Recently 4dancers Contributor Lizzie Leopold said something that made me think….she talked about including program notes for the audience in effort to help them understand more about what was going on through the dance performance.
Brilliant. I wish more people would do this.
Back when I was growing up, ballet had this air of mystery surrounding it. It was almost as if the audience shouldn’t be allowed up close and personal. As if the magic would somehow be lost. I’m not the first person to point this out–but it was definitely a different atmosphere, and a very closed one. Still, it was set against a backdrop of story ballets, making it comfortable for the audience in terms of watching the dance performances and understanding the story.
These days, with Modern dance and other Contemporary dance performances, it is easy to leave the audience in the dark–but is it necessary–or even wise to do so? I think it’s great to experiment with dance. To stretch and reach across the boundaries of what has been going on and play around with what could be. That is how we grow as artists, and that is how dance grows as an art form.
But let’s not forget that we aren’t just dancing for ourselves.
These days dance performances are often smaller scale, set in a more personal venue. The “stories”, if there are any, are often more abstract–not the “fairy-tale” type seen in the large-scale ballet performances. But in this intimate (and I would argue, more personal) setting, are we getting any better at letting the audience in?
Coming from a ballet background, I have always struggled with “getting” Modern dance. I must confess, I still don’t. However, I will say this–through meeting wonderful, dedicated dance artists such as Lizzie Leopold and Lucy Riner–I am getting closer. And the reason is this–
They reached out to include me and others in the “dialogue”. Not content to make dances and dance in a bubble, Lucy and Lizzie are both trying to educate audiences and include them. And I love that they are doing this.
I think that in order for dance to continue to develop as freely as possible, the audience must come with the dancers for the ride. And let’s face it–the audience isn’t made up only of dancers. So I ask you this–both dance professionals and people who just love dance–how do we move forward in a way that we can all make this journey together?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
As for me…I’m working my way toward understanding how to watch Modern dance and appreciate it. And I’m lucky…wonderful, passionate professionals such as Lucy and Lizzie are holding the other end of the rope and pulling me toward shore.
I look forward to arriving there.