The commemoration of the D-Day invasion 70 years ago. World leaders describe the heroics of their soldiers in glowing terms. Solemnity reigns. The crowd, subdued.
And then, the highlight of the ceremony. On Sword Beach, several dozen young men and women march onto a stage that appears to be a representation of the European continent. They march and move in lockstep. It is an interpretive dance supposedly telling the story of World War II. Nazi conquest, the landings in Sicily, D-Day, and final victory.
It is the weirdest, most incongruous, most disrespectful performance one can imagine.
The dance performance took place across a giant map of Europe. Near its start, dancers in black Gestapo-like uniforms sought to subdue others in overalls. Dancers in olive drab represented the landing on Normandy’s beach, moving in slow motion as many fell to the ground only to rise again to the strains of a lone bagpiper. On giant screens behind them, scenes from the war unfolded, from an execution to D-Day to footage of surrendering Germans. Soviet, British and U.S. soldiers were shown celebrating and unfurling their respective flags.
One piece of footage showed Queen Elizabeth II as a wartime driver and mechanic with the women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service. She was one of the few visiting heads of state to have lived and served in the war.
If the moment may have proved awkward for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the dance and film images also captured the post-war European reconstruction and the new alliances that emerged in its aftermath.
The ceremony ended with daytime fireworks of colorful flames and smoke and a missing man flyover emitting trails of red, white and blue smoke — the tri-colors of the U.S., French, Russian and British flags.
At its conclusion, a live camera caught President Barack Obama complimenting French President Francois Hollande: “It was a wonderful, wonderful event.”
Speaking of President Obama, watch the video of the dance below. At about 2:45 in, there’s a shot of the president sitting impassively in his chair — chewing gum?
Queen Elizabeth looks befuddled. Other world leaders look bored. The “dance” gets more and more bizarre, with some young men doing what appears to be “The Robot” dance.
Sorry, but I can’t help but think of that brilliant Monty Python skit with the Batley Townswomans Guild recreating the Battle of Pearl Harbor:
Canning: (voice over) Miss Rita Fairbanks – you organized this reconstruction of the Battle of Pearl Harbour – why?
Rita: (Eric Idle) Well we’ve always been extremely interested in modern drama … we were of course the first Townswomen’s Guild to perform ‘Camp On Blood Island’, and last year we did our extremely popular re-enactment of ‘Nazi War Atrocities’. So this year we thought we would like to do something in a lighter vein…
Canning: So you chose the Battle of Pearl Harbour?
Rita: Yes, that’s right, we did.
Canning: Well I can see you’re all ready to go. So I’ll just wish you good luck in your latest venture.
Rita: Thank you very much, young man.
(She retreats, and joins the other ladies who meanwhile separate into two opposing sides facing each other.)
Canning: (reverential voice over) Ladies and gentlemen, the World of History is proud to present the premiere of the Batley Townswomen’s Guild’s re-enactment of ‘The Battle of Pearl Harbour’.
I don’t know about you but I liked the ladies’ re-enactment better than the wacky dancers shaming themselves and disrespecting the dead on hallowed ground.