Monday, August 8, 2011

dance process journal #14: sharing some source materials

Our Philly Fringe page is now live!  Go here for more details about our upcoming Fringe performances of We the People on the afternoons of Sunday and Monday, September 5th and 6th.

Over the next few weeks we'll be rehearsing specifically for the Fringe while figuring out a new version of this dance to perform in Washington Square.  These performances will include some (optional) audience participation and I'm still deciding whether to include the "Spirit of 76" song in this version.  If we do use the song, we'll probably integrate it into the dance somewhat differently from how we used it in the theater last April.

I've been visiting Washington Square again for further inspiration and wanted to share some footage of the Square with you here:

The eternal flame monument is dedicated to the unknown Revolutionary War soldiers, hundreds of whom are buried in the Square.

During the creation of this dance I have been revisiting several of Philadelphia's historical sites and thinking (and learning) more about the founding of the United States.  We might think that America has become more politically polarized in recent years, but polarization is a challenge that's been with us from the start.  In his farewell address, George Washington gave a strong warning about the dangers that political parties posed to the new country:
"I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on Geographical discriminations.  Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the Spirit of Party, generally.

"This Spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind.  It exists under different shapes in all Governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

"The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.  But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism.  The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an Individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.

"Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of Party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it."
(He says a lot more too, of course!  You can read the full address at this link.)

While exploring further throughout Independence National Park, at the northeast corner of 6th and Market I came upon a piece of public art created in 2003 by Alison Sky.  This text-centered work, Indelible, incorporates a number of moving quotations on liberty from Sitting Bull, Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, Yan Phou Lee, and others "representing those left out of the 'all'" in statements such as "all men are created equal" in the Declaration of Independence and other founding documents.  Indelible highlights the robust condemnation  of slavery in a passage which was written by Thomas Jefferson to be part of the Declaration of Independence but which was struck out of the final version.  The impact of Indelible is further intensified by the fact that it is now located right across the street from a recently opened exhibit about the slaves who worked in Washington's household while he was President.  You can see some photos and read more about Indelible on Alison Sky's website here.

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