Tuesday, July 13, 2010

July of the Spirits

There's a movie out there. It's definitely Felliniesque. I wandered into it yesterday on the lawn of Killian Court, MIT, in the long late afternoon. That's where the spin jammers gather every Monday, from 6 to 8.

Matt, my son, is a juggler, a diabolo spinner, a rhythm ace. (This is so unlike me that if I didn't see a strong resemblance I might question his paternity.) His mentor, Jeremy, a member of the group A Different Spin, invited him to come down to Spin Jam and check it out. So we tagged along.

Picture a grassy quad, about the size of your average village green, filled with people, mostly in their twenties, all more or less in motion, the motion usuallly centered on some moving object. Many of these were poi, which are often a long stretchy fabric with something balled inside at one end, twirled in simple or intricate figures. There were also staffs, hoops, devil sticks, and Indian clubs flying and spinning. A guy came bounding by on a pair of curved jumping stilts, looking like a large faun. Another guy carefully rotated by on a tall unicycle. The scene only needed background music, preferably by Nino Rota.

Matt appeared to be the only diabolist. His uniqueness was getting lonely when Mooch, another member of A Different Spin, guided him over to the Indian clubbers, and there he remained, tossing clubs with three adult jugglers for the next hour or so.

I haven't conveyed the random, interactive aspect, new arrivals hugging, cheerful announcements of so and so's birthday, the casual gymnastics, the sense of a small circus in contented, fluid, rehearsal. Nor am I sure I've conveyed how it's a movie. But that's because I'm on the outside looking in, so for me the scene is what it's about more than what it is, which I'm not sure but I think has something to do with flow, being in the zone, being totally focused on your spinning or juggling or stilt-walking or unicycling....


The next day I drove Matt to a small park in a Somerville neighborhood—Nunziatio Field Dog Park—where he goes on Tuesdays for an hour to help Jeremy demonstrate the diabolo to kids who have signed up for it with OpenAir Circus, a Somerville kind of junior spin jam. I settled myself on a stone wall at the rear of the field while he did his thing with the diabolo, a butterfly-shaped yo-yo that pays whirling, gravity-defying visits to a taut string. The heat of the day had abated. Here was the movie again, more accessible this time, because the spinners and stilt-walkers and hoopers were all little kids, and flow meant something else to them, both easier and less disciplined.

On one side of the field was the chainlink fenced-in dog park, a kind of gymboree for dogs while their humans sat or stood around, occasionally stepping in with a sharp command when a fight broke out in the makeshift pack. On the opposite side from me, seven triple-decker houses of seven colors stood in a row. And overhead, a sky of heavy gray clouds looked for headway. Among their midst was a watermark indicating my mom's birthday, the second year it has been a historical one rather than a live one.

She would have liked this movie, especially with her grandson in the middle of it. It reminded me of that painting by Breugel the Elder, called "Children's Games," which featured a couple of hoops among the eighty or so games depicted. These kids were fewer but having just as good a time in their games, their devil sticks and hula hoops and pois.


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