The Book and The Dance: Sundance 30
Time has a way of making the ordinary, extraordinary—sometimes for no other reason than its own endurance.
I say that with Sundance on my mind because this Labor Day weekend we will celebrate Sundance for the 30th time. Over the course of those 30 years, the continuing process of creating and producing Sundance each year has shaped my life in ways I could never have imagined way back in 1988 when 21 friends first got together to celebrate an anniversary with A Sun Dance—and raise awareness and money for HIV/AIDS at the same time.
Since that first year, the scale of Sundance has increased dramatically. Now we have hundreds of Sponsors, Supporters, Hosts, auction donors and volunteers, and Sundance has become an end-of-the-summer Rehoboth tradition.
From where I sit in the office that Steve and I share on the second floor of the CAMP Rehoboth Community Center, I can look up to a high shelf above me that holds my past Sundance production books. There are other Sundance related books in the CAMP office downstairs, but these, these are the magic ones!
The Book for 2017 has not yet been retired to that high shelf, and at present, sits open on the worktable in front of me. It is unfinished, as I will continue to fill it for the next month as we head into the final weeks leading up the big event. It is not just another binder; it is The Book of Sundance, and in its pages are contained all the site plans, room layouts, décor and tech drawings, designs, fabric samples, and directions needed for producing Sundance 2017—Rainbow XXX: Solar NRG. The Book will travel with me to the Rehoboth Mall for the week long Sundance set-up. It will be used and cared for by many Sundance Team Captains and their amazing volunteers once we load-in on site. For the time being, The Book is our Sundance bible.
Memories have a way of running together over the years, but a quick glance at my past Sundance books quickly brings clarity to them and a smile to my face. In 2005, for instance, my designs called for basket weaving on a grand scale, and we surrounded the entire dance floor with a giant woven spandex rainbow. I loved the final effect, but my décor team almost revolted at the intricate work it took to create it.
That was certainly not the first or the last time my dedicated decor team leaders have rolled their eyes at me over the years. I suspect they only do it out of habit and to tease me a little. I see the exhausted but proud look on their faces after everything is in place.
In the beginning, Sundance was only about The Dance. The auction was added the second year, and became a separate night in the years that followed. Still, no matter how big the Sundance Auction has become over the years, the designs still start with the dance. To this day, I love to see the space in the moment before the doors open on the night of the dance: the floor is clean and lightly powered for dancing, the lights are set, and the music builds. At that point my work is done—at least until break-down begins at 9 a.m. the following morning.
No matter how tired I am, as long as I can dance for a while, it’s all worth it.
Times have changed drastically in the 30 years since we danced the first Sundance at the The Strand dance club on Rehoboth Avenue. Back then we had two large dance clubs in town. Now there are none. Back then people went out to be social, now we’ve got smartphones. We have very few opportunities for our entire community to come together and dance.
Axios recently reported some disturbing statistics taken from an eye-opening article by Jean M. Twenge in the September issue of The Atlantic. “Smartphones have reached a critical mass in the teen population, leaving social destruction in their wake….” It stated. Teens are dating less; they don’t hang out with friends; their maturity is stunted; the suicide rate is up; the greater the time spent on electronic devices, the higher the rate of depression.
Not that teens are allowed to come to The Dance (much to the consternation of my nephew Max), but on the other end of the age spectrum, we tend to become less social as well. “I don’t go out dancing anymore,” I hear from time to time.
Most of us don’t. But we should. It’s good for us. We feel better when we move, and whether we know it or not, time spent sharing an experience with others is also good for us.
The work required to bring the contents of The Book of Sundance to life is a massive endeavor, but it creates a space and a time when our community—gay and straight, young and old—can come together to share the magic of The Dance for at least one night of the year.
This Labor Day weekend take a nap if necessary, put the smartphone in your pocket, and meet me on the dance floor. Come early, and stay late for the full effect, as DJ Joe Gauthreaux and light man Paul Turner turn the Rehoboth Mall into the best dance club in the area.
I promise a good time, and I know—it’s all in The Book!
Murray Archibald, CAMP Co-founder and President of the Board of Directors of CAMP Rehoboth, is an artist in Rehoboth Beach. Email Murray.