I sat in the audience today of a beautiful performance. Congrats, Alchemy Dance Company!
I'm not a critic, so this isn't a review, but a reflection on what I saw merged with thoughts that have been floating around in my mind-space for some time.
Alchemy's second piece of the night, also the title of their concert, I Am We revealed six very different dancers; the women wore flesh-colored sports-bras and briefs, the male, in flesh-colored shorts. They all had/ have different body types. My first reaction was to question why artistic director Amy Harding would have made this choice, but the dance wasn't about the costumes. It wasn't really even about the dancers, themselves, although they did display clear technical virtuosity and moments of intimate personal story-telling. The piece, to me, was more about how these dancers could translate inner states to the external world/environment/viewer. In this way, the costume became meaningless, and in showing the dancers in flesh-colored garments that displayed their movement without being sexually suggestive, I observed a stripping away of pretense.
And, really, isn't that why we dance? Isn't that why we try to communicate? To strip away the layers of perceptions and reveal the honesty?
And let's be honest. Being emotionally naked or (almost) physically naked is scary. Especially if you're (I'm, someone else) is on stage. Sharing a personal truth is scary, whether it's with one person or 500 people.
I applaud these performers for their courage, and Amy, for making a bold decision. I reflect on my own experiences being told I was wearing something flesh-colored/ very tight/ revealing and the fears I experienced and needed to overcome. Often times, these fears included conversations with the directors (dance and otherwise) that followed along the lines of "It's not about you. It's about the work and what needs to be communicated. Think about the mission."
More often than not, the bodies on stage that I see are well-trained. Irregardless of their genetic structure and size, these individuals have dedicated an enormous amount of time, energy, and sacrifice so that I can witness them bare themselves onstage for ninety minutes. In baring themselves, they wish to communicate with me. (In baring myself, I wish to communicate with you).
My body is a conduit. Dance is my medium. Somethings need to be experienced and cannot be spoken.
Here's a bit of Nora Gibson's work, I'm dancing with Melissa McCarten: Corollary to Fugue in G minor
And a picture from Alchemy's Performance, photo by Bill H:
The flesh-color-ed-ness becomes about living in the human-skin, without making reference to sexual or racial emotions or the body as an object of sex or race. (As is often the case when any amount of skin is revealed... doubt me? Google flesh-colored or nude).
The body is the means through which the lived experience is experienced, and so the skin and skin-tone becomes an obvious costume choice.
And, honestly, as a viewer, there's something absolutely beautiful about seeing that level or rawness and vulnerability on stage, even as the dancers display physical strength. Vulnerability + Strength = Beauty.
Thanks, Amy and Alchemy for the reminder. And thanks to the Philly dance community for making these opportunities possible!