Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dancing with the Starz

The first couple on the dance floor were obviously enjoying themselves and were fun to watch. He was mustachioed, spry and dapper, wearing a long-sleeved white guayabera and tan pants. She was older-looking but still game, wearing a pretty black cocktail dress and black stockings. I really couldn't see their shoes because the ballroom of the retirement community was full, but I'm guessing hers were flats. Anyway, they moved and twirled and soon some other couples joined them. A few in the audience, including me, were dancing in our chairs.

Hilton Head Island is blessed with many good entertainers, but none are better or more versatile than Reggie Deas and the Guyz. This night there were seven Guyz on stage and they obviously were selecting carefully from their repertoire so that dancing was a possibility for people who might not move too quickly. One solo dancer moved unsupported to the music but then used a cane on her way out of the room. Deas-Guyz played on and on and on, for nearly two hours without a break and then returned for another set. They shagged a little, rocked a little, jazzed a little and mostly played and sang music that every American born since 1950 knows. Bless their hearts, there was no homage to Ronnie James Dio, late of Black Sabbath and mourned even on NPR. I love Deas-Guyz no matter what they play.

This was an evening meant to showcase the retirement community in its best light, and certainly it was pleasurable. Nice-looking people enjoying themselves, great music, wonderful food, but something bothered me and it is the same thing that has bothered me for the 20-plus years I've lived on Hilton Head Island: The people enjoying themselves all appeared to be white, and the people creating the enjoyment were mostly brown-skinned. Deas-Guyz is almost all African-American, the servers were African-American, the bus persons were African-American, the visible kitchen staff were African-American, and yet not one single African-American was among the dancers or the other guests.

No matter how nice, how elegant, how safe the community is, there is something distasteful about perpetuating such an obviously skewed division of the spoils. The fact that people like Reggie Deas continue to smile and share their gifts brings tears to my eyes. To suggest that they are victims of an unjust society belies their dignity, and yet something doesn't sit well. May God smile on them and on all the starz who quietly and generously work to provide some modern Tara moments.


Mad Hatter said...

That's life on Hilton Head... is it not? You live in a place like that... and that is all you have, but it is good. Through the parts country I've frequented, it seems it is amplified towards the coast. Maybe out in California or back in the Northeast they may have more "variety" but down here... not so much.

"P. B." said...

Well, but should it be "life" anywhere, MH? The idealist in me says "no". And I'm not so sure that HHI's geographical location is the determinant thing in how these social mores develop and take root. I think it's more about "the Golden Rule", as in "the one who has the gold makes the rules." I am very sure that there are a lot of northern accents at this particular retirement community. These are nice people, I believe, but still thoughtless and spoiled. It was a lovely evening, but now I know that I'm going to have a hard time finding the right kind of retirement community for me, if it even exists.