Sunday, November 4, 2012

I didn't like it.... on aesthetic

The 2012 Presidential Election is in two days. The country (the world) has heard a lot of arguing over the past several months from the politicians, but also from everyday citizens. Understandably, issues of education and healthcare should bring strong (intelligent) discussion and careful deliberation.

I've been performing and witnessing a lot of art for many years. And I've listened to many people be very passionate about their opinions. I respect that.

But I challenge those people, politicians, artists, audience members, who only hear/ see/ perceive one side of the multidimensional work (issue, discussion). That's the beauty of community. We're all allowed to have different opinions, perspectives, background stories, viewpoints. We bring lived experiences to our current situation and, if everyone can just take a deep breath and create some space, we can better understand each other.

I'm a dancer and an artist, so I speak from my point of view. In performance art, there are many different genres. Some are "traditional." Some are "avant garde." Some are "classic." Some are "experimental." Some are "offensive." Some are "inspiring." The description of the work generally lies in the eye of the beholder. Ask the artist and you might be told something different. Put ten different people in the same audience and you'll get ten different perspectives. The words to describe the work might be synonyms or have similar connotations, but you'll probably receive different interpretations of a shared experience.

That's what I love about art! About Dance! Each artist, dancer, audience member can/ is encouraged to bring themselves into the work and have their own experience.

But this also means that some people won't be happy with "wasting their time" and won't "like" the work. Okay. That's your first reaction. But why didn't you like it? What about the work was unappealing? What about your own personal story makes the work unattractive to you. What are you bringing to the work?

Here is the moment for artistic exchange and dialogue! Perhaps the choreography didn't have clear craft. Perhaps the dancers didn't seem well rehearsed. Perhaps the dancers' technique was lacking. Perhaps the dancers seemed disengaged (or was this a direction of the choreographer which made you feel alienated and therefore you didn't like the work?). What tools did the choreographer use or not use? - These tools are quite simple and we really use them in everyday life whether we realize it or not. Time. Space. Energy. Body. Did you disagree with the costume? (Why? Maybe you hate the color purple because it was the color of your sister's bedroom growing up and the two of you used to fight all of the time. No, I'm not trying to psychoanalyze, just to understand why you think why you do). Which, is what I encourage you to do if you find yourself being drawn into a piece, or being pushed away from it.

Strong choreographers rarely make arbitrary decisions. And if the decisions seem arbitrary  there was probably a clear decision on the part of the choreographer to make it seem that way. As an artist, I have a tendency to over analyze my work. My research is deeply important to the product and my research is executed in many different formats. I've found that many other artists dive as deeply into their work. So, if you're taking the time to see a dance concert or experience art, I beg you to take the time to digest it. Engage with it. Have a conversation with it. Have a conversation with the artist. And have a conversation with yourself.

I'm not asking you to like everything. That would be incredibly boring and we'd all like the same thing or we'd all be wearing the same clothes, eating the same food, executing the same dance choreography. Ew. How uninteresting! But, I am asking you to think about the judgements you make about a piece of work and don't immediately dismiss that you like or don't like something and move onto the next something. Or never go see a dance concert again because your first experience was "weird."

Be passionate. Be bold. Be strong. But also be willing to listen as emphatically as you declare your own opinions.

Yes, there's a lot of "bad" dance out there... but there's an equal amount of "good" dance out there... and you'll need to figure out for yourself what your aesthetic is. And that takes time and patience and practice.

But know that strong dance will have a solid element of craft, technique, and artistry, and even if you don't agree with the message or the intention of the work, there is still something to appreciate. And even a point of entry from which you can begin discussing a work that you didn't "like."

Thank you in advance for taking the time to listen, think, and open your mind and heart to a new, or different perspective. I'll look forward to talking with you after the next concert!

(and maybe if we can begin careful intelligent conversations about art and dance making, maybe we can move in the direction of careful, intelligent conversation about the state of affairs of our larger community... yes, it's my personal goal to heal the world through plies... ::sigh::)

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