Charlotte Constable is a recent Choreography & Dance and Psychology graduate of the University of Winchester. She is currently watching, writing and waiting for her big break in dance criticism.
Wednesday, 12 June, 2013
Wednesday, 6 March, 2013
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Why, when I'm writing, do I always seem to divert everything back around to The Rite of Spring? Maybe it just goes to show the seemingly endless impact of its riot-inducing premier, back in 1913.
In this, the year of its 100th birthday, I ask what it is that shocks us in the dance world today. What causes a stir among audiences - be it a seeping feeling of discomfort, or a genuine fear of what will happen next?
Looking back a few months to my article 'Israel's Rite to Dance', it was not the performance content itself, but merely the home nation of the visiting Batsheva Ensemble which caused frequent disruption throughout a performance at the Brighton Dome. Screaming protesters even gathered outside, with roads cordoned off and police-a-plenty.
Fast forward to last Tuesday night. I witnessed a stirring and unique interpretation of Nijinsky's original, performed at Winchester's beautiful and atmospheric Great Hall on a backdrop of the Round Table itself. The choreography, by Hannah de Cancho, Suna Imre, Debbie Lee-Anthony and Catherine Seago, was made for students of the University of Winchester and the young people of Wessex Boys and Girls and Wessex Dance Academy. Never before had the term 'site-specific' rung more true: dancers wrapped themselves around pillars, weaved between audience members and facilitated rather nervous audience attempts to follow their direction.
Moments of the original left their mark on the new choreography. Women were lifted up into the air by clusters of others, grappling in desperate need for escape; whirling concentric circles became a chaos of flailing limbs. A similar sort of ritualised aggression was enacted as great walls of dancers ran, with linked arms, into the faces of audience members.
But what got the audience talking this time around - and sadly, during the performance itself, might I add - was that sense of misunderstanding. The notion of 'site-specific' upset some, who mumbled that they couldn't see and panicked as they wondered where best to stand. A few teens chuckled at the unusual choreography, with one even questioning (out loud, to my horror) whether it was in fact 'performance'.
Being a dance student who often watches works in a theatre, sat with other dance students, surrounded by an audience of largely even more dance students, I fear I have become blind to just how niche this art form is. Being immersed in parents and friends of performers as I was tonight, something clicked. Audiences are not used to this. My research and writing is dedicated to something that not many people know an awful lot about, let alone go to theatres to see.
Perhaps the most shocking discovery here is that, even today, it does not take a lot to shock an audience. Not thematically, at least. But by involving them in the performance - some dancers encountered audience members and explored contact with the surfaces of their bodies - there is real discomfort to be felt, particularly in a field where many know not what to expect. Will I become part of the show? Will people expect me to dance? Am I going to be vulnerable?
Their concerns were reflected in mumbles and uncomfortable chuckles - a quiet riot of sorts. Seemingly from this, and from the example of the Batsheva Ensemble, it appears that it is everything but the theme of the dance which is getting people talking.