This is the intriguing title of David K.C. Wood's memoirs published in 1999 by the Harwood Academic Publishers, #19 in a series on Choreography and Dance Studies. It reached my hands courtesy of Marni Thomas Wood, David's wife, less than a month after David's death from Parkinson's Disease and Multiple Sclerosis.
It is trenchant, witty, and intelligent, and sits close to my
affection, for David was one of the few individuals who bridged my San Joaquin upbringing into the wider world. He had attended the same church camp I did and directed a little sketch for the final performance night my first ever summer camp experience. The fellows from the Fresno church did a little skit with David as the possessor of a very antagonistic automobile. David struggled with the snarling young males heaving and glaring on knees and elbows, and he couldn't get them to cooperate. He went through the motions of cranking the motor from the front. Still no signs of a working auto. He grabbed a sign,tucked away for the necessary cue, which read "For Sale" and with a wild look in his eyes announced, "And it's cheap, too!" I loved it, and it obviously has remained among my small heap of special moments.
Those who remember the last coherent years of Martha Graham's
performing will recall he was the Messenger of Death in Graham's
"Clytemnestra". David had begun to study with Graham after a preliminary exposure to modern dance with Hanya Holm, Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman,Helen Tamiris, Alwin Nikolais and Jose Limon, in addition to William Bales, Jane Dudley and Sophie Maslow. This is to say he utilized his G.I. Bill for exposure to the major, salient modern dance figures of the mid-Twentieth century in the U.S., and using that exposure very well.
David bridged the era of earning little to the possibility of earning a living in dance; from dancing in companies to dancing
in universities. David and his wife Marni were responsible for starting the dance program at the University of California, Berkeley. Thanks to an anonymous donor, a fund named for David Wood signaled the dance program's survival at a point when observers felt certain the program might go down the tubes.
The bequest insures its survival.
The memoir's contents provide an interesting survey: On Classes; On Dance Spaces; On Living Spaces; On Enmployment: On Health; On Rehearsals; On Touring; On Contributing Personalities; On Major Personalities; On Marriage, Birthing and Aging.
There are some memorable anecdotes and occasionally one or two
worthy of great guffaws. He makes observations about dancing as a profession and about training which anyone serious about dancing might read with profit.
David and his sister Barbara, who married Deane Crockett and co-founded the Sacramento Ballet, remain remarkable examples of
thorough professionals who emerged from the San Joaquin Valley
during the lean years before the establishment of the NEA. They made solid contributions to both the practice and the art of
dancing, not only as performers, but as teachers and mentors.
They have been re-assuring icons to me and doubtless many others. At a time when a career in dancing was both difficult and daring, their constancy prevailed. Happily, they were rewarded as thoughtful readers will be pleased to read.
It is an excellent salutation to a life, a field and to an intelligent man.