BWW Review: TABLE OF SILENCE Salutes at Lincoln Center

In my arts criticism, I have sought to maintain an objective voice. As the preeminent American historian Howard Zinn said, "Objectivity is neither possible nor desirable." The fifth annual 9/11 memorial performance of Table of Silence demands a personal perspective:

The first week I attended high school, a friend stopped me in the hallway on the way to our morning class. He said we'd been bombed. My photography teacher soon briefed us. She had always taught us about the benefits of staying sober, and that morning--for many I've imagined--that became a hard lesson to follow. A fellow student from Norway wore American flag earrings. I'll never forget the sparkling beauty of those earrings hanging from her youthful, naive face.

At home, the news flash played and replayed. I didn't want to see it. I went upstairs to my room, where the nights were a refuge and the days a call to movement. Then, I returned downstairs. Reality had not subsided. There were no dreams to awaken from that day with the relief that it was all made up. No. It was happening.

I spoke with my father on the phone, watching the explosions, the demolished building, and avalanche of opaque dust filling the avenues like a volcanic lahar. "I'll fight! I'll go to war." I said into the phone, my voice trailing off into the silence on the other line. Solemnly, he spoke words that I'll never forget. "When you see the other guy around the corner, and you have to make the decision to shoot, think about that now, if you want to make that decision," he replied, without hesitation in his voice, a presence of peace and wisdom that I cherish to this day.

Like the sound of a father's voice in times of war, Pearl Harbor and 9/11 have been for the nation the maturity of a comparably young nation's welcome into a world that, at times, is unforgivably hostile to human life, and that, for reasons tragically mysterious to most, are often co-opted in the actions of people against people. Three years later, the American people would see a president re-elected who did not win the popular vote. Perpetual war is upon us. The borders are closing in on everyone, just as the Pentagon employs more people every year than any other institution on the planet.

And yet, in the eye of the storm, there is peace. Here in New York, 9/11 is a cause for peace, art, community, and remembrance. If anything, 9/11, and such invaluably important thinkers as Howard Zinn, teach us that history is not objective. History not only happens, it happens to us--to people. What history also shows, though, is that we have survived, and we are stronger for remembering, creatively and positively, that it will never happen again.

At the apex of the performance, as 160 dancers swayed and marched, and as ten musicians howled and harmonized in solemn remembrance, the overcast sky above Central Park West opened to illuminate Josie Robertson Plaza. The moment was pure magic, as onlookers wept wondering if the 2,977 victims of that unforgettable morning, now 14 years ago, parted the clouds themselves, looking down with a heavenly smile of solar effulgence.

Table of Silence creator and choreographer Jacqulyn Buglisi crafted a work of deft genius. The dancers first entered the space amorphously to operatic voicing, an allegory in movement of the inception of American life on, what was for the founders of the nation, newfound land. In time, everyone aligned like clockwork into almost militaristic formation, stepping singly to the beat of an orchestral drum.

Choreographed to the tympani beat, Buglisi exhibited the immediate significance of one life at a time. Table of Silence, like an act of solemn remembrance, impresses the need for patience, in silence, in order to properly remember, with respect. The loss of life is incalculable, lifetimes on Earth zeroed to the instantaneity of explosion. The inner clock-like formation of the choreography also speaks to the truth of history, which during catastrophic events such as 9/11 tightens, focuses and grips people, becoming national memory, and finally, integral to everything from identity to politics to myth.

Photo Credit: Kokyat

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From This Author Matt Hanson

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