Definitely Not On the Program


It’s an adventure. Starting out late makes everything an adventure. It’s a good day for being in a dark room and letting someone else do the entertaining. On the way, to lighten the mood, I remark about being the only ducks out as it gets darker and gloomier. My sister, who is half-listening, lurches forward, saying, “Where they at?”

The wet streets blackened by rain are empty, which moves the pace. By the time we arrive, we must park on the top level of the parking garage of Playhouse Square where the builders didn’t bother to build a roof.  For us ducks, more rain. We trail behind an old black man driving funeral-procession-slow in a Cadillac SUV.  Um, because Cadillacs travel at 2o mph or less and you may as well be in a school zone, we back up and jet around the other way and find a space closest to the elevator. After descending to the 2nd floor, we walk a long diagonal across the parking lot with a lady, her baby maybe, and an impatient grandma who is yelling at him to wait for them. They’re late, too.

Inside, we shoot around corners like meandering through that space between the airport and the airplane entrance. Tunneling through, we walk down a steep flight of stairs to Helen for directions to Alvin Ailey. Back up stairs, through the tunnel, through the tunnel, right?, left?, who knows, like Alice in Wonderland through the Ohio State Theater, we check our hair in the looking glass then flow out to will call. Excited and winded, hyperventilation starts as soon as walking stops. Hyper and hot, I give my name and ask for something sounding like “We…all win” instead of “Alvin,” and the old black hag behind the glass promptly corrects me as if I’m too stupid to know the name on the tickets I actually purchased all by myself from Playhouse Square Robert.

Tickets-Alvin-Ailey-Dance-TheaterTickets in hand, we pay too much for drinks and learn that because we (two Asians, six Europeans, and about 100 Negroes) are on CP Time (i.e. Colored People Time), we also get the unbearable pleasure of viewing the first 40 minutes, which is “Odetta,” on a monitor!!

With the sound so low it’s a whisper!!

In the gosh-darn hallway of humiliation!!

As security and old folks in red coats send benches scraping across marble floors to give us slackers somewhere to rest our disappointment, one black lady says, “I’m just gonna sit here and drink this drink to keep from going off in here in front of all these people.”

It’s surprisingly warm sitting curve-of-the-thigh too close to annoyed strangers. The skinny girl at the end of our bench has the audacity to make a space for her purse as if it’s an actual living human being. My sister, sitting way on the other side of me and my big boobs, whispers over her purse in her lap, “Somethin’s burnin’.” I lean over my purse and whisper back: “It’s this chick’s hair.  The chick whose date is her purse.”


“Vespers,” danced by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater company of female dancers.

At last, we abandon our logs bottlenecking the water-less river in search of higher ground.  We reach the Mezzanine level only to have a neighbor come from behind but from on high whom we avoid like a plague of yellow jackets in springtime because she pretends to lock her keys in her house to walk past her immediate neighbors to walk all the way up the street to have us open our doors to her so that she can snoop around our house to see what’s new…to her. Yeah, turns out her son has married up…a doctor or something. (On the flip side, the doctor definitely married down-the-streetish.)

“Vespers” follows “Odetta.”

Lo and behold, when the dance begins, the music comes up and the thunder of drums is of a loudness so blood-in-the-ear-drum loud that after straining to hear the tiny whispers maybe (or maybe not) coming from the monitor, I have no doubt I have entered stage two of losing one’s mind! In “Vespers,” girls in darling little black dresses, chasing each other on the darkened stage, jump barefoot with both foots (“feet,” if you fancy) on chairs and pop down off of them only to throw themselves on the floor to snap their knees shut to touch the tips of the toes to one edge of the seat. Strange but mesmerizing. Musical chairs, the (too got-damn long house music) remix…just for us adults.


“The Hunt,” danced by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater company of male dancers.

In “The Hunt,” in a wild martial-arts themed display of testosterone, shirtless men with ripped bodies dance in billowing black skirts in sun and shade and, with a kick, pops of red like blood on a battlefield flash from underneath.

Clap, clap, clap, clap some more, arms heavy, thank God, intermission. Then comes “Revelations,” which sort of takes us to Sunday School where someone sings, “I been ’buked,” the Lord delivers Daniel, and somebody prays, “Fix me, Jesus.” And I think, “Fix me, too, Jesus” because the six, suddenly insanely happy white folks, as if suddenly holy-ghost-filled, are clapping to a noticeably different drummer.

After wading in navy and sky blue ribbons of water, finally, little is left for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater company dancers to do but run on and rocka our souls in the bosom of Abraham

And it was all good, too, because, in a way, I saw the light and modern dance magic twice. Note to self: Remember glasses…on white dresser…in ChildSight case…that vanity…after all these years…still makes you forget.

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