Breadth Becomes Depth

By Robert Lee Wolfe III

Diversity is one of this generation's most controversial buzzwords: many say that it represents a means to a broader understanding of the world, while others assert that a focus on diversity can lead to an emphasis on breadth that discourages students from plumbing the depths of their respective fields. The Shared Graduate Dance concert at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center makes a strong case for an approach to depth that incorporates the virtues of diversity.

This blog will be focusing on just two of the performances of the evening, Graham Brown's The Better Half and Stephanie Miracle's Double Dutch. While the other performances where certainly lovely to watch, they did not embrace the idea of diversity so strongly as the pieces of Brown and Miracle, respectively.

Brown's piece, which came first, featured Brown dancing with both Miracle and Brown's extremely muscular brother, who is paralyzed from the waist down. The performance was unlike anything I've ever seen. Far from being limited by paralysis, Joel Brown brought a surge of life to the stage with a series of moves that emphasized new ideas in the way one could maneuver their weight with only the upper body. Graham Brown and Stephanie Miracle followed suit, and the idea of diversity was affirmed: by interacting with someone outside of the traditional dance circle, a new way of thinking about movement was engineered. And there was no more impressive moment in any of the performances than Graham jumping onto the wheels of Joel's wheelchair and sliding down to the ground. The performances of these very different individuals complemented each other in a way that two more commonly matched dancers could ever have done.

Stephanie Miracle's Double Dutch also impressed with its meditation on diversity. Among the dancers who performed with Miracle were a large, rotund man whose movements contained great momentum, a smaller dancer, a gray-haired woman whose movements emphasized precision and the desire for protection, and a pregnant woman who moved slowly with her unborn child in mind. Miracle herself imitated some of their moves and adjusted her routine to incorporate the new movements of the other dancers. Breadth became depth, and movement was instilled with a refreshing vibrant quality.

One doesn't expect subtle political messages to be embedded in a dance they go to for pleasure, and perhaps the artists' intentions weren't political at all, but the performances described previously did much more to make the case for diversity to me than any half-hearted rhetoric could ever hope to do. I look forward to seeing more from all of the dancers who participated in such a remarkable series of performances.