"Do I dare disturb the universe?"
~T.S. Eliot

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tragedy in Haiti--Commitment to Life

This past week, the earthquake in Haiti awoke in me a sense of simultaneous helplessness, as well as deep appreciation and gratitude for life.  Over the past week, watching the news with only a vague understanding of the scope of the tragedy, my eyes were dry until today.  On ABC news, I saw a 5-year old boy, who miraculously survived for eight days without water or food, pulled by his uncle from the wreckage of a house.  Seeing him lift the small body out of the rubble and hearing the people yell for joy made my eyes well up and sent a shiver of disbelief down my entire body.  He must have desired life so badly, with all of his being, in order to survive eight days without sustenance, and it seems that in some wildly distant state, he was connecting his lungs and heart to his body with all his might.  I realized, curiously, how it was this scene, not the awful piles of bodies and shaking video, by which I felt the most moved.  (I was instantly reminded of how, when I visited the Holocaust museum in Israel, Yad Vashem, I did not begin to cry until I came to the hall of the Righteous Gentiles, which documents the courageous deeds and sacrifices non-Jews committed for the sake of saving Jews during the Holocaust.)

I am conscious of my thirst for life, and I express this through dance.  I took a great class this morning, by an fantastic teacher I recently discovered, (Ronn Stewart, originally from Moving People Dance in Santa Fe) who is committed to dance as a human, living, breathing art form.  The class actually reminded me extraordinarily of Ohad Naharin's Gaga Technique that I studied two summers ago in Tel Aviv.  Both techniques (I believe Ronn's is called MoPed) utilize elements of improvisation--experimenting with the geometry of our bodies, testing our balance, walking/running through space, grooving to our own beat, shaking out the limbs, falling to the ground and recovering--to feel and gather energy to move and dance.  Ronn said our bodies are "miracles."  Some dancers, he continued, "dry up" after a while, becoming too committed to the mechanical execution of steps, and forgetting their expression and musicality.  Sometimes all we need to do is breathe, and we will be reminded how dance is inherently human and an expression of life.

I feel occasionally removed from this understanding, amist every-day monotony, worries of finding work in the dance world, lack of great financial or romantic success at this time in my life...However, terrifying images of wreckage in Haiti remind me to put things in perspective.  For how can I take for granted what was so cruelly taken away from them?  Similarly, amazing stories of heroism and survival exemplify the miracle that we are.