Saturday, December 24, 2016

Radio City #Rockettes: Art In The Age Of The Demagogue

Art flourishes in dark times. A true artist listens mostly -- or entirely -- to her own inner song and is unaccommodating to the powers that be. Her spirit struggles when authoritarian government or the rich and powerful attempt to harness her light to shine for their own glory.
"The Skat Players" by Otto Dix (1920)

History shows this to be true. So I've been consoling myself with this silver lining to the dark cloud of ignorance and hate engulfing my culture.

First the cast of the Broadway show Hamilton delivered an unscripted message to the vice president elect, a notorious white supremacist.

This week the famous dancers of the Radio City Rockettes kicked up a fuss about being forced to perform at the demagogue with bad hair's inauguration. 

Whether motivated by aversion to his bragging about grabbing women's genitals or the sexual assault allegations (all of the Rockettes are women) or aversion to his racism (many of the Rockettes are women of color), they took to social media to complain.

Their union, like most unions in the age of neoliberal decay, caved to pressure from management and lectured the dancers thus:

"Everyone is entitled to her own political beliefs, but there is no room for this in the workplace." -- email from the American Guild of Variety Artists

Then, faced with enormous backlash from the public, the union backpedaled. Now they are saying it will be voluntary whether or not to perform. How many dancers does it take to cast a chorus kick line? Three Rockettes will look kind of pathetic out there, don't you think?

Wags are already posting lots of photos with captions like these:

To say that there is no room for politics in the workplace is the epitome of American exceptionalism. The profound ignorance of the role that power plays in nearly every aspect of life -- especially in the places where wage slaves toil -- is incredibly naive. 

People in the U.S. are outgrowing this kind of juvenile analysis and will be doing so even more rapidly as the towers of empire crumble and fall upon them.

But are the Rockettes real artists? some will ask. You move to NYC and wait tables and let gross men like the demagogue grope you for tips to be able to afford overcrowded substandard housing plus dance and acting lessons. Let me know if you can still afford to eat. Explore how much you are willing to suffer to pursue a career in the performing arts before you trivialize dancers who perform as Rockettes.

Artists will do what they need to do to get by. I'll do what I can to spotlight their creative attempts to make sense of the mess we're in.
"Everybody gets a turkey" by Abby Shahn

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