Today’s article comes to us courtesy of guest writer Katilyn Miller. Thanks for this valuable guide, Katilyn!
As the snow starts to fly in the northern hemisphere, our minds turn to wintery pursuits like building a snew-man, snowboarding or getting gussied up and stepping out to see dance-based spectaculars. Last month, many people took in performances of The Nutcracker Ballet and the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. The memory of those shows still linger, and we certainly love the exactitude and deftness of a body in motion accompanied by music. But even these holiday mainstays cannot match the precision, uniformity and pure jubilation delivered by the Muppet Penguins.
That’s right. There is no group of performers more in synch, more perfectly matched, or more versatile than the penguins. These captivating birds are triple threats. And no, I don’t mean singing, dancing, and acting. (Though they’ve sure got that complete package too. Just check out Muppets Take Manhattan for a neat little showcase in perfectly placed cameos.) Instead, I’m talking about performing on sea, land and in the air. I’d like to see the New York City Ballet try to do all of that.
They’ll perform on a beach, dance in the Artic, or sing on a boat. They have skating routines to rival any Disney on Ice performance. (Where’s our Muppets-themed ice skating extravaganza, Disney? These characters are made for ice dancing and come with songs readymade. What more do you want?) They can perform in and out of the water like a fourth-dimensional water ballet. And best of all, what sets them high above any rendition of “Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy,” is their aerial performance.
These penguins gave new meaning to flipping the bird and transformed it into an art form. At this time, many of you may be crying foul. “Penguins can’t fly,” you say. “Their bones aren’t even hollow!” But therein lies the very secret of their acrobatic displays. This added weight propels their bodies through the air like those hatchets everyone believes they’ll be a natural at throwing. They’re not. But you know who is? The Muppet Penguins! Like cats, they always land on their feet. But unlike cats, they carve graceful arcs across the sky as they do it. No ruffled feathers here.
Like confetti, throwing a penguin communicates jubilation and happiness in and of itself. And is this not what we crave when we take ourselves and loved ones to see a show? That it fill us with the cozy joy that this season begs for? It’s an experience that just can’t be had sitting in front of the television, no matter how big your mug of hot chocolate or sparkly your sweater.
Now that you’re half bundled-up, ready to plunge into the 4pm darkness on your way to the theater, I have some bad news. Sadly, the Muppet Penguins do not have a venue to call their own. They are not currently booked to tour the world. Alas, they’re not even bound for Alabamy. Why not? Why haven’t they caught on? Why aren’t fans flocking to buy their tickets in such droves that it crashes whole websites? They have perfect synchronicity. The very thing others praise the Rockettes for, these penguins have naturally. They’re literally indistinguishable. They have no egos, allowing all of them to shine.
But maybe that’s the problem. They’re too good. Too perfect. Too interchangeable. Perhaps they need a splashy front bird. A tall emperor-type to take center stage. They would be no good for throwing, but would really catch the eye and the ear as they’re known to croon to attract a mate. Perhaps the penguins need a change in image. The Rockettes already have name recognition, and is the winter extravaganza stage really big enough for two precision dance companies? It’s possible any other competitors have gone the way of the dodo.
What about a new name? “Muppet Penguins” is more descriptive than marketable. It’s hardly a brand that Bill, Jill and Gil would leap at the chance to write a slogan for. It doesn’t quite roll off the tongue even half so well as “the Flying Zucchini Brothers” and their aeronautic antics are less than half as impressive. The Ice Flippers? The Flockettes? Black and White and Fish Heads All Over?
We’ll keep workshopping it. But I’d like to go back a bit. There is one final piece of the Muppet Penguins that we need to examine here. What exactly do we want from them? You may be thinking that you want them to sing and dance and flip. But, like my attempts to make them a household name above, that’s only scratching the surface of what these penguins actually mean to us. How often do we think of seeing a ballet that is not The Nutcracker? How often do we tune in to a parade full of spectacle and advertising when it’s not attached to a holiday?
We are seeking out these penguins to make us feel a certain way. Their pageantry, along with our recent cookie-baking, mint-flavored coffees and the forced march through a forest to cut down a tree, are our attempts to fling ourselves into a feeling. We watch them to impose a joy and festiveness on ourselves and others. But does it work?
It might. But I propose there’s a much better lesson to can take from these high-flying fowl. We could be wrapping ourselves in the trappings of a perfect holiday, hoping it brings us all the happiness of a Hallmark movie, or we could be throwing ourselves into the air for the pure love of flying even when we know we can’t.
Disclaimer: do not throw yourself in the air and do flips unless you are a highly trained professional who has as much padding as a Muppet.
The throwing is a metaphor for doing instead of watching. Bake those cookies, but share them with friends and strangers. Go ice skating, but take care, the whole rink is one big icy patch. Go outside when those gorgeously large snowflakes start falling and spin in circles with your tongue out. These are the moments that will fill us with the spirit of the season and much faster than trying to recreate a memory or a scene from a movie.
So while the Muppet Penguins can’t give us this perfection in their flawless performances, they can teach us the way of joy and flinging yourself. (This sounds like a self-help book: The Life-altering Joy of Flinging Yourself Like a Penguin. Okay, that title needs workshopping too. But call me, Penguin-Random House!) So as you watch all the singing and dancing and performing this winter, remember to share that laughter and happiness with yourself and anyone else you can fit into your Studebaker. It’s what the Muppets have been teaching us all along.
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by Katilyn Miller