A History of Dance

Robin Ince's Horizons Tour Diary

“The self of the individual is the self of the universe – transcendence”, is the first thing I see when I turn on my television.

Then, I see the banner unfurl above the medicine wagon of this PBS promo – Deepak Chopra. Here is a promo for CDs, DVDSs and online seminars all available to me for $180 per year. Let the quantum healing begin…

I surf through the relentless news channels. News is showbusiness now, so much cheaper than a buddy cop series or a sitcom about a nanny and a talking wok. 

The main topics of conversation are a bipartisan political deal to make almost no difference whatsoever to the likelihood of mass executions due to sexual fetishisation of assault weapons and the storming of the capitol. That a departing president has got `way with such violence and insurrection is a sign of a political system that is not fit for purpose in much the same way as Boris Johnson’s breaking of the law, lying to parliament and the Queen while remaining in 10 Downing Street shows that the British system is similarly gasping for breath.  

Fortunately, I am distracted by having to go and exercise in close proximity to a fog horn. 

Today, Golden Gate bridge is invisible in the midst. A fine, think drizzle makes us even more adhesive and we are soon coated in sand like a kindergarten art activity. We box and squat and press up and down, taking occasional breaks to enjoy the city’s impressive collection of dogs. 

The pelicans are out today and Brian is unsure if the formation flights we see demonstrate the vast pelican population of San Francisco or if they are just the same 24 pelicans flying around in circles. We eventually decide that it is the former. 

Yes. We know they aren’t pelicans.

We walk up to Chestnut street and sit outside an Italian restaurant for pizza and figs. Brian Toyas with an afternoon glass of Champagne, this is a day off after all. He looks impish and playful, but eventually decides that coffee will be enough as he has a trip to make to the Apple store and intoxication may hamper his technological judgement. 

Brian’s Apple watch had rebooted itself this morning and there was some anxiety that if all memory of his exercising had been deleted, he would suddenly balloon in size and end up like child being rolled to the juicing room of Willy Wonka’s factory. 

If you bench press in a forest but Apple is not able to record, have you improved your muscle density?

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Our lunchtime conversation is wide ranging and eventually leads to Leigh giving us a potted history of the development of dance from pagan ritual to Josephine Baker.

The mist has cleared and it is now a sunny day in the city, so we walk, leaving a trail of sand behind us as if we had been digging escape tunnels.

I visit Forest Books on Buchanan Street. I am tempted by a Rudy Rucker book on reality, something about Roger Sperry and his split brain experiments, as well as the screenplay from Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage. Thinking of all the reading I still have to do back in my hotel room. I decide against all three. One of the glass cabinets contains a signed copy of Harlan Ellison’s Angry Candy, fear of temptation leads to me not even asking the price.

Leigh shows me a book by Deborah Hay, an experimental choreographer I know nothing about.

I cannot dance, which is perhaps why I find dance increasingly fascinating. I think of the story of artist Robert Rauschenberg being wrongly described as a choreographer in a publication. It says a great deal about the man that his reaction was. “that means I better take up choreography then”.

The Out of the Closet thrift store is such a beacon of pink that it would be rude not to browse.

Leigh finds a new jacket emblazoned with the word dance star, and I buy a David Foster Wallace that I have at home, which means that I will leave it in a hotel drawer in Houston or Dallas, and a non fiction book by SF author Brian Stableford on the future of humanity – Future Man: Brave New World or genetic nightmare. I am particularly fond of the illustration of how humans must be modified to live in space which will include genetically modified lungs, thicker skin and eyes with “a protective outer lens with adjustable transparency” that “could keep the eyeball moist and act as a double glazing device.” There is a companion illustration of “man modified to live underwater” which includes retractable genitals.

Turning the TV back on in the my hotel room , I find Chuck Norris leaning on a saddle and very keen to talk about the total gym. He has found it very satisfying, as have some men with hair weaves and wigs. They have never been so confident apparently.

Listen to the Horizons tour podcast, Taking the Universe Around the World HERE

Robin Ince is a multi-award winning comedian, writer and broadcaster.  As well as spending decades as one the UK’s most respected stand-ups, Robin is perhaps best known for co-hosting The Infinite Monkey Cage radio show with Brian Cox.  For his work on projects like Cosmic Shambles he was made an Honorary Doctor of Science by Royal Holloway, University of London. His latest book, The Importance of Being Interested is out now.

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The Cosmic Shambles Network relies on your support on pledges via Patreon so we can continue to provide great, new, exciting, and most importantly, independent content without the need for third party ads.