Thursday, October 02, 2003

the boing boing boing boy

After yesterday's ex excitement, I did in fact toddle off to work, feeling better with every mile that passed under my (rented) wheels, and howling along with the radio. The party turned out to be a fundraiser sort of thing for a nonprofit called Common Sense Media that I found very interesting. They're beating the same "protect our kids" drum that folks like Tipper Gore have made so infamous, yet they are pragmatic and non-partisan. Their site, like, features reader-supplied reviews of various media products (including video games) that break the product down--does it contain drug references? Sex? Violence against women? Materialism?

I'm not doing a good job of describing it, but the guy who spoke teaches First Amendment law at Stanford. He's not a reactionary who wants us all to go back to the days when actors sitting on beds in movies had to make sure they kept one foot on the floor. The site just gives you a heads-up about what a show or game or movie contains. It's like Consumer Reports, with an eye to making informed decisions about "The Other Parent"--the speaker's name for television, and also his book about its influence on kids. One of the guests talked about how when her young daughter wrote a review of 'Bend it Like Beckham' for the site, it was a chance to do some real critical thinking about what she'd seen--which seems like the whole point, to me.

It seemed like something I could get behind. It was an interesting evening. I might have to check the site myself occasionally--I hate going to see something and getting surprised by portrayals of violence against women. Unless of course the women are fighting back...and even then, I've been known to demand my money back (True Romance, anyone?)

I got cut early, so I was able to make it the Hotel Utah in time to see something that has probably scarred me for life. That would be the pogo-stick strip stylings of the incomparable
Rocky Roulette. Surrounded by bellydance performances by my incredible teacher Jill and members of her troupe, the classic burlesque of the Cantankerous Lollies, and the vigorous, yes-I-got-everything-waxed samba of Agogo, Rocky particularly stood--or hopped--out.

He took the Utah's tiny stage wearing an oversized black choir robe and what had to be a wig, and explained that he wasn't feeling entirely well. Suddenly some loud rock music (I can't identify what the kids are listening to today, sorry, unless it's Radiohead. Sometimes I can also pick out the White Stripes) came rolling out to chase off the lingering samba rhythms. Rocky shucked the robe, grabbed a blue-sequin and ball-fringe adorned pogo stick with "RR" emblazoned on it, and started madly bouncing around the stage while taking his clothes off.

I can honestly say I have never seen anything quite like it.

Let me hasten to add that I wasn't offended by this odd display. Far from it. I'm a huge fan of the movie The Full Monty because I love watching men strip awkwardly in an attempt to please women. I am all for that. Mostly I was concerned that this boy, who was holding his hair on with one hand, was going to bounce right off the stage in the middle of shedding his slacks to reveal a light pink rhinestone-studded thong. Which in fact he did, tumbling into the audience. Fortunately it's a short drop, and he was back up on his pogo stick momentarily, apparently unscathed, slacks flapping around his ankles. I took my hands away from my eyes.

Two members of Ultra Gypsy came on directly afterwards, looking bemused. All the snake arms and body rolls in the world can't quite touch a guy stripping on a stick. But Erin and Felice did a lovely job nonetheless.

It's actually pretty strange, having bellydancers in the middle of a show touted as burlesque, especially with slides of vintage porn (love those full, real, unretouched fifties bodies!) being projected onto the wall behind them. Bellydancers generally make every effort, as I understand it, to hold themselves apart from stripping or anything that resonates with it; down to wearing some modest covering over their costume until just before they take the stage. It's weird. Here you have a woman in a gauzy skirt and a belt and bra covered with shiny things (I'm thinking of cabaret or Egyptian style now, not Tribal, which tends to be pretty covered up), undulating up a storm. And yet. She does not backbend in such a way as to display her crotch to the audience, she does not touch herself suggestively, and if she's dancing with a snake or a cane, she is subtle in how she uses them. There is a fine line, and pro bellydancers spend a lot of time thinking about that line.

What got me is that I found the Ultra Gypsies a lot sexier than either the Lollies or Agogo. I know I'm biased. Jill is my teacher, and I have chosen bellydance for a lot of reasons. A big reason I'm staying with it is that it's so damn hard and I need the challenge. But it's also, to my eyes, incredibly beautiful. I've seen the Lollies before and pretty much walked away that time to scrounge for snacks; last night was no different. They're cheerful, they're good dancers, they're coordinated, but it just didn't do anything for me--and I look at girls! Agogo was the same thing during their first number, which was both highly athletic and kind of repetitve. I saw in both cases that what was being demonstrated was supposed to be sexy, and from the crowd response other people were finding it so, but it just seemed like grown-up cheerleading to me. I mean no disrespect to dancers in either style, or even to the dancers in question. They were good at what they were doing, and it looked like fun, and it was fun to watch. But it was so blatant, where bellydance is so subtle, and I guess I come down on the side of subtle.

Then on their last number, the glittery one, Agogo started pulling people up on stage, and they snagged me, and it was fun. Even though it is virtually impossible to dance in overlarge tux pants and the sensible, high-traction shoes I wear to work. Mostly I tried to keep from getting a feather in the eye, since I have no idea of Samba footwork, and hoped Jill was noticing that I can in fact dance in front of strangers without freaking out.