Saturday, March 13, 2010


My So Called Dancing Career, directly inspired by the Portsmouth Sinfonia, the touring British orchestra started by Brian Eno, in which none of the professional or collegiate concert musicians were allowed to play any instrument that they already knew how to play.

Regrettable though it may have been to have missed the live onslaught of Portsmourth Sinfonia due to that pesky Atlantic Ocean betwixt us, their promo film surrounding their inception was featured at one of the earliest Filmex showings, a 1970's and now defunct Los Angeles film festival, which I caught along with the premiere of "The Harder They Come." This proved revelatory and inspirational to me. Both of them. Really. I acted on the latter by writing the first book on Bob Marley & the Wailers published in the U.S. for A&M who licensed the Island stuff, but first I had to dive into Portsmouth Sinfonia phenomenon as an inquisitive fellow artist (U.C.L.A. Bachelor of Arts degree quashing all doubt), and did so promptly.

I, who had never entertained a nanosecond's thought of the performer's life, organized a similarly premised dance troupe, comprised of three of us who couldn't dance to save our lives, and one expert who could, but was the recent victim of two broken legs in a freeway accident, casts newly shed. We christened ourselves "The Flying Buttresses," and wanted to learn to tap dance ever so badly. Which we proceeded to do, ever so badly.

It was the early 1970's. We shamelessly pilfered, er, um, borrowed the mien from the then spankin' fresh young Bette Midler, and fashioned our look from a cross between drag queens and the Pointer Sisters, courtesy of my local thrifteria, The Junk Store, motto: things go better with junk! Mae West's "Frankie And Johnny" provided the soundtrack to our esprit de dance corps, and off we went galumphing joyously. We passed our university gym requirement by convincing authorities this costumed, moving chaos was indeed the kineseologic satisfier of curricula-- see, we're "dancing!" We were invited to "dance" to open a supermarket, and did so. We were invited to "dance" in a video and did so. For half of it. The latter half of it. The music feed failed to launch, and the first half is four perplexed young women standing around waiting in Pointer Sisters/drag queen mufti. This so dispirited The Flying Buttresses that they ceased to be forever.

Heather Harris
Van Nuys, California, USA

P.S. a taste of Portsmouth Sinfonia

and, in honor of the Flying Buttresses, some similarly amateur "dancing":

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