Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Message from the "DH"

But first, a note on "DH" as a title: I'm far from the most avid or knowledgeable baseball fan I know, but seeing the term "DH" in family-type blogs has always cracked me up a little, just because the initials in baseball are used to refer to a "designated hitter." If you don't know, which I'm pretty sure DW (neither referring to Darkwing nor Deranged Walnut) does not, that is the person on American League rosters (won't go into why just the American League here) who bats in the pitcher's position so the pitcher doesn't have to. The theory being, as I understand it, that the pitchers will be better at what they do -pitching- if they leave what they're not familiar with -batting- to the "experts."

Actually, for the purposes of this post, the "designated hitter" idea fits for me, too. I've been gradually corrupting DW for the past decade-ish by exposing her to popular culture, but having been the one who not only grew up with the TV on in some room of the house at all times but also made it a point to seek out and "study" classic TV shows such as "Hogan's Heroes" and "Black Sheep Squadron," I feel I can safely claim to be the closest thing to an expert on pop culture in our family. So, here's the DH for an at-bat:

I know, as a faithful Catholic family working on becoming the freaky ultra-conservatives of their parish, we shouldn't even own a TV. In fact, I'm pretty sure we should only be powering this computer right now with the residual energy our oxen produce while turning our home flour mill... but I have to admit that we love Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance." This show started with the premise that it would basically be the off-season American Idol, just with dancing instead of singing. However, the professionalism of the judges and just about all of the contestants, even in the opening auditions, has really elevated it in terms of artistry. By the time the top 20 start competing (which started last week), the dancers and choreographers are all pretty consistently cranking out works of real beauty.

Last night, one of the couples performed a modified version of a Viennese waltz choreographed by a French-Canadian couple who are experts in the ballroom field. The male half of the choreographer team (whom I believe is named Jean-Marc) revealed to the dancers that he had kept his disabled daughter in mind when he choreographed this and wanted to dedicate their performance to her because (I paraphrase) "she has such limited motor skills that she takes great joy in the movement of others."

Watching it, we felt the dancers turned in the best performance of the night, and the judges were mostly very enthusiastic about it as well. However, one of them -contemporary choreographer Mia Michaels- was concerned that the female dancer had smiled too much. Her reasoning was that the dancer needed to remember that the choreography had been developed with a disabled person in mind, and that "the reality of her situation" should be reflected in a more serious and somber performance.

This was where the two of us got kinda philosophical: didn't this seem like a really patronizing view of people with disabilities? Was she thinking that there was no joy in the life of a disabled child? Did she have in mind the all-too-common sentiment that it would have been a greater mercy had the child never been born?

We need to remember, as people trying to build a culture of life, that all children -no matter the level of their motor skills- are put here as unique creations of God, just as they are. In fact, the dancers and the other two judges seemed to understand that it was precisely the pure joy in movement that this girl experiences that the choreography was supposed to reflect. I hope those watching were able to absorb some of that lesson, and on some level were troubled by the subtle attack on the girl's dignity buried within Ms. Michaels' critique.

1 comment:

Christine said...

Totally agree! Even if I haven't seen the show - the joy that little girl would take in the dance knowing it was dedicated to hier too - should be enough to have anyone smiling.