People are rectilinear

People are aliens.

People are rectilinear.

People are collapsible.

People are crabs.

People are instruments, devices, mechanisms.

People are hieroglyphs.

This is what I learned at Sadlers Wells last month, seeing Ballet Rambert's astonishing Tread Softly.

I don't know anything about dance, and very rarely go to see it. My companions - some of them quite serious dancers - were unimpressed. As a novice, I thought it was a complete revelation.

The revelation was seeing a human body moving all its parts in straight lines. To see how incredibly hard - and odd - it is to move with steady, pneumatic, geometric simplicity.

But what was really revelatory about this rectilinear, entirely alien movement, is that this is also how pop music dancing currently works. I think that's basically the argument of Tread Softly, if dance can have an argument. It overlaid Death and the Maiden with an incredibly proficient, dour MTV dance parody. I realise this sounds awful. In fact, it's oddly beautiful. But its main effect is to startle us into remembering that ever since Michael Jackson's Thriller, almost all mainstream pop music videos have had this kind of military choreography, with enslaved, coordinated ranks of dancing Britney puppets. And along the way, we forgot that the reason the dancers were dancing like that in Thriller was because they were supposed to be, er, zombies.

So now we think it's completely normal for pop singers to move like zombies. Or machines. That it's normal for pop music to turn human bodies into servomotors. And we've been so thoroughly inculcated with this aesthetic that when we see pop music videos, we don't realise how incredibly odd they are.

So what I learned at the ballet was that pop music dancing is one of the last bastions of a properly modernist aesthetic. Basically, because of Michael Jackson, the Vorticists colonised MTV, and we didn't notice.

Who knew?

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