Arcade Fire is fully committed to the art of dance, and I am fully committed to Arcade Fire. In their two most recent music videos, they explore dark and twisty topics that would bring most listeners to tears. But rather than inducing a Toni Braxton emotion-filled fest, Arcade Fire presents issues of heartbreak and loneliness in the best form possible: seemingly spontaneous dance.
And the timing of the release of their music videos could not be more perfect. After my ex-boyfriend and I broke up last fall, I was experiencing the weird and somewhat uncomfortable sensation that comes with the sudden shock of singledom. I hadn’t been single in 18 months, and I wasn’t sure I was fully prepared to embrace my independent status. I also wasn’t convinced there would be another opportunity to love or be loved. Cue “Afterlife.”
Greta Gerwig, equally crushed by the loss of a love, begins the video by staring longingly into the distance. The gravity of her pain is undeniable, but the beauty of her experience is what she does next. She raises her hand to the sky; shakes her arms to the wind; and then she moves her entire body in a series of quasi-choreographed motions. Leaving the apartment of breakup, she runs and dances and frolics through a snow-covered forrest, ending her five minute rhythmic release on stage, surrounded by adorable prima ballerina-like girls. They jump up and down, and embrace a manless tomorrow.
I am pleased to admit that I spent two months learning the choreography of this video and then practicing it on the school playground across the street from my apartment. And while I can’t give Greta’s super fly moves all the credit, they definitely helped me put one step in front of the other and envision a world where I walked the streets liked I owned them.
Fast forward six months, and I am loathing 2014. It’s presented a series of consecutive losses. And all I want is one small win; all I need is one friendly reminder that it gets better. Or better yet, that I’m not alone in my isolation. Enter “We Exist.”
Andrew Garfield, a man uncomfortable in his skin, dresses in female attire and walks into a cowboy bar. Not surprisingly, he is ridiculed, mocked, and quite literally knocked to the ground. And while most people in his situation would flee from the site of injury, he gets back up and dances in all his effeminate glory. He even pulls four manly men to join him in motion. The absurdity of the visual, while humorous, is also the source of its beauty.
But perhaps the most wonderful moment in the video is when he stands in disbelief, amazed by his own courage and grateful for the support of those acknowledge and accept his differences. Though I haven’t mastered the choreography quite yet, I have watched the video at least 12 times today. And with each viewing, I gain a little more faith in my ability to look tragedy in the face and dance.