Saturday, September 13, 2008

what do you want to watch?

I'm a hedonist as a dancer, I fully admit it. I like to do things that feel good. However, my definition of feel good does not always equal "pleasant". Sometimes what feels good to me are penetratingly sad moments or things that are physically difficult if not impossible. Sometimes what feels good is to run and jump and tumble so much that I feel like I'll vomit at the end of the phrase.

But there's another kind of hedonistic dancing -- that performance quality that is purely aobut the pleasure of the movement. I watched dancing like this recently and although the dancer was gorgeous, I felt I had been asked to witness a dancer exploring the sensation of her movement without comment, attitude or hypotheses. Now in this case, I felt that it was a choice the choreographer had made rather than the dancer's impulse, but it left me feeling vacant and unmoved by anything I was watching.

The dancer's dynamic shifts did not seem to shift dynamic. The quality was consistent even when it changed. It was eerie -- when I felt stimulated enough to pay attention. My mind loped all over the place. I felt peeved that I was not asked to engage in the work, merely to watch it.

I wonder, is this the preponderence of release technique? Is it arrogance on the part of we choreographers, assuming that the dancer's sensations are enough to feed our audiences? Is it just me who feels disappointed?

There are so many different ways to reel an audience into your work. Visual artists do it in amazing ways because there is not necessarily a moving object before the pair of eyes looking at the work. But great paintings and great dances of all disciplines, styles, approaches work a bit of alchemy and both halves wind up the better for it.

It brings me to mention a standing ovation I recently witnessed at a mediocre to not-bad performance of a big-name company in Canada. It was by no means the only one I've witnessed in recent years that seemed overkill for a lacklustre theatrical experience. I think audiences crave that transcendental experience at the theatre and will convince themselves they've seen it because they want it so badly. Now I'm not pitting audiences against myself. I crave it too! I want to be blown away, moved to tears or joy or anger or a more peculiar emotion like covetousness or euphoria...

Leading me to my question, when you go to the theatre - or to any environment that promises some theatrical experience, anything from an art gallery to a b-boy battle -- what do you want to watch?

I want to be standing on my feet at the end, but I don't think watching someone go through the motions, even if they are beautifully executed motions, is enough.

I want more. From the things I witness. From the things I do, myself.