As I have mentioned before, dance is the art form that I have the least affinity with. My podiatrist many years ago told me that due to my high arches I have dancers feet, yet my natural connectedness to dance stops at my ankles.
There are exceptions to this highly generalized negative attitude, such as the recent Philippe Découflé performance, yet just when I think my attitude is changing a performance comes along that sends me hurtling back to my dance non-predilection. This performance was by the Toronto contemporary dance company, Dance Makers.
To clarify, I have no beef with contemporary dance, when it's done well it's my favourite dance manifestation. There have also been times where I've seen dance performances so atrocious that I've been mesmerized and amused by the horror of them, so in a round about way I have enjoyed them too.
Dance Makers' performance fit into neither of these categories and was an experience of pure visual and mental torture.
I will concede that the performance was an excerpt from a forthcoming show so it didn't have the advantages of lighting and costume to help ease the pain, but my instincts are certain that the experience wouldn't have been any less horrific.
All artists tend to take themselves too seriously. If you work in any arts field, you quickly become aware as to just how self-consumed most "Creatives" are. The trick that makes this either charming or mesmerizing to the public, is the Creatives' mastery at transforming their egoism into charm, eccentricity, theatricality, joie de vivre or mischievous humour. These dancers obviously missed this crucial lesson and just appeared to be sullen and self-consumed.
When we arrived the dancers were scattered around the room intensely preparing, a bit of a kick here, a sway to the side there, but they were far too obviously oblivious of their onlookers. I knew that I was unimpressed with this micro-demonstration of their so called abilities when I thought to myself "couldn't they have done this in another room?"
The actual performance was in three parts - a duet, a group piece and a solo.
We were informed prior, that the duet was originally choreographed as a piece for two men but this performance was the "world premiere" interpretation featuring a male and female partnering. I wish I hadn't had the privilege, after ten minutes of watching the female dancer throw the male dancer around the room in a over-dramatized enactment of repeated rejection that had no subtly, variance or purpose my only thoughts were "man this guy likes to be dominated" and "I wouldn't think this piece was so trite if it had been two male dancers, but only just".
I can't really comment on the group piece as I was so utterly bored and horrified, I spent the duration trying to think of ways to read my book without being obvious. I do know that the dancers had direct input into the choreography, I would probably suggest that they desist with this practice in future.
The solo held my attention momentarily because the dancer was initially on a swing, I was drawn to the prop. Two minutes in I was once again mentally willing the performance to be over. The soloist appeared to be attempting to execute quasi-robotic movements. I have nothing against robotic inspired movements, the Melbourne based contemporary dance company Chunky Move often utilize them, except they do it convincingly, purposefully and often with an injection of irony of humour. This dancer's interpretation just looked odd and suggested that she might unfortunately be afflicted with turrets or epilepsy.
By the time I was finally released from the torturous experience I realized that a contributing factor in my negativity was how underwhelmed I was by the dancers' physicality and abilities. I envision dancers with lean, muscular yet graceful bodies that you can't help but envy. These 'dancers' didn't look like dancers and one in particular, I'm certain is anorexic, I couldn't look at as I found her so disturbing. I am relatively lean and have broad shoulders and strong legs, my housemate commented that I look more like a dancer than they do.
The other feeling I usually get when I see a professional dance performance is awe at the dancers' abilities and I often desperately wish I could move as they do. With this performance, which lacked any grace or technical mastery, I felt that with a bit of practice I could accomplish the moves myself, which is never a good thing.
I left with my in a nutshell description of the performance as being self-indulgent, drivel and would not recommend it to anyone.