Physical Graffiti

The art of dance brought to the streets by DANCEe, the exciting new troupe that recently made the Magic City their home.

Written and photographed by Edward Badham

The clock strikes 6 a.m. the iPhone opens up with a big round of thunderous applause. You figure anyone deserves applause for getting up at 6, right? You stumble to the shower, do a quick email check and hurry out the door for another day. The traffic is brutal and (omg) construction on 280. The Starbucks line is around the building. Just another day in paradise. Ah, but today as you approach the Red Mountain underpass you get a message, not a text but a random piece of grafitti: “You are beautiful.” You read it without having to break the law or endanger other drivers and it is just what you needed to see. Someone painted it there just for you. The day suddenly feels different. Your filter on the world is brightened slightly.

The next day you see that the powers that be, have deleted your little message, but somehow you will remember it each morning as you roll through the underpass  It is tattooed on your brain. You are Beautiful.

It is an amazing time to be alive. Vast amounts of information whirl throughout the airwaves all around us like a dense fog, and we are all looking down at our great big,  4.5-inch high-def, glossy, ulra-bright, vivid-color multi-touch screens to make sure we see as much of it as possible. We don’t want to miss a thing. What’s the weather today? Hmm, instead of having to look at the sky we can check our 4G lightning-fast phones and find more quickly. Wonder what Suzi is up too? No need to bother her. Just check her Facebook status.

We live in a  virtual matrix of information and smart phones. Seriously, I remember when you had to wait 30 seconds to have a message delivered. It was ridiculous. I believe that there is a lot of good from this. We save time and money. Our ability to communicate and coordinate is greatly enhanced. But the side effect is narrowed vision. We spend way too much time looking at our little screens, and the real world just blurs past in our periphery. Occasionally we need something to extract us from this Matrix. We need to take the red pill.

There is a movement underfoot in society, one based on random acts of art and kindness, that is designed to be our red pill. Fine art in America is very aloof. The image is that you have to be refined, have a fancy car, put on a $300 dress, buy tickets and pay for valet parking to go to the ballet or symphony. Random acts is bringing art to the streets for all to enjoy, a diversion from our smart phones with no planning or commitments. It is available to the rich and the poor, the young and the old, the hip and the un-hip, the busy and the bored, the loft dwellers and the homeless. It is free for all to view.

The small dance troupe DANCEe is doing a series of spontaneous performances around the city called “Glimpse.” It is their form of physical graffiti, street art in human form. Maybe you are sitting at a light downtown and you casually glance up from your phone to make sure the light has not changed to green. Instead of the light you see a long-haired, fair-skinned maiden float gently through the crosswalk. Or sitting at the park eating lunch and texting a client, you are distracted and glance up and see a young man seemingly levitate above the skyline. Your day is now changed. You have something to talk about. A small “Glimpse” of art, dance, beauty, life. This is art for the people by the people. No tickets required, no special seating. Just a fleeting speck of humanity to be reflected in the mind’s eye in that single random moment and location.

DANCEe is just asking Birmingham for a dance. You don’t have to be pretty or smart or rich. Just be beautiful.

See street art written with the human body. GLIMPSE: Dances Specific to Birmingham, AL presented by DANCEe elizabethrossdancecompany

In the Glimpse series, dances performed in downtown Birmingham, the city itself and the community members inform the dancers’ performance. “In Glimpse, I invite an added element of chance in audience inclusion; rather than taking a ticket at a box office, our viewers are those who serendipitously meet our performance in the streets, at the parking meters, and in the parks of downtown” says choreographer, Elizabeth Ross. “These surprise and en-route audience members definitely enliven our performative process,” she adds.


Andrew Chapman, Amy Mahan, Elizabeth Ross


Costumes supplied by:

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