Dashboard Co-op’s Anti-Manners, a dance-infused performance and feast on the BeltLine behind Piedmont Park last week, featured 30 or so participants singing, laughing, dancing, and throwing cornbread at one another. Aside from flying soul food, the event featured choreography from Dashboard’s own Helen Hale, as well as a band of roving minstrels carrying instruments ranging from the djembe to the accordion.
I found the performance site after following the groups of young people carrying Three Buck Chuck and blankets from Piedmont Park’s public parking area. Dashboard’s Beth Malone approached me and asked, “Want me to give you an overview of what’s going on?” I nodded my head. “Okay, the performers are coming through here, so try to stay behind the markers so you don’t get trampled.” Easy enough.
As the sun sank low in the sky, the entire cast poured into the marked-off area, chatting and splitting jugs of wine among themselves. A game of croquet started, but came to an abrupt end as two of the performers began to quarrel. Suddenly, their exchanges became physical as the minstrels began playing their instruments. What should have been a fist fight turned in to an orchestrated dance, ending with the two dancers rolling on the ground.
When the dirt settled, all the others headed slowly to the long picnic table full of metal trays. They tore the tops off the containers, and the feast began. Some of the food was eaten, but most of it was thrown among cast members. They told jokes, as the band sang, never missing a beat with the performers.
After dinner, the crew began dancing again and throwing apples. The band edged toward a row of concrete blocks. As the sun sang its swan song, so too were the cast and crew of Anti-Manners. The night ended with slow, solemn songs timed so perfectly, I’d swear their singing was what lulled the sun to sleep.