Friday, 9 January 2009

putting movement into words

I once read somewhere that the most fundamental thing about the experimental theatre experience is that shared relationship of the artists and the collection of brave souls who will come in and sit for an hour or more, with their brains smoking away as they try intently to UNDERSTAND. Going without qualms on the uncharted journey that the artist has prepared, which could be ephiphanal, gut-wrenchingly bad or just a deep snore. Isn't that even more so for dance and performance art! And at every post-show that I have sat in here in Singapore, I am so happy to see that a good number of people do stay back, because they want to understand even more, hear about it and talk about it.

But of post show dialogues (and certain streams of criticism), why do people who are intellectual (with words) always seem to expect artists in other forms to be as articulate? I squirm during those awkward post-show dialogue moments when a supercilious, verbose audience member is trying to extract justification from a tongue-tied choreographer or dancer, or worse, try to insist on some profoundly simplistic point of view. I was at a session last night when the first question went something like "I sensed that the dance was about the struggle between the genders, and that the women seemed to come out as the more dominant." The choreographers gently attempted to say (some more articulately than others), that it was an interesting but unintended point and that the piece was conceived as being about family relationships in general. The lady continued nonetheless to try and push her point; the moderator was too timid to take the mic away.

Some of us may take things from an intellectual tack, but other times and for other people these things just can't be explained in words. One audience member complimented a dancer on her focus and presence, and pressed her to tell just how how she did it. She replied nervously that she just tried her best to get into the roles. I know this may not be satisfying to someone who wants to hear in words what it's all about. I wanted to whisper to the chappie who was just in front of me, give it up, she just does it, she's just incredible and that is the lesson, you won't find an answer here.

There are times when we say things with movement precisely because those abstractions or the shape of those feelings can't fit neatly into words. How I love those mysteries.

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