For me writing on dance has been a form of documentation. Each text is always an attempt to capture verbally something that has evaporated physically. The form’s requirement to be documented in writing is questioned by the visual access afforded by ArtStreamingTV's live broadcasts of some of this year’s festival pieces. It does so in such a way that, bewilderingly, many can have a personal, yet mediated, experience of a performance. In such a context this technical milestone questions my job as a writer.
The call for expressions of interest to take part in the Springback Academy promised mentorship in quality dance criticism. The texts we produced were subsequently posted on the Springback Academy website in an attempt to “stimulate conversations online that will enable Aerowaves to connect with digitally active dance enthusiasts across Europe–ensuring people who are not in Barcelona share ideas, thoughts and views.” However, in a round of introductions prior to the festival, and again during a panel discussion titled Critical Issues, seemingly conflicting efforts at Spring Forward to (i) encourage discussions about dance online, and (ii) simultaneously problematise dance criticism published/posted online, became apparent.
We don’t need to be scientists to know that, mainly, the universe depends on movement. The smallest atoms, as well as the farthest planets, dance in space. And then there’s the realm of live bodies for whom movement in itself is a symptom of life.
72 hours in Barcelona, 23 performances to watch and only 140 words with which to lay out your thoughts about each one on virtual paper; and this after a long day, when Barcelona starts to gorge its artery with late night drinkers.
By definition a spectator is ‘a person who is present at and views a spectacle’.
A viewer is ‘a person or thing that views’. The audience, spectators at a public event, collectively view. But a ‘reader’ can ‘look carefully so as to understand the meaning’, ‘apprehend or interpret the meaning’ and still has room to ‘make out the significance by scrutiny or observation’. If audiences were called 'readers' rather than viewers how different might that feel?
Aerowaves raised a bunch (a tremendous bunch) of questions about performance, dance, audience reception and everything entangled in between. Gulping down 23 shows in one go – which neither our brain, nor our eyes nor our senses are prepared for – raised the questions: what’s making it work for me? What makes one performance stand out from others?
Dance on stage has many simultaneous layers. Besides, it is ephemeral: watching dance is chasing something that it is already not there.
Things peculiarly clarifying (yet also potentially distorted) happen when you attempt to digest 23 largely 40-minute dance works in two and half days. You start to get a stronger sense of what you might want from live performance generally and, perhaps, dance in particular.
It is a tricky era to watch contemporary dance.
Watching 23 live dance shows over one weekend is not your everyday audience’s experience. I found it induced an addictive state of emotional and intellectual overdrive — you know you can’t really cope with another show but you just can’t bear to miss one either. Nor miss being part of the debate…
In the last decade we have been witnessing the emergence of new choreographing practices in the performing arts. There has been a great shift in choreographic scores and it is becoming commonplace to consider dance a hybrid art exploring the many possibilities of physical articulation.
They say dance is a universal language, because movement is wordless. Okay, the image is neither exact nor exactly true; but there is truth in it.