“A Brief Study of Dance and War” by Bob Rich

Dance I:

The dance studio was full of invisible fireworks, showers of loud crackling emotion (too hot to touch without protective gloves) in fluorescent red, green, and blue within all the pairs of male and female souls.

Wasn’t it all like a dream? And a happy one!

A blur of warm, rhythmic sensations touched by a state of grace, where we all lived in bliss for 90 minutes.

A gentle tempo, a female hand grasps a male hand, and heavy cold armor fell off everyone’s weary backs.

Everyone’s identity was clear: we were there to pursue something ineffable and elegant, and all weeping was shut outside where rain fell down gravity’s pathway in wet torrents onto sidewalks lit in clouds of bruised purple light.

Inside the warm white room, dancing was a thrilling cushion to rest our tired souls upon, each woman resting in a soft empty hemisphere of the sun, each man resting in a soft empty hemisphere of the moon, each half-moon facing half a sun, each half-sun facing half a moon.

We were told: “Relax, inside your half-sun or half-moon, while guitar, drums, bass, keyboards, violins energize all the starry constellations of the night and sadness contracts into its own light like a tragic star collapsing as it reaches the end of its lifecycle.”

War I:

The young were there, men and women, dressed in thick protective armor.

The helicopters swung in wide sorrowful arc across the night sky like mournful menacing metallic birds. The airplanes glided overhead like silent sharks with quiet terrifying teeth.

The tanks proceeded through mud, over dark grasses, during dark unlit nights, delivering news dispatched from lands too far away even for the horizon’s memory.

How did it come to this? Soon the troops would see explosions high up in the air that would stain the night-time sky in lights colored in blood red and in tragic shades of orange and in regretful smears of purple.

And yet the gleaming bravery in the eyes of the advancing soldiers was enough to make a group of tall weeping willow trees uproot themselves just to walk through the long wearisome night to the ocean where the willow trees would slowly march into the cold welcoming waves of the sea where the trees would sink in a soundless tribute into the waves’ foaming enveloping arms.

Dance II: The dancer said:

“Embrace me, love, at this moment, tonight!…because the freedom of this moment was purchased in blood by brothers of ours, sisters of ours, overseas, over centuries.

Dip your cup into the intoxicating swooning punch bowl, and drink from the clear red fruit-tinged waters that cool our lips which are tired of relaying news from battlefields, our lips that are tired of not having enough to smile about.

Rise up to the earth’s banquet of dances: Spain’s flamenco, Argentina’s tango, Austria’s waltz, Haiti’s merengue, Cuba’s salsa —

and watch the coals burn into fierce glowing red as women twirl in strong pirouettes and skillfully disclose their beauty in firmly-planted syncopated steps upon the dance floor: a red-haired woman, a blonde woman, a brunette, all with hair pluming like the manes of lions, as men move in strong gliding stances to announce the oncoming glory of the women whose dresses flutter in sympathy to the melody’s shouts and sighs.”

War II:

The general called out a loud command and the soldiers, in unison, clad in the dark green of khaki, burst forward into impossible danger by virtue of the flames in their adrenaline and the surging of their racing blood, and with swords they cut through ropes of vegetation to meet a terrible enemy, with a military flag flapping in their ears like a robe sewn in heaven. The soldiers’ hands nimbly accessed their many resources: grenades, flare guns, radio transmitters, and they lifted, operated, and flung their weapons of war in a strange, sad of opera of blood and technology. “They would be proud of me now,” thought the soldier, while running past the infernal red light-streaks of the bullets’ paths through the night air. Within the soldier’s gleaming eyes, thoughts were racing, written in bright red ink within the soul: “I’m living for something, maybe dying for something. If my life is a velvet box of gold coins, how could God not remember that my coins entered the furnace of this war and melted into gold ink, spilling onto the page of a history book? What is honor? Maybe someday a suicidal soul, back home, will realize that I died for strangers, and he or she will step back from the ledge.”

Dance III:

With the dancing at full bloom, with all the flowers ignited in a floral blaze, the whole white room was in elaborate organized motion.

The women moved in supple circular flights like birds of genius, and the men were as quick as falcons as they ascended and descended through the air to meet their dove-like dance partners — the women in their dresses of flaming feathers.

The hand was where the communication of life took place between the men and women while they danced,

as the men gave signals through subtle risings and fallings and adjustments of their hands upon the women’s hands and waists and shoulder blades, while the music moved like a sonic searchlight through the room to test the hearts of all the dancers — the music instantly empowering any heart that was showing the slightest flicker of sadness or mourning

so that the dancing couples could keep turning and moving across the dance floor like interlocking gears within a musical clock.

And time slowed into a soft pace of deliberate decorated movement throughout the room, as the women fiercely rotated on the hourglass axis of their figures while they emboldened the men who now existed in a state of playful precision and spotlit fearlessness.

The clock high up on the dance studio’s wall adjusted to the livid slow-motion reverie, and, as the clock was ticking across seven sumptuous slow-motion seconds, twenty-one flirtatious glances could be detected among the swirling lights, the smiling eyes, and the focused trance-like expressions of the spinning, flying, impeccably-dressed pairs of dancers.

War III:

The hourglass of time spilled its glass and sand upon the icy ground as it was pierced through by the bayonet of battle.

Wheels of tanks drove upon hard granite, hearts were broken, valor spilt upon the night-time mud like yellow liquid neon, and a battle ended in misery and lonely collective exhaustion.

Dance IV:

Even the loneliest heart can be excavated from the bottom of the sea within a dance studio’s white, joyful, purified walls.

Even a heart that had been burning in the sighing toil of blue buried sorrow, languishing for ages at the low murky depths of the ocean floor, still cannot resist the ache of a trumpet, the propulsive song of a snare drum, the tender leaping flames of a guitar, during a dance.

Even a heart that remembers only brokenness can find soft repair through a dance partner’s medicinal, exhilarating touch.

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