Sunday, July 11, 2010

7 in 48

Over the last 48 hours I have attended 7 performances and reviewed them for the DC Theatre Scene website.

It is Fringe season in DC so there are about 130 shows between now and July 25. The ones I saw were creative and inspiring: a merger of Shakespeare's Macbeth and Capoeira that was fantastic - and The Sleeping Beauty told by puppets - also clever. It is refreshing to see and write about theater as well as dance. I think the borders between these categories are dissolving, and it's interesting to see how the productions categorized as theater tend to be more focused in their intent and design.

I find myself reviewing dance performances and being left with questions like how did the choreographer connect that movement to that topic? As someone who loves dance, studies it, teaches courses in it, watches it, I am surprised by 2 things: how frequently dance is used as decoration - what I call visual display - rather than honoring the intelligence and communicative power of the body's movement. Second I am surprised by the sameness of the movement - whether the topic is multiculturalism, depression, or loss, I see similar steps, phrasing and shapes.

When Karen and I talked about starting this website we hoped to hear from you, from people who read about dance, dancers, artists, and performance. What I have noticed writing for this theatre website is that the choreographers themselves respond to what I write - this is great! They often write to explain the choices they made choreographically and sometimes I find myself wishing their performances contained the clarity of ideas written in their comments. Why is it so rare for dance to be used as its own unique discipline - unlike words or painting or music - that conveys something about knowledge, emotion, and relationships - rather than something used to illustrate a text or fuse some catchy shapes?

In an ideal world, I see dance as a communicative medium, capable of sharing insights, and performances as events where there is a reason why the choreographer invited us to come. I am most inspired by the artists who have ideas about what they intend to present and choose movement and dancers that make these statements perceptible.

What inspires you?


  1. hello from sweden!

    i couldn't resist writing b/c i really like this post, esp this part, "rather than honoring the intelligence and communicative power of the body's movement". i think it's not always so clear to dancers (or to me at least) what exactly it is about the body that's unique and what it uniquely has to say. some of us just love to move and lack a real sense of what the body most powerfully conveys and what's special about it. so i think it's great that you talk about it specifically; i've gotten insights each time you have. and i'm imagining that your experience/observations/education are helpful to others, too.

  2. Ok, as Kate and Amanda and others know, I usually don't like dance that tries to communicate something; I want it to be simply a visual thing -- line, shape, counterpoint, etc. But now, after reading this post, I realize that there are in fact times when I do like dance that conveys a message, as long as the VISUAL aspect still holds my interest. I think Kate identified the problem for me: too often, dance that tries to convey a message thinks too much about the message and less about the dance. The message may come through, but the innovation in movement is lacking. Thus, I say "I don't like message-oriented dance," when in fact I don't like it because it's just not good. Now that I think about it, I have seen pieces that succeed at both conveying a message AND keeping my interest visually. Thanks for the conversion experience Kate!! Now find me some good conceptual dance...