"Follow Me"

The motto of the United States Army Infantry is also the title of Bruce Wood's ballet about the service, sacrifice, interdependence, and brotherhood of infantry soldiers performed Wednesday evening at Bass Performance Hall by his Bruce Wood Dance Company. In just eighteen minutes of dance, I received a transfusion of understanding about my father's long reluctance to talk about his WWII experiences, the life of friends' sons and son's friends currently serving in the armed forces, and even the army play of my young sons.

Wood is a Fort Worth choreographer of great originality and very professional production standards. The dance's physical power, intense repressed emotion, and symbolism are still with me. I wonder if Mr. Wood created an eighteen minute dance because so many army recruits are just eighteen years old.

Mr. Wood and I are about the same age--Sixties kids too young to have been in Viet Nam but too old not to have been impacted by it. At or about age fifty, we are both grieving over the deceased hope that our generation would bring about peace, justice, and tolerance in the world.

There were many children in the audience, and they were all enthralled and marvelously well-behaved. A nice couple with two fifth-grade boys were seated ahead of me. The boys had an animated discussion after the first piece on the program, the world premiere of Wood's "Dust, Texas," mainly about the small, quirky movements of the barn dance section, the actions that resembled windmills and farm machinery, and the athletic feats of the dancers.

After "Follow Me" I asked what the fifth-graders what they thought about it. They informed me that the ballet was set to music from "Band of Brothers". They told me they really liked WWII history, but they had some trouble finding the word they wanted to describe "Follow Me". The father helped them by suggesting "solemn". The boys reminded me so much of my own sons at that age. We chatted a bit more about how to build a theater like the beautiful Bass Hall out of Legos, then laughed at the idea of little Lego people as ballet dancers.

I really regret not taking my sons to modern dance or ballet performances! We try so hard as parents to expose our children to all the fabulous opportunities. Those efforts are not wasted. Every outing or event opens a window for new ideas and appreciation. We all need the arts. They are carefully planted seeds, crisp spring breezes and cooling summer rains for our brains.

Before the final work on the program the young family had to weigh whether to stay up late just this one evening. So many students seem to not get enough sleep on a regular basis. I really respected the couple's concern that the boys be well-rested for school the next morning, but I did hope they would stay for Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue." I just knew Bruce Wood's choreography of that favorite would be fabulous. I was wishing that my mother could have been with me, and also my sister and niece. Fritzi would have loved the dancers in their blue satin, and the playful leap-frogging to Gershwin's rhythms. And I would have cried if the fifth-graders had missed the literally glittery finale and final slide through the sparkles.

The story of Wood's "Follow Me" commission and the creative process it involved is intriguing reading. There are also some photos of the dance on the web at http://www.popphoto.com/idealbb/view.asp?topicID=47834. For additional fun, watch the video clips.

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