San Francisco Ballet, choreography by Jerome Robbins and Yuri Possokhov
Sitting in Row E.
In big theaters, I don’t choose to sit this close – Row E – but for this performance I did. Sitting here, I could watch the detailed movements of the feet and even the sweat on faces and backs. It was a perfect location to take in all the delicate surprises of Dances at a Gathering. The subtle gestures and weight shifting were delightful, and I reveled in live accompaniment – Chopin. I could have watched that piece again and again. It was one of those dances that I could see myself dancing. I felt close to this piece; I wanted to touch it.
Row E was not the perfect location, however, to watch Swimmer; I am not sure there was a perfect location. Confession: I did not read the program notes. Hindsight: I should of read the program notes. A week later, I am still trying to figure out why people like this piece. I just couldn’t connect with it. Yes, there was some good dancing, but I couldn’t figure out what the dance was saying or asking. What was I being asked to consider or think about? I don’t mind when a dance makes me work, but I do mind when a dance only seems to be speaking for itself.
It took me a while to figure this out. When asked how I felt about this piece my gut responses were, “waste of resources” and “too much going on.” Yet, as I sat lingered with the dance (including the program notes) for a bit, I realized my discontent was rooted elsewhere. The program notes suggest that the thinking behind the piece works from “deeply personal experiences,” which are left for the viewer to make any interpretation. Yet, I didn’t get the sense that I was invited into to these experiences, into Possokhov’s concepts, point-of-views, etc. Instead, I was just watching from a distance.
Often, there is already enough distance between the dancing and audience when sitting in the theater. The differences in watching (and writing about) these two pieces reminded me that the presence and action of distance can matter in dance, which can be deeply personal, highly contextual, and even physical.