My wonderful professor, Jennifer Rosenthal, took our class out to see an Alvin Ailey dance show at the New York City Theater.
I had never seen a dance show before. This dance came in three parts. During the first one, "Deep," I was still trying to get my bearings. These people onstage in front of me were moving their bodies in a way that expressed emotion, a communication, a revelation. I had never seen anything like it before. It felt like watching people fall in love, or watching people talk about something important - but without the words. I didn't know it was possible to express something like that without words.
The next dance, "The Awakening," was terrifying. It was about a hero who was trying to get away from the horrid routine of everyday life. The music sounded like a horror movie soundtrack, and there were lots of jagged, angled movements. In one especially memorable scene, the hero was "trapped" in the spotlight, trying in vain to escape. Here I am, putting the dance back into words. But the dance was more than the sum parts of my words.
Finally, we saw "Revelations" - a famous choreography by Alvin Ailey himself. Most of the songs were African American spirituals or blues, and the dance was very much centered around G-d and religion. At times, the dancers stretched their hands to the sky, pleading. At other times, they danced quickly, with spiritual fervor. It felt like watching a prayer unfolded into movements.
This week, the Shabbos was full of singing. A tisch started in East Campus at 9:00 pm, and I stayed until 11:30 pm. We were praying - pouring out our souls in song - and I thought of Alvin Ailey, and the dances someone might have put to our voices.
So, in spite of the time I take to write an article every week, I have concluded that words aren't everything. There are whole other worlds of expression open to the human creature. And New York City is a great place to find them.