Dance For Diplomats, Fiction Fragment


Person at desk: Welcome to Dance For Diplomats, where we teach you to talk with your feet. Where will you be stationed?

Client: The ______ orbital station above ________.

Desk: That would be the _________. Very good. We consider them a mid-level mobility species. You should be able to manage without surgical enhancement.
Desk: How much dance experience have you had?

Client: None. Will that be a problem?

Desk: Previous experience isn’t always a benefit. When we out found out that dance was the prevalent inter-species language, we naturally sent professional dancers. Some were able to adapt; some caused … incidents. Success appears to have more to do with personality type than with dance training. Think of it this way, you don’t need years of classical ballet to do the Hokey-Pokey.
Desk: Do you have any concerns?

Client: (starts talking)

Desk: (Opens drawer. Pulls out paperback. Starts reading.)

Client: (Add a few more sentences. Sputters to stop.)

Desk: (Puts book down.) How did you feel when I started reading?

Client: Well, confused, I guess. Everyone tells me you guys are the best, but it seemed rude.

Desk: Exactly. Rationally, you knew this was a formal situation. You and I were engaged in an information exchange. You figured there was probably a reason. Emotionally, you found it distasteful and upsetting.

Client: (nods)

Desk: That’s how other species feel when we insist on standing still and making mouth sounds rather than moving. Even though they know we are doing our best, they can’t help but see it as ignorant and discourteous.

Client: You’d think they would cut us some slack.

Desk: Oh believe, me they do. Our most poetic efforts are seen as a trade language, at best.
Client: This is a fairly niche market. How do you stay in business?

Desk: Most of our clients get training as part of their job, which means either government funding or business expenses. How do you put a price on first contact?
Client: Did you say surgery? This happens?

Desk: It’s hard to make a six-sided shape with only four limbs. Or make Morokian hand chains without prosthetic claws.

Client: (Gulps.)

Desk: I wouldn’t worry too much. Most species respect the body integrity of other species. That’s one reason why we try to incorporate moves that are specific to the human shape. We get points for doing what we can with what we have, so to speak.
Desk: Not every species uses language the same way. Think how many different sounds we have just on earth. The Khoisan click languages. The rolling French R, by the way, that’s called an alveolar trill. Out there, other beings do not even have the same speech organs we do. But everyone moves. Words change. Pitch, roll, and yaw do not.

Client: No one saw this coming?

Desk: That’s what you get for having scientists instead of artists write your futuristic fiction. Mostly. Stardance came the closest. You’ll find out. That’s your homework before your first class. Along with researching other examples.
=== curtain ===

2 thoughts on “Dance For Diplomats, Fiction Fragment

  1. I want to read the rest. How does the dance thing work out? Do humans accidently do something that causes a war? An unintended romance? ??

  2. Didn’t think about *Stardance* until the end when I was making a snarky comment about science fiction. At least, not consciously. Anything seriously written about dance & aliens would have to take *SD* into account. Much like Tolkien & elves.

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