Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Weight of Consumption review

Last week was a frenetic blitz of rehearsing for our ensemble dance entitled “The Weight of Consumption,” one of Pick Up America’s Denver-based art projects choreographed by our very own Kelly, featuring as accompaniment, The Recycled Peace Drum, a shopping cart behemoth of a drum recently painted at the Hanuman Festival in Boulder to resemble a Dr. Suess creation.

Dancers and drummers were recruited to what became a volunteer cast of fifteen. We practiced several hours a day in the heat of the afternoon at Guildwerks this past week. Drought, record heat and no air-conditioning combined to make folks in attendance exclaim that the dance studio smelled “a bit like spaghetti.”

The story behind the dance is subconsciously tied to what PUA members have witnessed and internalized over the past two and a half years on the road picking up America’s trash. It recollects a past of abundance and sustainability, when rain fed us, and captures the moment of transition when that system was broken, as we hungrily sucked up the resources nature granted us and became solitary and disoriented. It ends with a realization that we can only get back to having healthy communities if we help each other break the material and immaterial chains that consume us. 

The themes and rhythms were evocative of a tribal rain dance, and given the extremely dry conditions and fires throughout the state of Colorado, many who looked on prayed it would indeed bear real fruit. As we made our final preparations and rehearsed Friday afternoon, the storm clouds gathered, and a vortex literally opened in the clouds above Guildwerks that resembled a dragon’s tail or snail shell. It proceeded to rain much-needed inches the rest of the night.   

We performed the dance twice Friday night. The first time was filmed and recorded live in the parking lot of Denver Open Media, where we were joined after the first act almost spontaneously by a march of Occupy Denver. Fortunately, the break between acts allowed Lily to read her lines as a mic check, the preferred form of communication in Occupy gatherings, and our voices were joined to those of the movement.

Occupy patiently let us finish the dance, and then asked us to join them, which led to a moment of inertia common to protests, and feels like the beginning of a battle charge, when everyone in a large group is focussed on a singular goal and taking to the streets. We decided to take the drum and join the Occupiers because moments like these don’t happen enough historically or presently.

We marched briefly down Santa Fe as First Friday was beginning to jump off. The art walkers stopped and cheered and took pictures, enjoying what to them was just another art piece as performance. Maybe that’s the best way to reach people; Pick Up America, after all, is just one big performance art piece trying to inspire change.  

The PUA contingent decided to head back and transport the drum and crew back to Guildwerks for our second performance. Guildwerks had invited us to perform at the unveiling party of a giant lotus flower effigy, built for Burning Man by the Colorado C.O.R.E. chapter. Several bands and DJs were playing including the ever-rawkus Inte Tribe.   

The second performance of “The Weight of Consumption” was even better than the first. As a drummer, I felt we rocked it and the music and dance was synchronized seamlessly. The crowd applauded us and in their enjoyment of our social commentary and the pondering of its message, our mission with this project was fulfilled. We now must finish building the bottle-brick bench in Five Points, and look ahead to crossing those mountains in the distance.

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