Saturday, February 20, 2010

Good Work - Good Watch - Good Dance

"Most people can't tell the difference between good work and what they enjoy watching," my friend pointed out the other night. I would add to that, that they also can't separate that from what they enjoy dancing themselves. That's a discovery I made last week. (Read about it HERE.) When I say these things, I'm not just talking about dance audiences; I am talking about dancers themselves.

Recently I was chatting with my roommate Dancer D, and saying how I wanted to start seeing more dance shows. I feel like I need to be more aware of what kind of work is being produced, more aware of what the trends are, and to continue to widen my palate and knowledge of dance.

Me: We should go see Parsons tonight. I think they still have tickets. Wanna go?
Dancer D: Not really.
Me: Why not?
Dancer D: Eh.
Me: Don't you like to see dance?
Dancer D: Not really.
Me: But you're a dancer! [Thinking to myself: That's how you get paid. When people buy tickets and see you dance!]

It irked me a bit. First on principle: If we as dancers don't support one another, how can we expect anyone else to support us? You've got to give to receive; you've got to help yourself. Second, I suspect that the dancer who only likes the performance aspect of dance, is also the one who can't tell the difference between good work, what they enjoy watching, and what they like to perform themselves. My theory is you've got to experience it all (and I mean ALL) to truly appreciate any of it. With the ever changing nature of dance, it's virtually impossible to keep up with everything; but we can try.

Now granted there are artists I'd rather watch on YouTube before I spend $25 on a concert ticket, but there is certainly something to be said about being an active audience member. Over on Brand New Yorker, some colleagues and I got into a conversation about the work that we are seeing produced, and how infuriated we are. I think I might safely speak for the group and say that a lot of what we have seen in concert since we left the academic arena is not "good work." I define "good work" as sound, solid choreography with a beginning middle and end, in which choices are deliberate and self-aware, effectively communicating something. The conversation in the blog entry "post-university angst" turns mostly to how we might react as choreographers and performers to what we are seeing; but how could we react and find reason for our artistic voice if we never went to the theater in the first place?

Tell me, how do you define "good work"? What kind of work do you prefer to watch? Is that different or the same as what you think is well done and/or what you like to perform?



Sydnie said...

Joanna Via Facebook: I too find it discouraging when dancers don't view their art form. on another note, i feel similarly when dancers don't practice their art form by not going to class and substitue with only going the gym, yoga, pilates and so on. the more experiences you have the more you can draw from to create your own dances. your body needs to be the ... See Morevehicle for knowedge not just your brain. I well versed body will have the most diverse body of work. I think its important to see as much as you can so you can formulate a point of view. "good work" in my opinion is when I am: 1. interested in what is happening 2. provokes questions or thoughts 3. is coherent and not self indulgent for the sake of being artsy. 4. the choreogprapher has taken the time to ask some basic questions- what is the space doing, are there relationships to other bodies or space, have i exhausted all possible options, am i saying something- if not make that clear as well. i don't have to like a dance to repsect it. i am also not one for gimmicks to make a dance into something. it should stand on its own and be enhanced by other attributes or media.
i like to see things that i know i can do and things that are totally outside my comfort zone. if its well developed i like it regardless of the "style." for example: i don't love jazz but when i see a good jazz dance i can appreciate it.

Sydnie said...

I agree with you %100. The point that what I respect is different than what I really like to see is what I am getting at here. But how could I know it, if I didn't experience that for myself? The point about going to class is also well taken. I'm really starting to find my niche as far as the type of movement I think works best for my body, but I never would know if I didn't take all kinds of classes.

Sydnie said...

Elizabeth Via Facebook: I agree with a lot of what has been said. As I've been delving into the dance scene in the Twin Cities I've gone to see a broad range of performances and have been both delighted and let down by things that I did not anticipate having those particular reactions to. This just might be me, but I've been surprised at how a lot of the "successful" or "popular" work is the least rewarding in terms of content or point of view- even though the dancers are awesome. Even if a performance is not your cup of tea you can always glean things from the experience (such as "wow I don't want to make that kind of work- here is what I learned about what I dislike; how can I avoid doing those things").

From a Doer point of view, unfortunately the dance that is the most fun or most feel good on the body is NOT always the most interesting to watch or frequently is not the right movement style/ idiom to employ to get a point across. As much as I love rolling around on the floor feeling my bones be hollow and my fluids cascading around my body maybe not as fascinating for the viewer? (However that practice may provide tools that can be employed for another end- re quality, tone, etc).

Duh I am a class freak (AND I go to yoga and work out etc) so I would side with Jo on that being a requisite for being the best dancer possible. If you only train your body to be one way you're limiting your range of possibilities for expression...especially if you stay in your comfort zone. ... See More

As far as "good work" goes I think a lot of it has to do with how aware the creators are about what they are doing and why. Most crap out there is a result of people not pondering their choices or examining what those choices might reveal about their worldview (re: gender politics, sexual politics, ideology, etc).

Thanks for the discussion Syd. Always a pleasure to hear what other people are experiencing.


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