Firstly, I'd like to note that I am a cruel person.

A mouse just recently came to our dog in a clearly suicidal fashion. However, I did not save it and kill it in a quick, mercyful way but rather let the dog kill it and only disposed of the body later on. Apparently, mice are interesting to play with but don't taste very well. At least to our dog.

In other news, I just watched Rhythm is it, about a project of Sir Simon Rattle to get 250 kids from schools in Berlin to do a dance performance of Strawinski's "Sacre du printemps". Most of the kids had never danced before. They were kids that nobody thought would do anything special. At the first rehearsal, they couldn't even shut up for long enough to understand what the choreographer was telling them what to do. Some of the kids spoke little German, and now there was Royston Maldoom telling them in English to shut up and do what he told them.
And it worked. These kids, slowly, with many setbacks, learnt not only the dance performance, but they learnt that hard work yields results, they became more comfortable with their own bodies, they changed.

The film was very interesting. For example, four kids from one school were, in the opinion of Royston and the other dance instructor, good enough to join one of the other dance groups as well, one that did more professional parts.
And the school teachers of these kids were all like Oh, I don't think that is a good idea, it's so dangerous for them to go into another part of Berlin after dark...
Of course, the teachers have an interest to protect their pupils. But it seemed they were doing that so much that they kept the kids away from what they could achieve. There was another very interesting scene, when one teacher told Royston to be nicer, to explain step-by-step what the kids should do, while he was trying to give them space to interpret what he told them, and find a way that was comfortable for them to do the movements. The teacher explained in an interview that she thought it was too difficult for the kids, they had reached their limit. And then there was another interview with one of the participants, who said that all the kids had still room to grow, that just needed to be pushed a little but further, they had not reached their limit at all.

Also, one of the dance instructors said she wanted to give them a chance to leave behind their everyday problems. Because then they would have the opportunity to put those problems into perspective. And it seemed to work.

It was really interesting to see.

Schools in Berlin are notorious for having horrible, unbehaved, violent kids. And suddenly, they stand in line, not talking, learning about discipline, getting a feel for their bodies, and they're enjoying it.
And Royston was by no means nice to them. He likely wasn't nearly as strict as he would have been with professional dancers, but he told them what's what, and there was one moment when everything was close to falling apart - but the kids decided they wanted to keep going, they wanted to do this.

It seemed as if the teachers had resigned themselves to be content if the kids weren't murdering each other. And here comes this guy who not only expects them not to murder each other, he also exoects a ton of other things. But he treated them like people with an opinion, people who had potential and people in whom he believed. He didn't act like they were the outcasts and he was the nice person to sacrifice time and effort to deal with them. He didn't act like he had just gotten down from some pedestal to talk to them.

He also said a great many very wise things. Early on, when the task was just to walk around in the gym making as little noise as posible (these kids starting talking the moment they started moving), he also started seperating friends, telling them to move into different directions for a while. Later on, when things were going badly because some people were just not taking it seriously, he told them that if they were making fun of everything because they were afraid of what their friends would say, they should probably start thinking about what kind of friends they had, because friends were people who supported you when you tried something new in your life, not people who made fun of you.

There was one girl in the group, one of the kids invited to join the other class as well. Very early on, she was interviewed about her family - her parents divorced when she was ten or so - and she had this typical expression on her face, the one that tries to make everyone believe she doesn't care anyway. She and her best friend were invited to that other group, and at the last moment her friend said she didn't want to go, she didn't have the time, she wanted to meet friends. And she went alone. Into a different part of town, to people she had never seen before, people with more dance experience, who were older, who came from better families and werebetter educated. At first, she felt totally lost. But she decided to stay. Because she wanted to do it.

Then there was this 16 year old boy from Nigeria. His parents were both dead, he said, and he had come to Germany alone. In the interview about his background, he said this one line that totally made me cry: "God wants me to be alone, so I have to get by on my own. Because I have to live." What sort of history must a kid have to say such a thing?
He also said that when it came to culture, Nigeria was much better, because culture was something that was with the people, whereas in Germany, there was no culture.

That went well with something Rattle said: we turned art into something that happens apart from our lives, for exclusive groups, away from everyday life.

Which explains why in Germany, so many orchestras and theatres are slowly dying because the governments of the provinces can't or won't finance them anymore, and they can't support themselves without that money.

It was obvious in the reactions of the teenagers to the music. Some listened to it beforehand and didn't really like it. Then they saw the orchestra play, and suddenly they felt the power, the energy.
I always thought that to really feel and understand music, you have to take part in it. Dancing, singing, playing - just seeing it from the inside.

Am I saying that once you give people instruments or teach them to dance, they'll all become healthy and successfull and there will be eternal peace on earth?
Surely not.
But give them the opportunity to see something outside their usual realm, give them the chance to learn, to feel, to put some distance between themselves and their problems, teach them confidence and give them the idea that there is probably more to life than they think, and you give them the chance to go and become healthy and successfull and maybe even stop fighting.

ETA: Here's a quote from the interview with Ryston Maldoom that I really liked (the whole interview is great, you can read it on the website under the "Background" section)
I really care about discipline. However much we may try to pretend that discipline is unimportant, this is not fair to them, because in life we need discipline. Whatever we think about it. Very often it begins by coming from outside, imposed, and then it must become our own discipline. Without it none of us has any kind of future. And we have to be honest with these young people, discipline matters! If you want to do something, than you have to find discipline. And I insist on this from the beginning. It's the only fair way to treat a young person.
a few hours ago, actually. It's almost noon by now. But we sang that song in church this morning, and it's still in my mind.
So my trip to Berlin went well We got there without any problems, neither did we land i a traffic jam, nor did the car break down. But it was a little hot yesterday, which bothered my sister's cat. She meowed most of the way, quite annoying.
After unpacking the car we went to the Chagall exhibit. That was great. I have been to a major Chagall exhibition in France, but in Berlin, they had pictures I hadn't seen before. A lot of etchings and drawings. The most impressive picture was one first glance nothing special. It was held mostly in shades of brown, none of the vibrant blues you usually connect with Chagall. There was a couple in a room, sitting on the floor. She was nursing a baby. Behind them, there was the cradle, and in it a little figure, Death. Now the most interesting thing: the man held his wedding ring in hand, while the woman was wearing it. He had turned his head to Death and pointed a finger towards his wife and the child.
It was so impressive, the man seemed to say "Not me, take one of them."
It's a pity that I can't remember the title. I think it was "Das Paar", but a Google search with that didn't give me the desired result. So I'll have to do some research later.
On the way back from Berlin I got into a terrible rain. The water was a few centimetres high on the road, and I could hardly see anything. There was no way of driving normally in that kind of weather, I could just slow down and leave a lot of space between me and the guy in front of me. (The only thing I could see were the other car's tail lights, everything else was just blurry shades of grey. When the cloud had finally passed, I took quite some time to loosen all my muscles. I hadn't even realized how tensed I had been driving through that. But just knowing that there would be no chance to avoid an accident is frightening. And there was no way I could have stopped on time if something had been on the road ahead of me. Even as it was I sometimes felt as if the tires had lost contact with the road. That's why I tried to drive slowly, but not too slow. Gaining speed would have been just as difficult as stopping.
Even though I did most of my driving lessons in bad weather and don't mind driving in the dark, I hate rain. Especially when it is that much coming down.
But anyway, everything turned out alright. I reached home safely and in good time, too. Still not as fast as my dad, but I don't have his car or his style of driving oblivious to any possible danger on the road.


Jul. 16th, 2004 10:27 pm
This has been way too much for my poor brain.
Afer watching The man ho fell to eartch yesterday and still thnking a lot about it, today I saw the MoMA exibit in Berlin. It was really cool, because we went there to celebrate the official part of my sister's marriage, and she knew somebody who left our names at the VIP desk, so we didn't have to wait in line but could walk right in, and still pay no more than the people who queue there for hours. Yeah, so maybe that's not fair, but as the saying goes in Germany: connections only harm the people who don't have any.
So seeing these beautiful - at least for the most part - pictures and sculptures, and having the film fresh in my mind, left me tired and exhausted.
There were some weird pictures in the exhibition, though. I don't really care for Picasso, no matter how famous he is. And some of themodern American painters are a little too strange for me. What's a white canvas entitled "twin" doing in an art exhibit? I have this theory that some critics and painters collaborate in trying to get as much money for nothing as possible from stupid rich people who believe anything somebody with a famous name tells them. Maybe I should make a series of pictures called "Siberian Winter" - they'd be all white. (OK, that's not my idea. It's been used in one Inspector Jury novel by Martha Grimes. Read it to know what the white paintings are all about...)
An explanatory note on the marriage thing: In Germany, you need to be married officially, that is, by a town clerk or similar person. Even if you want to marry in church, you can do that afterwards. So the official part of my sister's wedding was today, the "real" wedding will be next weekend in our hometown with family and friends. Yuck. I had quite enough of my family toay, thank you very much...



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