10 September 2010

Democratic Dance Spectacle

Democratic Dance Spectacle

Chris Tobo

Last night I entered the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre to see “The Making of Spectacles”, by Swiss choreographer Foofwa d'Imobilité.

I was mildly surprised to find the performers (including fellow Swiss Anja Schmidt, British dancer Ruth Childs and Burkinabé Filibert Tologo) on the stage, not even in costume yet, nonchalantly making preparations for this eccentric showcase. Foofwa, a ballet-trained dancer and choreographer who has danced professionally with the Stuttgart Ballet, in Germany, and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, in New-York, attempts to create an environment of fun experimentation and collaboration.

The stage looks a royal mess: half the cyclorama (which serves as a projection surface) is exposed under a fallen black curtain and the lighting stands on one side of the stage are in full view. Furthermore, when the show begins (with an entertaining introduction from the choreographer) the house lights are left on. Half the fun of theatre is sharing this show or that with dozens of other people, all looking the same way in the dark. Theatre is communal, right? It's about disappearing in a crowd, while the talented folks get on with it on stage? Not so with this show.

“The Making of Spectacles” is a dance theatre piece that takes the concept of the democratic process to its illogical conclusion: the audience is invited to participate by democratically choosing dance phrases, dramatic scenarios, music, lighting design, and costuming to create their own theatre experience. The process itself is a fun, informal interactive theatre with a relaxed feel.

The resulting show becomes a piece of radical theatre that defies audience expectations and critiques the notion of artistic choice. As clever as the concept is, however, the show itself that the group finally performs is not entirely watchable. Most of the time the dancers perform on a poorly lit stage (the audience choice of lighting was the previous performance’s lighting) in their lime green Lycra making indecipherable noises to a migraine inducing soundtrack. Several of the audience members sigh in relief at the end, grateful for the ordeal to be over.

Though the work is not entirely enjoyable, I believe it delivers important observations about the relationship between art and the public through the insightful deconstruction of theatrical conventions.  

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