Monday, April 6, 2009

Play Time

It may seem that I'm the kind of guy who goes out all the time, hob-nobbing with the hardly-rich and barely-famous, but I am actually kind of a family man at heart.

OK, not exactly, but any well-rounded homosexual in his late 30s is going to have friends or siblings with kids, and I am no exception. And while I was originally put off by this next generation cutting into my friends' social availability, I have come to really enjoy "family time" with my friends.

I am also a doting uncle, in the sense that I love my nieces and nephews but don't get around to seeing them as much as I should. So when my brother called to invite me to my niece's school play - he said she was participating in a Eurythmics number (awesome!) - I knew attending would be quality time well-spent with the family.

It was also super convenient because my brother's kids go to the Detroit Waldorf School, so I didn't have to drive far. I'm practical that way.

Pics by "mehughes" on Flickr - thanks in advance!

Detroit Waldorf School is in a gorgeous building designed by Albert Kahn and is located in Historic Indian Village. If you aren't familiar with the Waldorf educational philosophy you can read about it here. It's kind of arty hippy dippy but in an intellectual way - basically stepping into the school is like going back to my Ann Arbor days, so of course I love it. Even with all the women wearing jumpers. The student body is culturally diverse, and the parents tend to be socially progressive, involved in their communities and members of their local NPR station.

And while it is total parody, I always think of this scene when discussing Waldorf:

Grades 2-8 were in the show. One of the teachers came on stage to make the introduction and talk a bit about some of the cool recent accomplishments of Waldorf students (they were myriad: winning against high school challengers at a UM competition, winning the regional spelling bee) and to describe the plot of the show. Which was so perfectly Waldorf it was almost cliche.

See, the Super Ninjas lose their ninja powers because they make poor lifestyle choices - watching tv and playing video games all the time - and have poor dietary habits. They have to travel through the Enchanted Forest to get to the Institute of Becoming a Human Being (or something like that) so they can re-learn good lifestyle habits and get their powers back. Awesome!

It started with some of the older girls climbing up into the large swags of fabric hanging from the stage rafters and spinning around on them - Detroit Waldorf has the only Aerial program in the state of Michigan (it wasn't quite this, but you get the idea). Then all the students filed in down the aisles along with some kids riding unicycles! And it only got better from there.

I don't need to go into a narrative of the production, but even though it was definitely a grade school show the amount and variety of talent on display was astounding. Oh sure, aerialists, and unicyclists. And fight choreography with tumbling. And eurhythmics (oh yeah, it wasn't a Eurythmics number, it was the music/movement philosophy they named themselves after). And a rendition of "Send in the Clowns" (!). And students playing along on violins in every song. And juggling, double-dutch jump roping, dancing, yoga, a remarkable hula hoop performance ("we have to do it all day long," my niece reported). And a German skit performed in perfect German.

As the play neared the end I was just sitting there, blown away by these kids. And then they started singing that Coldplay song "Viva La Vida," - one of the dads played the guitar and students played the violin, all accompanied by a single drumbeat. Kids from all grades lined the auditorium walls, surrounding the audience with their voices. And on stage so many of the talents demonstrated that evening were on display again - the aerialists, the juggling, the dancing. It was, honestly, a bit overwhelming, in that way where you can be someplace and everything is so right for a moment. When I stop to run through it again in my mind I actually tear up a bit, it was all so perfect. It was like a scene from a Wes Anderson film.

What does this all have to do with anything? Well, with so much bad news about Detroit everywhere, it felt really great to be a witness to something so wonderful happening right here, in Detroit, close to home. I saw a diverse crowd (racially of course, but Waldorf is no stranger to kids with two mommies or daddies) coming together for something other than the political.

It reminded me that some of that great vibe I loved in Ann Arbor does exist where I live now, in its own Detroit way. It gave me hope that an excellent, if alternate-track, education happens in the city and that these kids (if the other people I know who've been through a Waldorf education are any indication) are going to be well-rounded, intellectually-curious, talented adults.

And it reminded me once again how unique Detroit-based (whether they live in the city proper or not) families are. It's a special, and kind of unheralded, population.

If you are feeling a little blue about the way the adults in the city are acting lately, I highly recommend a look at what the children are up to. May it lift your heart like it lifted mine.


AmyinMotown said...

As somebody who's raising one o those Detroit families, I really appreciate and love this post. I often feel kind of out of the mainstream of the cool stuff happening in the city because I don't get out to the restaurants or see bands or anything all that much, and this post made me feel good.

I also feel the same way because I went to an open house at Friends School yesterday and met some really great Detroit kids. There's some hope here.

SupergayDetroit said...

Thanks for the kind words, Amy! There are more families here than people think!

SFB said...

I volunteer at the Friends School...there's some great stuff going on there. Great to learn a bit more about Detroit Waldorf, too.

Emily said...

My siblings and I went to the Detroit Waldorf School! I loved reading this post - our class plays and performances were one of my very favorite things about the school. Waldorf is such a wonderful place - if I had kids I would send them there in a heartbeat. and p.s. I still remember some Eurythmy...

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