by Jane Fries for The Dance Journal
Can a conversation be a dance?
I don’t know the answer to that, but it’s one of the lingering questions I have after experiencing Jody Oberfelder Projects’ Life Traveler this past Saturday, on the final weekend of the 2021 Fringe Festival. The experience took place on the pedestrian walkway of the Ben Franklin Bridge, where participants met up with a “dancer/person” for a personally tailored stroll on the bridge.
I had never walked on the bridge, and it’s a spectacular setting where you feel like you’re ascending up into the sky. If you want to try it yourself, enter the walkway at 5th and Race Streets – after walking for one and a half miles, you will find yourself in New Jersey.
I met up with my guide after I’d walked for a few minutes up the walkway. She was seated on a suitcase, and asked me to pick up another suitcase by her side. Together, we alternated between walking and talking and sitting and talking. As I tend to be chatty by nature, our conversational “dance” took the form of a lively back and forth. She asked me a number of questions:
My guide: Do moments have momentum? Me: “Definitely.”
My guide: “If time stops for you, does it still go on elsewhere?” Me: “I think so.”
My guide: “Do you want to carry your suitcase on your head? Me: “Sure!”
She suggested that we close our eyes and listen to the sounds around us (a ploy to get me to stop chatting?). We heard a train blowing its horn. This led to more talking:
She asked me if I had ever lived lived near a train; I said that I couldn’t remember.
She mentioned that she was imagining being able to see the footprints of people who had crossed the bridge before us; then she invited me to walk in circles and visualize adding our footsteps to the invisible collection.
After about fifteen minutes of our journey together, my guide opened her suitcase and presented me with a sticker to remember the experience by, as well as a small envelope with a secret message to open later. She bid me farewell, and I continued along by myself, pondering the rhythm of our verbal pas de deux.
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