Just went to see my daughter perform in her elementary school’s production of Aladdin. She was “Dancers, Townspeople, Chorus”. A lot of kids played “Dancers, Townspeople, Chorus”. My daughter was probably the best “Dancers, Townspeople, Chorus” in the whole play. Maybe. There was this other girl, Maddie, who was really, really good. Not the best “Townspeople, Chorus” but, man, she was a good “Dancers”.
Actually, you can’t in all fairness pick the best “Dancers, Townspeople, Chorus”. Because it’s one total thing, an entity. “Dancers, Townspeople, Chorus” rises or falls together. If one “Dancers, Townspeople, Chorus” tries to be a flashier dancer, a louder singer, or just plain townier, they threaten to compromise the integrity of “Dancers, Townspeople, Chorus” as a whole. Which is to say: If you’re going to be “Dancers, Townspeople, Chorus,” you can’t be “Jasmine”. A good “Dancers, Townspeople, Chorus” abandons herself to selflessness; her ego dissolves to partake in the plurality of the role as a whole.
There’s no “I” in “Dancers, Townspeople, Chorus”.
When I saw my daughter on the left side of the stage, standing shoulder to shoulder in the third row of “Dancers, Townspeople, Chorus,” I had that parent thing happen where someone zaps you with a defibrillator and you gag a little or choke and your face feels like a sponge getting wrung and your mind is assailed by an assortment of strange questions like “How, little one?” and “From whence, this, you?” and “But how can meaning mean with such abundant and obvious clarity?”. Because—it’s crazy—one day, and all the days before, they’re nothing, no one, never been. And then they’re so suddenly everything, wailing, giggling, always needing juice. And then, the next thing you know, they’re perfect—just one small part of “Dancers, Townspeople, Chorus”.
I want to learn, someday, how to move from being the star of my own show, to step down, and vanish into the selfless comfort of the townspeople. This is perhaps the origin of all song and dance.
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