doing things to objects, as though the relationship is one-way. Dance points out that there is mutual influence between objects. The manner in which a space is arranged already forecloses what movements are possible.
Last night gloATL presented Luminocity Atlanta's Hinterland, a "parade-like" event that was a collaboration between gloATL and Big Boi from Outkast. Arriving from Five Points station Woodruff Park's Atrium and Speaker's Square (a speaker's box right there, nod to Outkast) was packed. Just beyond the initial crowd was an even larger crowd in the center of the park between the Atrium and the waterfall wall at Luckie Street. Throughout the park are lights, dancers wrapped in LEDs, a mobile light trucks, smoke machines every where, the buildings were blasted with projections. Wandering form one end of the park to the next, the event then burst from the confines of the original block and, with a cadre of drummers, some on a steampunk-styled float, the crowd could dance down Peachtree Street and across town to Centennial Olympic Park. It was very ambitious in terms of scale.
Reading the event's website it's hard to get a cohesive sense of what the event would entail or what it was "about." Clearly many people arrived with an agenda for how to see Big Boi. He should be on a Jumbotron, there should be speakers pumping out enormous sound (never mind that you're in the enormous sound cave called Woodruff Park, etc. That sound could be lost so easily points out how enormous the space called "downtown" is: more than simply the square footage of office space, or sidewalks, or lanes of interstate highway that flow through it - there is also the enormous negative space above us.
I think last night's event was successful in doing several difficult things:
- overcoming what everyone who lives in town already knows (and tacitly supports): that no one hangs-out downtown, and downtown is not a place where people walk around.
- getting Big Boi to perform in an event that illustrates hiphop's open secret: it's all about gesture. Big Boi took risks in performing in this event, something that hip hop avoids at all cost. It was risky for Big Boi to perform in an event where it was obvious that the purpose was not to have a live hip hop show but instead to explore what performances are possible in that particular place. How else could we understand why it was possible for me to drown-out the song he lip-synced to with a small cough?
- related to the first issue, dance, like any athletic event, begs the question, "What can a body do? How can a body flow in a space?" This is a crucial question for Atlanta at this moment. How will the city engage in alternate flows of bodies across its area? Is it necessarily the case that Atlanta is forever doomed to pockets of cultures never interconnecting?
Last night I watched hundreds and hundreds of bodies flow across Atlanta. And we did so in the cold, cold night. I, personally, haven't walked to Centennial Olympic Park since the bombing during the Olympics in '96. There is something stirring in the air...
[UPDATED: cleaned-up some of the wording.]