Women in War and Peace

New York City dance students



In Fond Memory of Luigi Faccuito

Why we dream certain dreams, picking up bits and pieces of memories, has fascinated many an interpreter. As everyone knows, the brain keeps running while we sleep, and when we lightly do so, it is wont to tell a story to that unity of apperception we call the self, as if the storyteller were another person split off, or half the individual divided, and a mysterious half at that because we may not intuit or directly know the introjected subject we associate with the I as it organizes our self-reflections. Yet it has a motive, a theme, or fixed idea to be divined upon awakening.

I have not seen Jill Strauss for twenty years yet she represented that motive in my dream. She taught jazz dance for Luigi Faccuito, may he never stop moving, and I took her class from time to time when she substituted for him. I still take his class in my dreams although he went to the presumably Better Place this year, and she, a pretty little woman, is almost always around, as she regularly was back in those days. I do not believe I had a crush on her, at least not consciously, though I did think she was quite cute. We both moved away from New York, she to California, me to Hawaii then Florida.

Jill starred in my dream last night. She was driving. I used to drive in my dreams, smoking cigarettes as well, until I realized in one dream that I had quit smoking, and had no driver’s license. She pulled into a charming shopping center. Judging from the Spanish architecture, we were in California.

I visited California in my youth, even stayed in San Francisco a few months, and thought Californians were weird. I liked the smaller cities, got to drive a big pink Cadillac convertible, and thought the traffic was atrocious.

I just heard from Drew a few days ago. He moved to California from South Beach a couple years ago. He said people were a lot nicer in California. I thought of moving out there. The San Bernardino shootings took place the next day, an hour’s drive from his home.

The war drums beat incessantly, bombs are away and maybe a National Socialist American Workers Party will be founded, its militant members goose-stepping in brown shirts.

I felt comfortable with Jill at the wheel as she wheeled into the mall. We approached a two-story building with a wooden façade and big windows. A dance class was ongoing inside. The studio was huge, with a very high, vaulted ceiling. There were two huge murals of modern dancers painted on two of the walls. It reminded me of Ana Lessa’s new Atma Beauty salon in South Beach.

Yesterday I encountered Ray Sullivan, a choreographer, sitting at a café in South Beach. We chatted animatedly at length about the great dancers and teachers we knew and had studied under back in the day, and bemoaned the fact that the current generation has missed the revolutionary philosophy of modern dance and along with it the passion that moves audiences to tears of joy.

Too many today are just doing technique, not dancing. The kids know little yet think they know everything, and believe they are entitled to dance choreography in their own, conceited way, instead of getting into and being engaged in The Work. I recounted, with some satisfaction, how a dancer told a top choreographer that a certain movement did not work for him, and the choreographer replied with, “Then you’re fired because you don’t work for me.”

The arts bring out the best in people when art is loved for its own sake. Woe unto me, for I no longer sing, dance, and act, and have taken up writing about politics, which brings out the meanness in me, not to mention others. And what I write about is here today and gone tomorrow. I love history, but when I try to relate current events to their historical contexts, most people are just not interested because they are inclined to repeat well worn mistakes.

So I am drawn back to art, to at least write something immortal to pass along the gifts that are not mine but of my kind. I have been preoccupied with death lately, in the form, unfortunately, of bad finales. Death is part of life, but art is about it all.

So Jill and I got out of the car in front of the California dance studio. She took my hand as I took hers, but not quite in the right way, therefore we made an adjustment until the form was perfect, and she led me into the studio. Finally I felt safe, and I awoke.

Just before falling asleep, I considered how women may now participate in combat alongside men, to actively engage in the massive murders legalized by nations. I felt uncomfortable about that.

Much of the difference between the sexes is cultivated. Still there are differences in strength and size, and in hormones: females are theoretically more nurturing than males. Female warriors are nothing new, really, and there are desperate times when women are needed to not only fight but to lead in battle instead of just throwing themselves off the walls when defeat is imminent lest they be forced to bear the children of the enemy.

If a woman wants to be a warrior and can qualify, that is fine with me. She should not be subject, however, to the draft. I believe women should be cultivated to make and keep peace among men through nonviolent means, just as she has done with the advance of civilization. She should be protected along with her children from the ravages of war.

Ray had complained about the notion that choreographers should be business managers and producers and fundraisers wrapped up in one person, which works the ruin of the choreographer’s expertise and creativity, and distracts the others from their duties as well. And too many people in Miami Beach tend to think that the mere possession of funds makes them experts. Labor must be divided into functions, so each can excel. The lack of these divisions and their purposeful coordination is why organizations fail, especially small companies.

I once read an evolutionary theory that men were relatively peaceful when they lived in the forests somewhat like bonobos, and then became violent when they left the forest and had to forage more widely and fight other groups for their sustenance. As they did so, they grew larger and stronger. Females, on the other hand, remained small by comparison so they could be carried to safe places, for they cradle the race.

Maybe that anthropological theory is not scientifically justifiable. Cultural justification is another matter. I think the memory of it brought me to Jill in my dream. She is the pretty little muse who took me by the hand and led me back to art.


Miami Beach 2015

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