Dance: thoughts on form and presentation

In recent adventures of an artistic type I have seen many different forms of choreography in the various senior dance shows/ visiting dance shows that I have attended. In the past I have not been one to make many comments or observations on dance, it was an art I didn’t understand that well or appreciated very much. But that’s all changing now perhaps because I am looking at dance through a more artistic lens now (or perhaps because I know a choreographer who is changing my world.) But either way I am seeing it with new ideas in mind.

This brings me to the topic of this rather short post. Dance is a beautiful art form and when done right it has the potential to involve its environment. That ability is not unique to dance but I fear has been underutilized by it. Recently I attended a dance show where there was no set place for the audience and thus no set vantage point from which to watch the show. We sort of had to maneuver our way throughout the house and see what we could. I will talk further about this particular production when I get some visual aids from its choreographer but for now let it stand that this got me thinking about the use of space in dance.

Space plays an important role. That may be obvious to everyone reading this but yet it is not taken as serious as this statement suggests. The choreographer of this particular show utilized all the space, entrance space, audience space, performance space, exit space, and even the bathroom space. It brought up that all too popular question of where the show ended and the audience began. After all some of the dancers needed the participation of the audience to perform.

This example with its full contact between addresser and addressee makes the question easy to understand. But the aspect of space and expand that notion to sound as well stays true for staged dance. The design of the stag , the use of the stage, the non use of the stage, the off stage space, the audience space, it all plays into the production. Today’s art is in a sense frameless.

Sound may seem even easier to understand, with it being the driving force behind many of the dance forms. But also the lack of sound, or the audience participation in the creation of sound. These play roles as well. Voice over work, dancer speech and silent dance are powerful tools a dance can employ that at times create an extremely uncomfortable feeling for the audience. That feeling though negatively described with the word “uncomfortable” is one of the true feelings of art.

We’ve posted earlier about the weakness of easy art and I think that same theory applies here. Art that offends us or just makes us uncomfortable is by that definition not easy and therefore more engaging. We are forced to come to terms with that which influences us.

That’s enough for now but there will be much more.


One response to “Dance: thoughts on form and presentation

  1. One could view the mixing of audience space with performance space is a step towards carnivalization of the performance. One of the main features of a carnival form is the blurring of boundaries, which usually includes the boundary between spectator and performer – as Bakhtin writes, the carnival knows no footlights. A carnival might go a bit further than what you describe – even if there is no space between the audience and the performers, it is still clear who falls into what category (i.e. those who paid to get in vs. those who are being paid), while in carnival that distinction does not exist. But the use of audience participation is a step towards breaking down that distinction as well.

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