Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Tap Dancing Vagina

"V" is for Vagina in the A to Z Challenge

Ok.. I'm a day early. But I couldn't think of a U post for today, and this one is worth having top billing for two days on my blog.

I live just outside of the small town of Ashland, Virginia. I lived dead in the heart of Ashland for six years. Ashland has got railroad tracks running straight down the center. Apparently this was one of the few stretches of tracks not destroyed during the Civil War (War Between the States, War of Northern Agression, yadda, yadda, yadda) so when they rebuilt the rail systems, a lot of it was tied into the extisting tracks. Ashland gets a LOT of rail traffic.

Photo by R. W. Dawson

Here's the music video Transmit Dopamine (I keep telling you it is Parkinson's Awareness Month!) which was shot primarily in Ashland:

Ashland bills itself as the "Center of the Universe". This is something Ashlanders... ites... tend to be quite proud of. From a certain perspective, Ashland does feel like it is the center of something. There is a college (RMC) smack in the middle of town, and if you live right there near the tracks you can walk to the post office, the grocery store (Cross Brothers, celebrating it's 100th year!), hear fantastic national acts at Ashland Coffee and Tea, get a nice dinner at the upscale Iron Horse, have your choice of bars to sit at with the Iron Horse, Trackside Grill, or Andy's, have some jewelry custom made, get a morning cup 'o Joe at either AC&T or The Caboose, shop at Train Town Toy and Hobby, one of the best stocked train and hobby stores in the southeast, attend a Friday wine tasting at the Caboose, which has one of the best beer selections I've ever seen, and hang out at the Libarary. All these places are within several hundred feet of each other. The Strawberry Faire and Train Day are huge draws.

The name Center of the Universe was apparently dubbed by a former mayor, Dick Gilis. As it was explained to me, when Dick heard at a lecture by a professor of astronomy at RMC that there was no objective center of  the unverse, Dick said "then Ashland could be the center!". And so it is.

(My own personal take on it is that it is I, me, myself is the center of the universe, and every step I take sends the universe in rotation under my feet. Try it!)

Well, lately there has been a lot of talk about making central Ashland an "arts and culture district".

This is from http://www.vaartsandculture.blogspot.com/

"HB1735, initially sponsored by Chief Patron Delegate Shannon Valentine, proposed that all Virginia localities have the authority to create arts and cultural districts without individual authorization from the Virginia General Assembly.

The localities will have the authority to grant tax incentives and provide certain regulatory flexibility in the arts and cultural districts. The tax incentives include, but are not limited to, reduction of permit fees, reduction of user fees, and reduction of any type of gross receipts tax. The regulatory flexibility includes, but is not limited to, special zoning, permit process reform, and exemption from ordinances.

Arts and cultural districts are an increasingly popular economic development tool for local governments across the country. When theatres, performing arts centers, museums, art galleries, and artist studios are encouraged to locate in the same neighborhood, the neighborhood becomes a magnet for the general public."

I think this is pretty fantastic. I'd love to see working artist studios that are open to the public in the center of Ashland. Sort of like you see glass blowers and candle makers in Colonial Williamsburg.
There are a lot of other things I'd like to see. For one thing, a functional performing arts space. (you know... one with wings, fly space, adequate power, a green room)

However, in my book you can't just call something an "arts and culture district" without having an arts and culture district. It is sort of a cart and horse thing. The thought I guess is that if you build it, they will come. Make the area more friendly to artists, and artists will come. But there's the key phrase.

You have to make the area friendly to artists. And that doesn't just mean zoning. It means paying attention to what artists create. And what artists create isn't always comfortable. It isn't always safe.

An arts and culture district is the proverbial genie bottle. Once you uncork it, there is no putting that genie back in. What am I talking about?

How about a tap dancing vagina.

Yep... a tap dancing vagina. See, when I was doing my stint as prop shop manager at the Contemporary American Theater Festival in Shepherdstown, WV, one of the shows we did was the wonderful, quirky, Eelwax Jesus 3D Pop Music Show. It is set in a near dystopian future, where 3D holographic technology can bring entertainment right into your living room. Folks living in a communal home gather in the central room each night to watch the Eelwax Jesus 3D Pop Music Show. It has musical and variety acts with thought provoking songs such as this:

One of the costumes we had to make for the show was a tap dancing vagina. The talented Michael McKowen spearheaded the project, and there were a number of hands involved in its construction.
Here are some process photos:

One of our talented interns adding finising touches

Hanging up to dry

And here is it in the show, dancing(  in a commercial break from the projected holographic show) along side a gynecologist, singing about... gynecology. (I guess the thought is that if we once had dancing cigarette packs hawking cancer, and we can advertise erectile disfunction drugs on prime time television, why not a tap dancing vagina to promote your local OBGYN in some not too distant future?)

Photo from catf.org
Anyway, my point is (I usually do have one, despite my meandering ways. Sue me, I'm a storyteller!) that if you want to have arts and culture, you have to have artists. And artists can be messy. In more ways than one.

"V" is for Vagina in the A to Z Challenge, and April is Parkinson's Awareness Month


  1. I wasn't really expecting to see a tap dancing vagina when I clicked on your post. I am well aware of the title, but still, wasn't expecting it.

  2. hmmm now I have seen it all
    Beach Blanket Babylon you have nothing on this tap dancing baby...

    Happy A to Z what's next?

  3. The tap dancing vagina is the most hilarious thing I've seen all day!

  4. Another post packed with interesting information. In all the years I've lived in or been around Richmond, I don't recall ever having been in Ashland though I've seen the signs leading there plenty of times and passed it on the interstate.
    Enjoyed both of the videos.

    Places I Remember
    Wrote By Rote
    An A to Z Co-host blog

  5. Gosh, a tap-dancing vagina is an AWESOME ad for your local women's clinic and/or super friendly neighborhood OBGYN. I know I might have been a lot less nervous my first time getting a pap smear if I'd seen it advertised that way.

  6. I think I finally can't think of anything clever to say...I'm still staring at the vagina.

  7. Here I am Visiting on V-day and I get to see an enlarged Version of what I have only seen before with the aid of a mirror! I needed a smile today - thank you!

  8. It goes to show "Art" comes in all forms. Even Andy Warhol was dissed by the mainstream. Currently, he is considered "Classic".

  9. @Jenn Truth in advertising!

    @moondustwriter I hadn't heard of Beach Blanket Babylon. I just looked it up. I'll have to see if I can figure out a way to catch it!

    @Sangita YAY!

    @Arlee You sure you still want me to be a guest blogger? LOL

    @Jericha I'll see if I can sell the idea to our local TV station!

    @EM-Musing You just did!

    @lizy-expat-writer You are so welcome!

    @Dave Indeed it does. Indeed it does.

  10. Any man who read this blog today, and began it thinking that vaginas are the center of the universe, very likely no longer does.


  11. Great point to consider. Being that any arbitrary location can be the center of the universe...

  12. I think a tap dancing vagina is somehow wrong. But in a good way.

    1. If lovin' you is wrong, I don't wanna be right...

  13. This reminds me of a Billy Connolly sketch in which he's talking about the English language and odd the word penis is. He then goes on to talk about vagina and the fact that is sounds warm and exotic. After a brief pause he concludes "It bloody is too!"

    Sorry that's a bit rude but it's your fault!


  14. OMG I have never seen something like that before!

    Sonia Lal @ Story Treasury

  15. @Dino I accept the blame!

    @Sonia Well... before I was involved with that, neither had I! :)