Not a very good one, I can tell you with absolute true authority. I might break something while attempting to dance, but, well, that goes back to my second blog post for this Ultimate Blog Challenge thingy (“What kind of klutz am I?”).
I am, though, a pretty good Performance Storyteller. I know how to engage an audience, I find the lighter moments when I can, the laughter through characterization and “special” moments, and I normally work the stage area. I don’t like standing still at a mic to tell. I don’t really enjoy Telling from reading a book (librarian/early elementary school style), but I can do it when I have to.
I was part of a group of 26 or 27 storytellers who told the entirety of “Journey To The West”, the ancient tale of the Monkey King’s trials and tribulations as he ventured to find the Buddha and enlightenment. 100 chapters, split among four books, and we had two and a half days to tell the story to our audience. I had been given the task of having to read, and edit in performance, 4 chapters, close to 100 pages, that had a LOT going on. Oh..not sure if I told you, but I only had a half hour to cram and spew it all out. 100 pages. Action packed. Yeah. Right.
(Aside: Did I mention that I’m often irreverent? No? Pity. My friend, Sam, who came to my performance on Saturday, asked me: “Can’t you ever tell a story straight?” My answer: “Why should I? ANYONE can read a story, word for word, not deviate from what the author wrote, and do it pretty well. Some very, very well. I don’t do that. I tell the story and mix it with my personality and the energy/vibe/magic juju that the audience provides.” Now, I know this pisses some “purists” off to NO ends. I should be treating THE SACRED WORD as sacrosanct. Pish tosh, I say. Pish to the ULTIMATE Tosh. Do it as you see fit, as it fits the restraints and style you hold for yourself, and I shall do the same. Pish I say. Pish…and a great big Tosh too. End of rambled aside)
Back to the Monkey King. I added some humor and energy to the event, and boy, did I get some dirty looks from some. The rest laughed and clapped and joined in the fun as I brought into the story: the old guardian of the bridge from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (What is your favorite color?); puppetry (using googly eyes to do a scene where the Monkey King, impersonating a goblin, meets a goblin sentry); made some social commentary of the time, as it fit the storyline, and basically had FUN telling the tale. I can’t tell you how many people came up to me on the next break and thanked me for the infectious fun, waking the proceedings up, and for this and that. So…purist fascists:
As to why Sam asked the question WAY above, I got to tell two Hans Christian Andersen stories: “The Emperor’s New Suit” and “The Ugly Duckling.” The first I planned, the second one I was asked to-GASP!-READ FROM THE BOOK by a great group of PACE University students, as they acted out the story on the small stage. Again, I did mention in my aside, that I am basically irreverent, and even though I was there to celebrate Hans Christian Andersen’s Birthday, I was really there for the audience and to engage them in storytelling, and hopefully encourage them to read more traditional folk and fairy tales.
I did a lot of call and response, brought some of the kids on stage to be characters. Sadly, Sam, who was taping this for me, kept turning off the video when a kid was on stage. I have no record of the wonderfulness of what the children did at all, the special moments, and nothing from the second performance. I can only tell you that working with kids & adults in an interactive space is really where magic happens. It happened yesterday, and you only have my word for it. If I had known he was squeamish about taping the kids (we had a “warning” from someone in charge at the location: I would have ignored and later asked if I had the parents permission or not, and then edit appropriately. When you look at the photos others took, they had the kids in almost all the shots. Oh…)..well, that’s another blog, somewhere, another day.
Weaving and ducking and veering around and through the tales, I brought them to life in a number of ways: silly voices and faces, references both current and obscure, swatting the tushy of the Ugly Duckling (NOT in the book!), turning a not very ferocious dog into one who was Mildly Perturbed, and other things. Overall, it was a blast of fun for the audience and for me. Passion and love of what you do wins out every time, in my book.
So, I’m not a break-dancer at all. I wish I had the body for it, but I still think it’d not be my thing. I’d waltz, tango, cha cha, and rumba my way in my OWN way…and I’d piss off the purist dancers. But, my dancing partner and I would have fun.
Anyone want to dance?
Here are a couple of vids of the proceedings. Hope you like ‘em.