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Closer to Fine

March 25, 2019


My best friend in high school and I loved international folk dancing.  We danced together all summer at camp and as often as two teenage girls with piles of homework and no cars could manage during the school year.  We’d polka around the edges of the room–trying to stay out of the way of other couples as we bounded mostly in the air with occasional landings before springing up to cover another wide swath of dance floor.  We’d swing until the room spun around us and all that kept us from falling was the perfect balance of weight we each pulled.  We grapevined and cherkasiya-ed and did all sorts of more and more complicated dances, or did simple dances dramatically with arm flourishes, balletic-ally pointed toes, and much laughter.  What I loved most were the line dances where we’d be holding hands and then have to drop hands to spin.  Our arms swung perfectly in time, and we could reach out without looking to feel our hands fall perfectly back together again, still swinging in time to the music.

I thought of her this weekend, at a concert marking the 30th anniversary of a duo’s breakthrough hit.  The two stood a couple of yards away, every once in a while angling their bodies toward each other, but mostly focused straight out at the audience.  It made me wonder what it must be like to have played the same songs together so many times over the years, and I imagined that performing their old standbys must be like reaching out to have a perfectly timed hand fall into yours.

And then I thought about the audience, all of us singing along to this song we’ve been singing for going on 30 years.  We all knew every word, knew where the “yeah” was inserted, knew where to take a breath.  I wondered how it must feel as a performer to be expected to sing the song exactly the same way at each of the thousands of concerts you’ve given; no improvising encouraged–we want to hear the version we know and love.  Later that night, after the concert had ended, I continued to think about that dynamic between performers and audience.   It occurred to me that it was precisely that adherence to the album version that allowed the entire audience to take breaths together and, although strangers, sing perfectly in time.  Our collective familiarity allowed community.  It was as if we had all reached out our hands and swung them perfectly matched to fall into our neighbor’s hand.


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One Comment
  1. amyilene permalink

    Indigo Girls? So many memories brought out by their music.

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