The Washington Post achieved something dubious on Monday. They attacked Herman Cain as “more style and substance” – in an article from the Post dance critic that was all about his hand gestures.
Dance critic Sarah Kaufman concluded that “Cain’s magic involved some sleight of hand. His larger-than-life physical bluster was aimed at churning up an emotional response. It didn’t prompt his audience to think so much as to cheer. As much as Cain’s speeches offered a multi-sensory experience for the audience and performer alike, they were also bodily evidence of more style than substance.”
When Cain suspended his campaign, Kaufman wrote, his hands “rose together toward the sky as if the former pizza boss were delivering a large pepperoni to the heavens.”
She also implied the hands gesture into inappropriate territory: “Cain surely has some of the most famous hands in the country. And that was true even before we heard allegations about them sliding unwanted under a woman’s skirt.”
Kaufman painted in broad colors that he was both”Herman Scissorhands” and a master of “gestural cock-a-doodle-doos.”(Ask yourself if phrases like these would be scissored out if they were written about a black liberal as potentially demeaning to African Americans.)
Then there was Herman Scissorhands: "I am not afraid to put bold ideas" - up went his palms, lifting imaginary ideas heavenward - "specific ideas" - he made fists, then shot out two fingers on each hand, as if he were brandishing pairs of shears - ".?.?. on the table!"
Of all the Republican candidates, Cain had the most charismatic stage presence, and his gestural cock-a-doodle-doos had a great deal to do with it. The motivational speaker and occasional gospel singer had the entertainer's urge to whip up energy with his whole body and send it rushing out to the audience.
Kaufman has brought politics to the dance before: in her Best of 2006 feature, she delighted in the American Ballet Theatre reviving a dance called The Green Table:
Two of the works felt especially political. ABT performed Jooss's 1932 treatise on bureaucrats with blood on their hands the very night that President Bush was delivering his State of the Union address. A coincidence, probably, but a particularly delicious Washington moment nonetheless.
Two weeks earlier, Kaufman identified that there was somehow lying even in Bush's footsteps as she talked to choreographer Paul Taylor about his work:
If anyone doubted who the savage character in the suit and tie was supposed to represent in Paul Taylor's unsparingly brutal antiwar work "Banquet of Vultures," Taylor himself minced no words in explaining.
"Frankly, the guy in the red tie is Bush," the ordinarily reticent choreographer told the audience during a discussion after Friday's richly textured performance of the Paul Taylor Dance Company at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. Taylor said he was inspired to create a dance focusing on President Bush after watching him move.
"The first time I saw Bush walking, on television, I did not trust the man," he said. "His walk is a lie.
"Walks are like fingerprints," he continued. "They tell a lot about us. And this one was not sincere."
....Taylor puts his self-described presidential figure right in the middle of the battlefield, watching stonily as agonies fell the troops. Trusnovec, all angles and edges, dances the [Bush] role with surgical exactitude, and his eyes were sharpest of all, cold and unflinching. After he violates a female recruit, kills her and tosses her aside, the spotlight shifts upstage to a second power figure in a suit and tie. Wracked as if by inner demons, throwing himself to the stage and rising again, this man is has a clear identity as well: He'll be the next sicko to wage war.