So I’m a preschool teacher, among other things, and I jumped right on this Tiny TBA thing. I don’t have any children of my own, and my kid date fell through, so I went it alone, without the benefit of child eyes, but I’m fairly accustomed to them after fifteen years in the profession, and I think I can safely give the whole event a thumbs up. The Wonder Ballroom was a good venue for this, spacious enough to allow for balloon batting and running wildly around the room, but cozy in its way, and the outdoor space was frankly more appealing as a face-painting kind of place than as a beer garden. Charmingly, you could buy (a rather expensive) peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and as a walked in, I heard the Greasy Kids Stuff woman onstage call out “Are you a happy noodle or a sad noodle?” I was hooked.
But okay, I’m also a grown up and cynical enough and often find kids’ shows, especially music, nauseating. Which is why I was so happy to discover Greasy Kids Stuff, a radio show on WFMU. They play rockin’ music that was made for adults but is “appropriate” for kids. I’m always trying to make CDs like this from my own collection, but then remember that Cecilia was making love in the afternoon and that the Ramones often need a bit of editing… But I discovered GKS a bit too late, as they’re ending in a few weeks. If I can find their CDs I’m definitely snapping them up.
And then there were the films, shown in about five minute blips, which were apparently made by children and for children. There was virtually no information about them, although I gleaned from credits in Dutch or something that one was made by a twelve year old. The first I saw was incredible, and I kept thinking that surely it was made by an adult. It’s color was supersaturated, a little bit Miss Spider, a little Lemony Snicket, a little Amelie. It was about a girl who was a little stretchy, was gorgeous and absurdist and poetic. I would certainly show it to my children, even repeatedly, on the premise that it is art, beautiful, even sublime, and totally unclear. It’s no passive TV. It must either inspire analytical thought—what does it all mean?—or creative dreaming—in my supersaturated imagination, a similar train runs through—and what more could I ask of art for kids or for anyone? The other films were similarly cool, though less astounding than the first, and included a head-banging squishy claymation head that was a big hit with the little ones, some good fairies (or elfin fireflies) that operatically inspire some piqued dragon gargoyles to come around to the light side (in an extremely Miltonic scene), and a cool line-drawn animated film in which a Pegasus became a sting ray, became stars… in which the ripples on the water were deeply eloquent and which was a great Jungian argument for archetypes.
And then the Sprockettes performed. They were very seventh grade dance troupe in all the best ways. Dancing with bicycles to “I never met a girl like you before,” they were cute, but not sweet, or sweet, but not annoying, tough but not rough, sexy, but not… Well, they were totally appealing, a little bit dorky and very cool with their hula hoops and bikes, and their low-end acrobatics. They were fun, were totally appealing with little makeup, armpit hair, tattoos, pink fishnets, and all.
Except for a bit of tricky balancing of bodies and bikes, this was all from young kids’ physical vocabs. There was nothing they couldn’t do or dream up. They were imperfect, silly, and the kids were completely engaged. I remember my Nia teacher saying of her Hoop Troupe (before she left Nia to pursue hula-hooping full time, that it troubled her that little girls looked at her in her hoping finery like she was a princess, and that she wanted to empower them now rather than just giving them a tougher version of Cinderella. I think the Sprockettes do this, and do it having a lot of fun.
I dug Tiny TBA, but somehow I got roped into to handing out a meager supply of balloons, and I think that whoever does this next year definitely needs to be able to make balloon animals. In general, I think there could have been a little more entertainment, but maybe that’s my adult sensibility speaking, wanting more. The kids seemed dazzled by what there was—happy noodles one and all.
Posted by: Taya Noland