“As We Are” premiers this weekend at BYU for DancEnsemble’s Fall concert VITAL SIGNS. Unlike most of my work, which is usually physically complicated and even irksome to the the body, As We Are is a soft, flowing, and quietly beautiful piece that shows dancers working in their raw, yet lovely, element.
One of the most challenging aspects of the piece was to break the dancers from their “performance self” and train them to just “be themselves” on stage. My favorite moments, which is shown in the above photo, is when the dancers stop and watch the audience. Audiences always come to watch dancers, but I love this opportunity for the dancers to watch the audience watching them. It was interesting to see how uncomfortable the dancers were with just watching. At first, they were fidgeting and feeling like they needed to do something on stage. Observation is a common theme through the piece: dancers watching others on stage, dancers watching the audience, allowing themselves to be watched, and acknowledging that observation is part of their performance experience.
I liked building this piece because it’s made me think differently about what we truly find interesting about performance. Is it the super-human skill dancers have to defy the laws of gravity that makes us watch dance? Or is it the risk-taking? Do we like to pretend as viewers that what appears to be easy, actually is?
Some moments in As We Are, the dancers aren’t performing. They aren’t trying to create an illusion: they breath and sweat and actually fix their hair if its in their face after that just did a turn into a leap. They are simply being themselves, and that authenticity and genuine presentation is what I think makes us most interested and invested in others around us. This dance says, “I am enough, I am plain, yet unique, and this is what I am, here, for all of you to see.”
Now, as a dance artist, and with all this talk of watching, know that the dancers don’t watch and walk on stage the whole time. There is plenty of that in this post-modern world. As We Are has lots of full and flowing movement, partnering, dynamic spatial changes…because, hey, that’s what I love to create! But, as I post more from the work, just be on the lookout for those moments that say – this is me, just as I am.
Photography by LiletFoto