As much as I try to make this blog solely focused on dance, I find that there are just too many things that impact me, especially when it comes to the arts. So, I kindly ask the reader’s consideration as I go about this blog of mine.
A fair word of warning, this post is going to be heavier than my other posts just because of the subject material, and it’s one that is extremely close to my heart. It’s also worth mentioning that it’s going to be quite long, and there will be some spoilers from a certain movie. Without further ado, let’s begin.
This whole thread of action began, of course, with ballroom. This past November the studio had recently done their annual professional production where students from the three different studios in our area paid for a show package where, and eventually performed it come showtime. The theme was “At the Movies”. Fast forward to this January, I was hanging out in the studio foyer, happily watching the dvd from the show when a hauntingly, familiar tune drifted through the foyer. Chords of a violin, a waltz, a moment of recognition. I recognized the tune as soon as the song and movie appeared on the television screen. I whispered the name to myself, and resolved to watch the movie, to which my parents happily agreed.
The movie was Schindler’s List. Truthfully, I hadn’t ever thought about watching it until that moment. However, considering somewhat recent experiences, I ask myself, how could I not have watched it sooner?
My senior year of high school I went on a trip to Israel. It was affiliated to the school, and I had always wanted to visit Israel because of the sheer amount of history. That, and a fair amount of my friends were going, so it was a nice little trip with them before I said good-bye. We went to many, many sites, but their are two main things I’d like to focus on, primarily my visit to Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Museum. A brief explanation of how the museum is structured internally, when you go in, you see a very long hall. This hall is separated by fenced gulfs that cut into the floor that contain objects, such as the shoes worn by the occupants of the concentration camp. You enter into an exhibit hall, and emerge on the other side of the gulf. It’s basically one huge zig-zag of exhibits. As soon as I entered, my heart and emotions became deadened and numb. There were video testimonials from survivors, written wishes for peace, and too many things to enumerate here. I wanted to cry, I really did, but I couldn’t. Some force was telling me to keep it together until I had soaked in all the history, warnings, and lessons. I wandered about the exhibits, reading, watching, immersing, until the harsh call of one of the chaperones telling me to hurry up because I was behind snapped me back into reality. For a brief moment, I was indignant and angry. How dare I be rushed in such a place? Could she not see this was probably one of the most important places to slow down, and just be? Hadn’t she rushed us from destination to destination enough during the trip? Just as suddenly, my conscience spoke. This was the last place for anger. If anything, this museum was a living monument against such rash emotions. I swallowed my anger, and let her take my hand as she lead me out of the museum, much to my dismay.
But, the immersion wasn’t over yet, oh no. The most poignant and sobering part of Vad Yashem, in my humble experience was the Children’s Memorial.
When you enter the memorial, it’s almost pitch black, with the exception of the lit candles. The path is a narrow one, lined by mirrors in which the candles are placed. As you can see from the above picture, which is not mine, the children’s pictures also line the glass walls. When I entered, it was a bit disorienting due to the darkness and the reflections cast by the candles. I feared I would accidentally run into the walls. Suddenly, a voice rang out. I realized what it was, and my heart became deadened once again. What played was a recording of all the names of the children who were killed during the Holocaust. It gave their name, their age, and what country they were from. The feeling is indescribable, and I cannot elaborate on it.
Later, we visited the grave of Oskar Schindler. I didn’t know too much about who he was. I only knew he hired Jews to work in his factory during the war to prevent them from being sent to the concentration camps.
Fast-foward to this week’s Sunday. My parents and I began to watch Schindler’s List. It wasn’t long before the memories of my senior trip and Vad Yashem came rushing back to me, and that all too familiar feeling of deadened emotions came back once again. The disk was two-sided so we made preparations for sleep once the first half ended. However, I convinced my mom to stay up a little bit a later and talk about it. As we were talking, I began to cry. It’s almost as if all those emotions from a year ago came gushing up at that moment. All those horrible questions came spilling out of my mouth as my mom listened attentively. Needless to say, I had trouble going to sleep that night because of my turbulent emotions. We finished the other half on Wednesday.
Looking back on my trip and my viewing of Schindler’s List, I’m coming to realize just a little bit more of how they affected me. I have a theory of why I couldn’t cry then, and why I cried after the movie. Our emotions can be fickle, and I’m not sure the museum was the best place to let them loose. So, something inside me shut my vulnerable heart down so I could learn. But, as much I absorbed there’s no denying the fact World War II occurred about seventy years ago, and young people like me are farther removed from the emotional poignancy and lessons our grandparents took from that era. More maturation was needed, at least for me. Watching Schindler’s List, I think, is the closest I’ll ever be able to come to the horrors of that time, and wow, did Spielberg paint those horrors vividly! Perhaps the most impressionable thing for me was the constant tone of bitter sweetness. The women intended for Schindler’s factory that were accidentally sent to Auschwitz being hustled to the barracks for the night watch somberly as a group is being lead underground as the camera pans upward toward a tall, brick chimney pouring out thick, grey smoke. Those same woman board the train to go to the factory, but the scene ends just as a new group enters the camp. Oskar breaks down near the end of the film, regretting that he couldn’t have saved more people. Watching that movie, I felt a miniscule slice of the pain experienced by Oskar, and other people who survived. Feeling that bit of pain and understanding it, the force that deadened my heart released it’s grip. and I began to cry. Having truly learned what I needed to learn, I could finally purge myself of those raw emotions, and take the more sedentary pain that comes with life’s lessons. It is my honest hope that this transcendental pain never leaves me. I want it to be a constant reminder to me of other people, and how I interact with them. I want it to tap me on the shoulder as I give the mental stink-eye to that supposedly arrogant girl in my choir class. I want to feel it staring at me when I’m about to snap at my little sister. Most of all, I don’t want to forget the common bond of humanity we all share, and the preciousness of all life, even though we can never live any but our own. It all began with a song, and a waltz. That song is one I listen to constantly now. It’s one that, as I listen to it, I swear I can faintly hear the cries of millions of people long dead.