SITTING IN the bleachers at the Dance Mission Theater on Saturday
night, watching a troupe of lesbians perform a new work called "CaveWomen," I
kept thinking about the word "community."
Most of us throw it around as if it had some absolute, easy-to-identify
meaning. We talk blithely about all manner of communities: The gay one. The
straight one. The African American, Latino, Filipino, Pan Asian and immigrant
ones. We speak knowingly of the academic community, the civil rights, AIDS,
Christian, bicycle, homeless, scientific and vegan ones.
Sillier yet, we often behave as though each "community" were a monolith,
made up of people who are first, last and nothing but the characteristics that
qualify them for "membership" in their group.
What then to make of all of us assembled around "CaveWomen"?
A heterosexual, I'd come to watch a known lesbian company, Dance Brigade,
put on a wild and in-your-face tribute to females who prefer the company of XX
chromosomes. Did that make me part of the lesbian community? Because I'd paid
for my ticket, thus lending a bit of help to Dance Mission's continuing rent
struggle, was I part of the dance community?
How about the young Asian man (not a lesbian) sitting next to me? When the
five Dance Brigade dames were pounding away on Taiko drums and a bell, no one
stomped his foot any harder or more happily than this guy. And yet, unlike
anyone else in the audience, he was wearing a blazer, dress shirt,
conservative tie and pressed khakis.
Was he primarily a member of the law or accounting community? From their
pre-show conversation, the two thirtysomething men behind me seemed to be
members of the dot-com community: A chief tech officer-led coup d'etat, they
said, had given everyone at "the teamwide meetings" something exciting to talk
about for a change.
But isn't the dance community supposed to be at war with the dot-com
community -- and any other group that's contributed to evictions and
skyrocketing real estate prices in the Mission District? What brought these
men to enemy territory?
A few rows away was a member of the cancer-survivor community. I could tell
by her lean frame, tired eyes and bright bandana around a bald head. But the
woman who was with her, who whispered in her ear, nuzzled her neck and looked
upon her with such love that you could almost hear violins, indicated that
both were also bona fide members of the lesbian community. The committed
Then there were the dancers: Five sexy, super-looking women who performed a
30-minute work that is based on the Yoginis of 10th century India but involves
a circus knife-throwing act, the aforementioned kick-butt drumming and a great
deal of water.
Obviously, all are part of the lesbian and the dance communities. But one
is also a member of the Latino community, another of the Asian American. Three
are moms with kids in public school. We learned this during the bows, when the
Dance Brigade mothers motioned for their children to join them on the dance
On Friday and Saturday, when "CaveWomen" repeats and Anne Bluethenthal and
Dancers join to present their new work, one of those public schools -- Buena
Vista Elementary -- will be the beneficiary of ticket sales. (This is San
Francisco Unified we're talking about; some parents' groups help out by
auctioning off quilts or weekends in Napa, others perform in lesbian dance
If you're straight, childless, Anglo-Saxon, work a desk job and have two
left feet, the benefit could be a great chance to be part of several
communities you never dreamed you'd be included in. And it could serve as a
reminder of just how monolithic most communities are not.
©2000 San Francisco Chronicle