Written by Shana Simmons
Let’s talk about why we applaud. In a way, the performer’s act of bowing is easy. I can’t remember the last time I was at a show when the audience did NOT applaud. It reminds me of the new fad of “everyone gets a ribbon.” The performers are always thanked by the audience even if not paid well for their performance...in the restaurant industry we would call it a verbal tip (vs a monetary tip) and while appreciated, is unacceptable. This immediate act of recognition and thanks for your performance is important to performers, but where does that leave the hierarchy for the standing ovation? Are we jaded into thinking what we do is always good?
In Pittsburgh, I don’t know if we’re starved for the arts or just super nice people, but almost every audience gives standing ovations to the performers. I’m not saying this is good or bad, but want to question how an audience can express their sincere appreciation when something really DOES move them? I think there are a few key categories for assessing dance and art quality, and points of interest to keep in mind as an audience member (including but not limited to):
1. Physicality: If the performer can do things other dancers cannot, if they have perfected their technical skill and physique to a high level...
2. Production: If the choreography, set, lighting, overall production has impressed you, if the use of these elements is creative, never seen before, given meaning in new ways...
3. Choreography: This is harder to define in the good/bad terminology, because, to each their own. BUT, to those that are educated about dance and movement, in my humble opinion, choreography should be unique movement creation (hopefully generated by the choreographer, but if not, give credit to the dancers’ inventions) and choreography should be assessed by the creative putting together of movements and patterns in space. There are so many styles of choreography which speaks to a large range of individuals. I could break this down further into assessing what has come before, are you breaking the bounds of dance as we know it, etc, but for a generalized version of whether or not to applaud, let’s assume we’re referencing an audience that isn’t in the field.
4. Impact: All of the above means nothing if the show or piece has impacted you. This can happen to anyone at anytime. It also nullifies all of the assessments listed above: a pedestrian can move someone if their gesture is done with feeling, a simplistic production can impact an audience more than the flash and show of a million dollar production. This also indicates that the level of audience appreciation, whether to applaud, to stand and applaud, to hoop and holler...all of it is subjective.
I’m questioning the validity of recognition of performers from audiences that are trained to applaud as a sign of respect and appreciation, not as a gauge of quality. And also questioning how are artists recognized as quality artists, appreciated artists, artists that make an impact, to the outside world, when it really boils down to subjectivity anyways? We all can’t receive the Princess Grace Award.
Working for Applause #3: The submissiveness of the bow
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offerings from shana & company members
Something to read while laying in bed, on the subway or tube, or during your morning constitutional.