If you want to say something should you use dance to say it?

Should dance just be dance pure and simple.  Physical,  joyful, technically accomplished.  Should dance just be about dancing? or its relation to music? with a bit of background reference which you don’t need to understand.   Should it tell a story? should it be abstract?

Can we have another definition of a dance which includes text or visuals or ideas.

Would that be dance theatre? would it be physical theatre? would it be art with words and movement? would it be theatre?  Or is it simply too confused and poor to warrant a definition and shouldn’t be daring to present itself on a stage? ( I got this impression reading a recent review by Thomas Stell on Oxford Dance writers)

photo. David Fisher

photo. David Fisher

I think the latest Moving with the Times demonstrated that the label ‘dance’ is problematic when it comes to describing this kind of  work and gives the audience a set of preconceptions which are unhelpful when it comes to appreciating what is being offered.  I don’t blame them being disappointed if they have shown up to see ‘pure’ dance: athleticism, grace, flexibility, beauty, control and fluidity (movement that they themselves know they could not do). I would be too.

Why are Oxford dancers using so much other ‘stuff’? (words, props, projections etc)  Do they lack confidence in their ability to dance or to convey meaning through dance?  Or may be they can’t dance?  What are they doing on stage?  Are they self indulgent? Do they have anything to offer at all?

If you are a dancer and you want to communicate something to your audience (beyond your skill at whatever dance technique you have trained in) can you use dance alone to do that? will your audience ‘get’ what you are saying?  Why are we feeling the need to use words at the moment?

In the past in making work I have not felt the need to ‘say’ something and could be content with the joy of movement, power of presence  and visual imagery.  I found meanings for myself  but did not mind if the audience found them or not.  Today  I feel the need to communicate, to express what is bothering me, to show what we have in common, what is going on.  Although I still can’t quite find the words to express the sense of unease I have at the moment about the way our society works and my place in it with its prioritising of the ‘productive’ the ‘packaged’ the ‘useful’ at the expense of the more nebulous areas of art, time and humanity.



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