All Suburbia Looks the Same

I mean #notAllSuburbia, but enough of the Eastern US along the highways was built around the same time and the same model that driving through upstate New York immediately conjures memories of driving though central North Carolina.

It feels like home. Home?

The houses with brick borders and vinyl siding in one of five pastels. The nearly identically-organized shopping center with a Michael’s, Dick’s, JoAnne’s, Marshall’s, WallMart, and Olive Garden. The half-thinned woods and the planted pear trees.  If I let my sense of the present drown out in the flooding nostalgia, I could inaccurately and precisely pinpoint the location on an outdated map of my old neighborhood.

Then and now, it doesn’t seem particularly exciting, but the type of boring seems to have changed. Before, I had imagined that these mundane images were unbearably local, a terribly narrow view of the world. But now, stretched wide across unencountered space, they appear unbearably generic, a nondescript, placeless universality. Like maybe everywhere can be home, but nowhere really ever was.

Back then, when I thought about living beyond that the limits of my suburbia, I assumed that what was outside would be bigger, faster, more complicated, more sophisticated, unknown. That was a little bit true, but probably mostly false (in proportion of square-footage, anyway). If I haven’t that noticed until now, maybe it’s because I’ve fixated on little islands of flashy difference in an ocean of more of the same-ish.

I wonder if all the overhyped sea explorers of history realized that the oceans everywhere are mostly the same, when they committed their lives to sailing around the world. Or were they too caught up in their sparkly dreams of islands to see?

Placeless, familiar, unencountered, known, endless.

death-of-suburbia-3-post-2-stephanie

You could drown in it, or just keep floating. 

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“That’s Not Dance” An All-Purpose Template For Lamenting the State of the Art

Convinced that dance today is a tragic deterioration of the art? Want to write a strongly-worded opinion piece about it, but don’t feel like putting the words together yourself? Whether you want to complain about contemporary ballet, postmodern concert dance, competition dance, or music videos, this template has you covered: just fill in the brackets!


Dance used to be a true art form, which carried a meaning and a purpose. But it seems like most of what passes as “dance” these days is just a glorified series of people [insert simplistic movement description*] onstage.

(*Note: it doesn’t really matter what genre of movement you choose–this sentence frame makes almost anything sound especially un-artistic. For instance try: rolling around on the floor, sticking their legs up by their ears, prancing around on their toes, shaking their hips, twitching robotically, stomping noisily.)

It may be simply that in an age of [insert two recent technologies or pop culture phenomena that invoke generational panic*], audiences are no longer able to appreciate the more nuanced expression of true art.

(*Ex: iPhones and selfie sticks, AOL and American Idol, telegraphs and romance novels)

As I look at the performers onstage today, I find it hard to imagine a true artist like [name of famous dancer, semi-recently dead] among them. [Famous dancer]’s performances are universally loved and remembered today because they were [choose one of the following].

a) Refined down to the fingertips and eyebrows, unlike the vulgar flailing of today.

b) Raw and authentic, unlike the overtrained robots of today.

With this meaningless trash replacing true art, it is no wonder why [optional: specify genre] dance is dying. There can be no other explanation for why [mention two well-known dance institutions that have recently closed for any combination of financial, administrative, or political reasons] have shut their doors.

Unfortunately, it seems clear that the art form will be practically nonexistent within the next [pick a number, between 10 and 50] years–unless perhaps the next [famous choreographer from past century who dominates current repertory] comes along to save it.


Now you have everything you need to make your very own concerned dance think-piece! And don’t worry if you happen to live in another time period–“that’s not dance” and “art is dying” are truly timeless sentiments that never get old! Can’t wait to see how they turn out!

Disclaimer: I know, I know, #notAllDanceThinkPieces are nostalgic alarmism. If you want to hear my (semi) serious thoughts about concerned dance think-pieces, stay tuned a concerned dance meta-think-piece.

The Art of Over-Interpretation: Grease

Why do people go to fancy shmancy liberal arts schools? So they can read too much into things. Like this:

Yesterday (after we realized that there were no new/decent shows to watch on Hulu) my parents and I decided to watch Grease on Netflix. You know when you are really familiar with a classic movie because you’ve seen remakes and references everywhere, but you realize that you’ve never actually watched it? While I’ve seen this movie before, it was too long ago for me to have picked up on anything besides the songs (but I really know the songs) so this was, in a sense, my first real exposure.

My reaction:

Me: Well that made High School Musical seem low-key and subtle. But I didn’t remember it being so dark and satirical. I thought the social commentary was interesting. 

Mom: The what?

Me: It takes the typical, romanticized notion of the 50s as a “simpler, more innocent” time in our country’s history and turns it on it’s head, showing a darker, grittier, almost socially dystopian* world alongside the nostalgic imagery.

There’s sexuality which is not only overtly expressed and reckless beyond expectations of “innocence” or respectability, but also grossly violent on the male end. Double standards for male and female sexual expression (slut versus stud) are blown up and clearly juxtaposed. Relationships based on mutual disrespect and power struggles are seen as normal. The ridiculous amount of conformity seems to make everybody into a fairly awful person. And it says something the most seemingly healthy/cute/romantic relationship occurs in the first five minutes when the couple is removed from society–lets not forget that Sandy didn’t “have” to change to be with Danny until their social environment and expectations ruined everything. And those dance moves. They clearly can’t be serious about those dance moves.

(Now maybe audiences were supposed to see all of that stuff as normal/okay (gag), but it all just seemed so exaggerated and contrasting with typical idealized depictions that I was sure someone was trying to make a point.)

It’s saying that the past, despite the cutsy soda shops and sock hops, isn’t this perfect, sunshiny place that most retro films/shows liked to imagine it as, and aiming to return to the past isn’t really a way to fix contemporary problems.

On the other hand, they have school dances where people actually dance, which is pretty awesome.

Mom: No, I think it was just supposed to be fun.

Me: So they actually meant all of that earnestly?

Mom: Yeah.

Me: Oh. Well then it’s just pretty dumb.

What about the dance moves? Did people ever dance like that un-ironically?

Mom: Yeah.

Googling didn’t provide much in the way of support for my social commentary theories either**.

Come on people, is anyone with me? No? I’m just making stuff up again?

Yes, I know my contemporary perspective is different than that of the intended audience. But really, how can you listen to this and then this (Rizzo’s two main songs) and not think that someone was deliberately trying to make a really obvious display of the Virgin/Whore dichotomy for female sexuality, how it hurts women/girls on either side of the divide, and how the same women who help perpetuate these standards can also suffer from them.

No? We’re just supposed to overlook that?

Oh. Well at least the songs are catchy. 

*Slightly stronger word than I meant, but you get the point. Also, yes, I did just use the word “dystopian” to talk about Grease. You’re allowed to laugh.

**Another interesting fact I learned while Googling is that this movie was originally rated PG. Now, there was no PG13 rating at the time, so it was either that or R, but still, imagine these lyrics in a a PG movie today. It’s funny, people think of shows like Glee as being pretty racy, but when they do Grease covers, they have to tone down the explicit content a lot. What were we saying about a simpler past and recent moral decay?

Things I’ve Learned in my First Year of College

  • Everything interesting happens after 3 am.
  • That doesn’t mean that everything that happens after 3 am is always interesting.
  • Waiting until after 3 am to find out is not the best strategy when you have ballet class the next morning.
  • A lot of people here are good at talking, but the best thing is when you find people who are really good at listening.
  • Asking people for permission or asking if something is possible only gives people the opportunity to tell you “no.” Do it before someone talks you out of it.
  • Your grade isn’t always correlated with how good you feel about your work, and that’s okay. That won’t even change much after you see the grade, and that’s probably a good thing. It means you have your own standards.
  • Emotions, moods, sleep, and weather affect your dancing. Much more than you would like. We’re human.
  • Pretty much everything that happens in life can be analyzed in terms of some social theory. That doesn’t mean that everyone around you wants to hear it.
  • Cronuts are overrated.
  • Once you do something once, you’re way more likely to keep doing it.
  • “Productive mode” is not always the best. You find/make some of the best things by wandering.
  • Friendships don’t happen because you have a lot in common with each other or objectively seem like a good match. They happen because of chance and physical proximity and stupid little points of initial bonding which end up developing into something way more meaningful and transformative than it is perfect or reasonably predictable.
  • Genuinely asking people to explain their views can be a lot more interesting/valuable than just arguing back.
  • A lot of people are willing to get outraged over things. Fewer people are actually willing to change things. That’s because it’s harder and confusing and easy to screw up. But I still want to be in that second category more often.
  • Listening to/belting out early 2000s pop songs is an instant bonding activity. I get old people and their nostalgia.
  • Massage trains appear abnormal from the outside.
  • Go ahead and stretch with other people in your room. People will get used to you. Once people see something about three times, it’s “normal.” Or close enough.
  • People are drawn to “real.” I’m not exactly sure what that is yet.
  • Don’t be afraid of being “clingy.” Life goes too fast not to have something or someone to cling to. And most people really want to cling back.
  • Just because other people don’t seem to talk about their problems, doesn’t mean they don’t have them. Literally everyone has problems.
  • “Home” is a flexible concept.
  • You and your work doesn’t have to be the “best” to have value.
  • Wanting is different from liking.
  • The “real world” is not as far over your head as you think it is.
  • There is always subtext.