“We cannot hide much at all without stage lights, wings, and, well, distance.”
A great majority of careers involve work done on an individual, private basis—time spent in offices, writing reports, tweaking budgets, making plans. Every job requires some type of busy work—time and energy spent that the public never witnesses—out of sight, out of mind. In the world of the arts, the daily toil and sweat we contribute is rarely witnessed, but the product is available to all, out on the stage.
Non-traditional dance venues do not provide the comforts of the theater. We cannot hide much at all without stage lights, wings, and, well, distance. We’re out on the front lines. This past weekend I completed two successful performances (my first, formal affair in about six months!) in a studio theater setting-Charlottesville Ballet’s biannual UpFront event. It’s an event that I love, but an extraordinary challenge as well.
What I thrive off of is the interaction. I, personally, love to be able to make eye contact with audience members and see their immediate reactions. You are able to look out directly onto the faces of friends and loved ones and be fueled by their energy towards you. Countless times I have been motivated to struggle through a piece and forge on because of a smiling, encouraging face in the crowd, sometimes familiar, sometimes new.
“[You can] make eye contact with audience members and see their immediate reactions…On the other hand, sometimes this intrusive proximity is nerve-racking, at best.”
On the other hand, sometimes this intrusive proximity is nerve-racking, at best. Any mistake made or doubt shown is magnified times ten when the eyes of the spectators are so close at hand. The basic rights of sweating and even breathing seem to pose as awkward, when you’re planted within six feet of a crowd. And this is not to say that as artists (and as humans) we are not allowed these privileges. But the closeness of our dear audience does make us dreadfully conscience of our bodies and our control of them. But in the end, whatever’s gonna happen, is gonna happen; it’s all part of the experience.
Despite the pressures of a literally “in your face” audience, neither we, nor said audience, can deny the energy cultivated by such a performance. Performers and audience members alike are inspired by this type of venue. There is something captivating and honest about such a format. It offers a chance for artists to display their work in pure form. It’s down and dirty, on the front lines, movement-up close and personal.