While I was trying to decide if I wanted to make Young Manic / I Wanted To Be On Broadway—a satirical dance-theater show about modern dancers who, as children, dreamed about being on Broadway—I was also doing something else for the first time in my life…
I was reading articles about nuclear attacks. Particularly, about possible timelines of survival if a nuclear bomb were to fall on Seattle. I was estimating the distance of ground zero versus how long I would have to find shelter before getting radiation poisoning. I was researching what kind of shelter was suitable. I read advice reminding me that if I am in a bunker with strangers, some of my fellow bunkmates might be missing time-sensitive medication, and how those of us who were not facing those challenges needed to be calm and supportive pillars of our new bunker society.
I am (generally) a positive and optimistic person. I’m an existentialist, an atheist, and a Gemini, so I like to think that I give due reflection and consideration to the workings of the world and my role in it without expectant return. I believe in hard work and attempt to appreciate when things are out of my control.
And then Trump was elected.
I felt shock when I noticed survivalist urges creep into my thoughts. I started thinking about stocking up on safety supplies, and creating a (real or fictional) zombie apocalypse plan. Should I be tracking weather patterns for potential danger and keeping my car’s gas tank full in case I needed to make a speedy escape (would I dare travel on I-5 at such a time?!?)? An intense desire for security took over my life. A desire for timidness and an urge to evaluate between wants and needs. Post-election America felt like a time for passion and bravery, but I was letting myself slip away into worry and crazy Cold War-style fear.
Living a life fueled by fear is intense. Social, political, and communal fears can dictate how we move through our world. Fear changes the way we think, the way we plan for the future, the way we rest.
When I became engrossed in nuclear attack scenarios, my psyche was choosing a single outlet for the pent up fear and outrage that had been building since the election. So when it came to committing to create a show rooted in dance and comedy, all I could think is, “Isn’t there something better I should be doing?”
Instead of making a concert dance show about Broadway and childhood dreams, I could be doing something that actually makes a difference. Maybe join the Peace Corps. Help with the hurricane recovery in Texas. Organize a fundraiser for Puerto Rico. Spend more time engaging in local politics to help create the changes I want to see and support the communities I love. Or even attempt to save money and focus on paying off my debt.
I almost didn’t make this show. I was overwhelmed by the complexities and injustice of our world. I felt small against big problems.
While trying to decide if I should make this show I wondered, what good is comedy when we are marching through the streets in protest. What good is dance when it sometimes feels like the end of the world? Somewhere along the line I had convinced myself that art, humor, and dance don’t help people. That in dark times expression isn’t also paramount to our shared survival.
What has helped me most during these times of fear and uncertainty?
One of my favorite quotes from Stephen Fry is:
Oscar Wilde quite rightly said, ‘All art is useless.’ And that may sound as if that means something not worth support. But if you actually think about it, the things that matter in life are useless. Love is useless, wine is useless. Art is the love and wine of life. It is the extra without which life is not worth living.
The seemingly useless things have helped me the most. Yes, dance. Yes, humor. Yes, sharing stories and childhood dreams. Staying the course with work I believe in. Dance and theater, through their transcendent power, have made me feel that I am not alone.
To continue to make art and dance in a period of darkness is, in itself, a rebellious act. I often think of sweet Hugo Ball and the Dadaists, and all artists who persist in making art when it might be easier not to.
For me, in a time when nothing feels funny anymore, making comedy is my personal rebellion.
Amy J Lambert is a Seattle-based dance artist who playfully choreographs and directs in the realms of musical theater and concert dance. A graduate of Cornish College of the Arts, Amy is director of AJnC Dance-Theater and is independently producing Young Manic / I Wanted To Be On Broadway through the Access Velocity program. Young Manic runs February 16–18 and 23–25, 2018. Buy Tickets >>