IN THIS THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS…
One of the themes that crop up in this piece is whether things change for better or worse, or whether we tend to think of our own time as always having been the ‘best’.
When I ask people about their memories of the Rink days they invariably say they were “the best days of my life” or something similar. You might think that is due to collective, selective memory and that we all tend to view our past with a rosy glow.
My job isn’t necessarily to take a position on that, but I think my job is to make a work that may suggest interpretations, whilst also allowing the viewer a way in to bring their own experiences and take their own position.
There are many elements to this. For instance people talk about the thrill of dancing on the quite unique sprung dance floor. A gentleman left a message on my voice mail last week – he described how the floor would ‘ripple’ when people did the Palais Glide. It was obviously a very fond memory not now possible to replicate. Other people describe the thrill of dancing with your partner. For them there is nothing to compare, and although they might still go to such dances now… it was somehow different then.
But my piece is centred around a building, and a building of that age invariably changes with the times it finds itself in. People bemoan that it was knocked down;
“it was such a waste they” say;
“it could have been kept open and then this generation could experience what we had… there’s nothing to compare now “
Something similar was said by Kayleigh’s nana.
Kayleigh is one of the dancers on this project and is looking to pursue dance as her full time career. Her nana is her biggest fan. She was there all afternoon last week (see previous post), stood in the tall grass, watching admiringly from the perimeter as we filmed her granddaughter dancing on the site that she herself had danced around as a young woman when it was a ballroom. I interviewed them together on camera and it was quite touching to see the connection between generations being made via the project. Kayleigh had used her nana’s recollections to inform the way she danced. She also said that having been part of the project had convinced her to go out and learn ballroom dancing as she felt there was nothing to compare in these contemporary, singular times.
I find that point of view interesting and yet strangely at odds with the sentiments expressed by people who went to the Rink later in the sixties. To many of them the previous Bigband days represented a link to older, more repressive values, and the fresh air blown in with pop culture arrived none too soon for many of them. Those days of pop idols and screaming signalled the death of partnered dancing and heralded the arrival of the ‘me’ generation.
You can see the life and death of a ballroom as a metaphor for the way society has changed in general. I’m not sure that if the Rink was still standing, it would have been much used for partnered dancing now. It’s far more likely it would be a nightclub or a sports centre.
We now live in an age of plurality and allow ourselves to dip in and out of differing historical genres. Cultures tend to co-exist rather than any one being predominant (in the west at least). So maybe where one social phenomenon replaced another, often in a fairly destructive way, with the passing of time perhaps Kayleigh can benefit from a wider choice and take the best from history.
That, to me, doesn’t seem like a bad model to adopt… but then maybe for me, plurality is my own historical ‘best of time’.
It’s interesting to ponder what Kayleigh’s view will be in 65 years from now.