Sunday, December 19, 2004

Lest my last post before Christmas be on a down note (that note being, specifically, "I missed the last weekend of Fezziwig's and the December Gaskells!"), I decided that I had better take a break from my contracts outlining and post a reminder of God's goodness.

One of the Christian principles which I most love C.S. Lewis' space trilogy for elucidating is the idea that God is working for my good, and if I don't remember that I can bring much evil upon myself by refusing to take the good that he is offering me simply because it isn't the good I had my heart set on. This weekend has borne that principle out.

Last night I saw The Brian Setzer Orchestra with the family, and that was a fantastically good time. It involved no dancing (the pit was way too crowded for that even if my sister and I had felt like venturing down there) but the music was great and the showmanship was just superb. It's hard to see how that really substitutes for the Dickens Faire, but somehow it filled that hole.

Perhaps more obviously, if I had stayed up at Stanford I would have missed seeing Twilight's father playing Ebeneezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. For those readers who don't know, Twilight's dad is quite the actor, and this was by far the most moving rendition of the tale I have experienced in any medium. But aside from the production's many and obvious merits, the whole experience was enhanced for me by the fact that I was simultaneously remembering my Belle breaking up with my Scrooge, that I was thinking of dear Fanny Scrooge, of whom I was so fond, dead (but living on in the spirit of her son Fred), that I was remembering walking through London myself as Scrooge was conducted through the streets by the spirits. The whole thing was somehow much more mine as a result - and, I suspect, tied into certain ways in which God is growing me (and now Alanna knows what that phrase means!). It's praiseworthy, I think, to remember that I neither chose to go to Dickens in the first place nor chose to leave it in the second - and yet had I resisted those two things I would have missed much that God had for me.

On a slightly related note, I totally sympathize with Shanah's expenditures on pretty things. It may surprise some of my readers to know it, but I like wearing pretty things. It's one of the character traits I have inherited from Alanna the Lioness. This has come about most recently thinking about the February Gaskells, the Viennese Ball (for which I will be assembling a Victorian costume), and of course next year's Faire. And the trouble is that many of the pretty things I want are expensive, like tailcoats and waistcoats\\vests and top hats. Mmmm, top hats. Collapsible silk top hats. And of course then one gets into the world of options, which involves an even greater expenditure of money. And really, I must be careful to use my borrowed money wisely. And after it is my own money, I must still be careful to use it wisely. Sigh. Well, I suppose it wouldn't be fun if I could just buy whatever I wanted, right?

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

At this point I'm giving up on reviewing Alexander; if you want my thoughts you can ask me. Instead, I'm going to talk about the Dickens Faire.

I'm listening to SHeDAISY's Christmas album, Brand New Year, which I think will become indelibly linked with my memories of the Faire. You might not think SHeDAISY is the right group to be recording a Christmas album, but I really, really like it. Fun. Playful. Not too serious. That's SHeDAISY for you. It's also kind of the Dickens Faire.

I don't normally go to these costume things to play the game, understand. I usually go to dance, and so the costumes seem kind of irrelevant to me. I can participate in the period play to a certain extent - after all, what fun is dancing if you can't be a gentleman? - but when I go to something like Gaskells my objective is to dance.

I went to the Dickens Faire, though, to play. I wanted to be a young apprentice lawyer from New York on a grand adventure in mid-nineteenth century London. Oh, I wanted to dance, too - but San Francisco seemed like an awful long way to go just to dance. No, I decided that if I was going to go to the Faire, I was going to play. I didn't dress up, but I probably could have by raiding the Savoyards' costume store. As I told Miss Bobbi, this was a deliberate choice on my part. If I was there solely to play, I would let imagination carry me the whole way. If I was going to go in further than that for a penny, I wanted in for a dollar.

It's a little hard for me to explain to you why the Faire meant so much to me, and I rather bitterly regret that my travel plans prevent me from attending the last two days. There are so many memories I have from my three days there. The milk shop, and the young fellow who ran it. Dancing with Little Nell. Seeing the delight on the faces of the gentlemen Fezziwiggers when they saw me ("Ah, the infamous Mr. Lowe!" as Mr. Noakes put it). The intimacy of hanging out with cast members in front of Dark Garden to appreciate Lily Fezziwig's window - and being told by Mr. Scully that I was "one of the family." The smiles on the faces of the ladies I danced with. Sending Miss Lily a slightly mischievous telegram. And yes, I admit that it was gratifying to hear from Miss Bobbi that I had created a "stir" among the young ladies.

I have this montage of memories, of thoughts and sensations, and I don't know that they evoke the wonderland of imagination that I found at this place. There's at least three components to the magic. One is, as Blue Rose pointed out, that it's a combination of dancing and roleplaying - what more could I want? And doubtless my dearest Rose has put her finger on something there. But there's more to it than that. Ever since meeting my young vampiress I have felt pushed in the direction of Dickens, feeling the Lord say that there was something special for me there. I feel more certain of that now than ever, though what it is exactly I decline to speculate on at this point. Part of it, I suspect, is the same thing that God had for me among the Chaminade Players: to be a witness in a theatrical company (as I lamented to Alanna the other day, it always seems a shame to me when people find out that I am a Republican Christian and instantly assume that I now fit their stereotypes of what that means, rather than thinking that perhaps I am proof that their stereotype is wrong). No doubt it will become clearer in time.

And the third component is Christmas. The cheer, the effervescent delight, the friends and the family and the warmth. These things do not exist at college, and for the past five years my Christmases have only really begun when I returned home. But this year my Christmas began ... well, when Christmas ought to have begun, and there is someting very special about that. Something deeply touching, which I feel compelled to repay by being a part of it next year. Miss Elliot told me that she can't think of any better way to spend her weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas ... and I don't know if our reasons line up exactly, but right now neither can I. How grand to be allowed to dance, roleplay, and act all at the same time, while simultaneously helping to remind people of the spirit of Christmas - indeed, to create the spirit of Christmas.

The "spirit of Christmas" is not of course what I think Christmas is all about. There is nothing epic about the spirit of Christmas, and Christmas is in my estimation ultimately an epic holiday. It is about the return of the King, the Ancient of Days entering a tragic and broken world to rescue mankind from the human condition and raise us to a new level of creation, one where we have more to look forward to than the tawdry aesthetic beauty of endless tragedy. It is about the drama of Elrash taking form not as an elf but as a man, when it became clear to all creation that the outcome of the war was no longer in doubt. About evil itself being opposed not by mere men and their pitiful efforts to will justice into being, but by God Almighty.

And yet for all that the "spirit of Christmas" is a very worthwhile thing, and I think it is why this season and its very epic holiday has become so popular. Dickens Faire celebrates that like no other event I know of. It's like the magic of Disneyland crossed with the magic of Christmas. Which is why I have to go back.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

I don't have time to review Alexander right now, but I haven't talked about dance in any sort of substantive way in a while and I thought I'd do that before going to sleep since I can't further the adventures of Tristan, my sword-wielding Bastila-chasing Jedi-to-be, in the minutes I have before bedtime (which technically was about an hour ago). The last class of History of Waltz was today. It was a good one that had me all jumping up and down: excited for zweifachers with the TD, and for smiles and pivots with White Jade. For my ninth (!) dance essay I turned in a list of things that dance has brought into my life as a thank-you to the Dance Master. It went like this:

Because I dance ...
I am no longer deathly afraid of the dance floor.
I have experienced partners who don’t care how good I am, but how attentive I am.
I have learned that in dance, as in romance, how good you are is largely determined by how attentive you are.
I have walked home at night six inches off the ground.
I know what it’s like to read somebody’s mind.
I know what it feels like to enjoy music with every part of who I am.
I have seen the world dissolve into a spun-sugar halo.
I know what it feels like when the music ends and there’s a breathless girl in my arms.
I know what it feels like when the music ends and I’m the breathless one.
I understand why there’s a place in the heart of every little boy that wants to be a knight in shining armor.
I get to practice being a knight in shining armor.
I experienced my first kiss.
I have come as close to flying as any boy this side of Peter Pan.
I have a new way to tell my loved ones I love them.

That third one, about attentiveness, probably is an over-simplification, but I do think that certain values necessary to a good romance are instantiated in social dance. Instantiated is my new favorite word thanks to Archimedes, whom I miss very much.

The list isn't entirely complete, though. When I say "every part of who I am" I mean that when I dance I can appreciate music with my body (the part of me that dances), with my voice (that part of me that sings), with my mind (the part of me that analyzes the music), but also with my imagination (the part of me that yearns) and with my spirit (the part of me that prays). And along the same lines, I'd add one more thing to the list that I didn't feel comfortable sharing with the Dance Master, for some reason:

Because I dance, I better understand what it means to dance like David danced.

Thank you to everyone who has ever danced with me. Especially thank you to Shanah Van, who ultimately got me into this, and to Blue Rose, who was my first real dance partner.