Non-review: Isadora Duncan shows us how it’s done

[“Non-review” means a blog post which focuses on a specific dance show or performance but does not offer a review or criticism of the work. Instead a non-review explores issues or ideas within dance that the work brings to light or discusses questions stirred in some way by the performance. My aim is not to rate the work as an individual piece but to frame it in the broader context of dance analysis and history and allow it to spark deeper conversation.]

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of viewing a performance by Word Dance Theater, a DC-based company dedicated to “preserving, illuminating, and building upon the philosophy and choreography of Isadora Duncan” through education and performance. Led by Artistic Director Cynthia Word, the company performed a mixed program of restaged Duncan works as well as original pieces influenced by the spirit and movement style of Duncan’s choreography.

To be completely honest, I did not get a ticket to see Word Dance Theater but to see my friend perform in the other company that shared the evening performance. And in fact, my friend and I were joking before the show about the skipping about in tunics and melodramatic posing I was going to have to endure before seeing her own company perform.

Boy, was I wrong.

Instead of antiquated movements and gestures and repetitious flouncing about (expectations created from pictures and bits of video on Duncan I remembered from undergrad), what I experienced was some of the most clear, unadulterated, powerful dance I have ever seen.

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Non-review: Does a dance audience ever witness real emotion?

The other night I saw Faye Driscoll’s recent work, There is so much mad in me, at Dance Theater Workshop. While I do not wish to critique the work, I would definitely recommend seeing one of her shows in the future. After the show, I talked with one of my good friends who was a dancer in the piece. He was sharing his experience performing a particular part of the dance, a very dramatic and theatrical solo that included some audience interaction. And his description of the performer’s perspective reminded me of an ongoing discussion in dance theory about emotions in performance.

In the book The Performer-Audience Connection: Emotion to Metaphor in Dance and Society, Judith Lynne Hanna explores dancer perspectives and audience responses on conveying emotion in various forms of dance. To frame the discussion, she highlights particular dance theorists that continue to inform views of artists today.

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