Thursday 21 October 2010

Right into her seat

As ever, the prospect of an evening watching dance provided a sense of anticipation, combined with the feeling: why did my own body not let me be able to do this? It is my favourite way to spend an evening, thought it has to be said that on seeing the absolute hoards of children there my emotions are mixed.

I fight past the kids blocking the aisle into a hot, poor seat with a restricted view and contemplate that it is a good job this is a free ticket. The Lowry really should segregate the paying customer from the school party to a greater extent.

Please let me kids be quiet, switch off their phones and let us concentrate. Glory be, to a greater extent this seems to be happening.

I wonder if after the Rain Forest piece the kids attention will have wandered and they wont be able to grasp the meaning in Awakenings?

I cannot bear the pain of the first dancer to move. It is hitting me so forcibly I want to put my arms around him. He has such a dreadful tic. I wonder if Fraser’s tic is like that? They are so isolated from each other, but on the outside look like a bunch of ordinary people when they are frozen.

I am being emotionally dragged into this faster and harder than I expect. The music – it is staccato and chaotic at times - aren’t they moving well to it? Hasn’t the choreographer done his homework well and felt the rhythm and the emotion. I can hardly bear to watch – the man is walking up and down into glass walls. The girl is imagining her jacket fastenings.

Well, well, two people are trying to dance together, more lyric movement and music and a hint of communication and empathy… but, oh no, she has frozen. And again I wish I could help her communicate with the man.

I wish I could see the whole stage – this seat is awful - why are the speakers arrayed there so they maximise the intrusion on the sight line?

Now where are we going? Oh yes, repetition. Good. That is so relevant here. More repetition of movement. Clever stuff and I love the interpretation of the music. The girls sitting next to me are being so good. They are sunk down in their chairs. Is that because teenagers slouch or because of the power of live performance?

Oh Janet, why did they keep you alive so long after your stroke? This is why we went through what we did to go and talk to you, just in case you could hear.

There are progressively more dancers on stage now, so I think we are building to the finale. I wonder what the lady who wrote in the programme would think of this? I think they are really picking up on her moving world of consciousness that shifts near and far from her. It turns back in on her all the time and never stops. Yes! They have got it, the lone male turning and turning amongst the static dancers. And so it goes on and on.

My god I am tired. I have to write about this when I get back and how am I going just to say what I saw and keep it separate from my emotions? This is not going to be straightforward.

Thank god there will be a lot of coaches in the car park should be ok to get out of. I am so glad I had a chance to engage with this piece.

This is a really interesting piece of writing by Sheila, an experienced dance spectator and non-writer. It clearly draws upon both the free writing exercises she did immediately after the performance and the chart exercise recording the performance, thoughts of the performance and distractions. What it very powerfully does is place the reader into her mind as if at the moment of watching, with all the thoughts and feelings that go through ones head at that moment. I say as if for this is inevitably a consciously and selective reconstruction of that experience - it adopts the literary device of stream of consciousness but is not literally such from the moment itself.

What makes it so evocative, however, is its construction of a sense of honesty. Whether Sheila is slightly exaggerating or sending up or being entirely truthful in her portray of herself we cannot know, probably all three at once. Either way the character presented is at moments unsympathetic (if understandable) in her somewhat snotty depiction of the 'children' in the audience and yet at the same piece of writing utterly sympathetic and clearly moved in a really heartfelt manner by the performance. The blurring and moving between idle thoughts about the car park; evaluative comments on the choreography; personal connotations with friends or family who have been in a similar situation; bitchy comments about the theatre or rest of the audience all feels utterly true and utterly persuasive.

Indeed, Sheila's writing was truly persuasive, particularly in its rendering of such an emotional and intelligent response to Awakenings. As the workshop ended one of the other participants, who had largely dismissed Awakenings, commented to Sheila that listening to her had changed his mind about the piece. 'I think I missed it entirely' he said. Listening to somebody so entirely engaged and responsive to a piece of art is an experience that has something of the qualities of perceiving an evocative piece of art for oneself.


  1. Dancers will really go to love your work and your blog too. You have shared something beyond our imagination. Great share and work. Keep it up

  2. This post is well, full of complaints. No offense. Very critical but I guess that is exactly what dance spectators do. What do I know.