Seán Curran doesn’t dance much anymore, but he performed the astonishing solo St. Petersburg Waltz (2005), to music from Meredith Monk’s Volcano Songs. Over nine riveting minutes he suggested a whole village full of characters, or a single character’s intense inner life. In a high-collared shirt with the sleeves rolled up, a tie, a black vest with a watch chain in the pocket, a black fedora, pants, and bare feet, he seemed to be an uncle from a few generations ago. A butcher, maybe, or a postal clerk, a man who deals with lots of people but who’s introspective and maybe a little shy.
He dances or hums to himself, looks over his shoulder, holds animated conversations with invisible acquaintances, takes a turn around a dance floor with an invisible woman. Into this stream of busy interactions he flashes insincere salutes, militant struts, even a Nazi “Sieg Heil!” For a minute he appears to have been captured. At the end of the dance he’s bowing from the waist to an invisible superior.
I don’t know whether Curran was creating a portrait of a specific person or conveying the experiences of many persons. Maybe he was remembering the Holocaust; maybe he was reminiscing about a life as a Main Street mediocrity. Whoever he was, I recognized him.
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