A Lightsey Darst Fan Post, or, WE NEED MORE AWESOME DANCE WRITERS!
Dear Dance Community:
Have you heard? LIGHTSEY DARST HAS LEFT MINNEAPOLIS. And by left, I mean, moved away, packed up and gone, high-tailed it out of here, vamoosed, shaboomed, no longer at this address, goodbye, adios, hasta la vista baby, doesn’t live here anymore.
I can say it 20 different ways, but nothing will change the HUGE HOLE that she is leaving in our community. I am feeling her loss already (though she’s still alive and kicking and presumably will continue writing about dance and art…. just not about us Twin Cities folks anymore.)
Lightsey writes about dance not as an outside “objective” critic, but as an invested maker, as one of us. Her reviews are not just descriptions and analysis of a piece, but also analysis of how that piece fits into the ways she is thinking about dance, as a discipline, as a practice, as a work coming out of this community. Insightful, eloquent, long-winded, and never quite satisfied, Lightsey’s articles are for the thinking-persons of dance. She is a writer who, by writing, is also a creator in the dance world.
Shortly before she left, Lightsey had a residency at the Walker’s library. She presented at the end her time there- a part-reading/part-performance event. She was looking at the act of reading as a dance- the dance we are each experts at, a dance born of practical necessity, comfort, and distraction, a dance our bodies do when we are occupied with the task at hand, when our minds float away. She had the audience become her performers, inviting us to take turns reading from the library of books she had selected, displaying us in five chairs at the front of the room while the rest watched or waited in line.
It was beautiful- an “orchestra of readers” is the vision she described- and so thoroughly contemporary dance. The subtlety of the movement, the pedestrian vocabulary, the meta-engagement. I often think and talk about “reading” a performance, and this was an instance of me reading a performance of reading. It requires a specific kind of attention. Not just watching (like entertainment television or fluffy novels, where everything is given to you), reading requires noticing, digesting, tracking foreshadowing, registering motifs, piecing together narratives, unpacking symbols, and awareness of the greater literary or performative context.
I thought of Hijack, who are often engaged with trying to distract themselves so that a dance can happen. It brought to mind “A Dance for Them,” in Mad King Thomas’ most recent Phone Dances (colon) Dances for the Telephone. We were aiming for a similar sense of subtle pedestrian expertise. When your mind engages elsewhere, your body is free to follow the expert gestures that support your task. A certain elegance can happen when your performers are not trying to perform, are barely even aware that they are performing.
I love how much attention Lightsey has to the craft of dance-making, just as she is invested in and attentive to her craft of writing, and the intersection of the two. Her departure reminds me how much I appreciate the connection between writing and dancing, how much writing shapes my dance-making and dancing shapes my writing. Maybe, just maybe, it will also remind me to write more. Somebody’s got to. Everyone, pick up your pens!