Last Thursday, we had a short, informal performance with the Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance that included our Twyla Tharp class! We were going to perform outside during the monthly First Thursdays event, but rain took us inside to the School of Public Health’s dance room, where our audience sat right in front of us. It was really fun to have the audience so close and so involved in what we were doing!
We gave them a sample of the technique we do in class—like triplets and chasé combinations—and then performed phrases 8 (everyday gestures), 6 (tap or tempo), and 4 (speed) at different speeds. Having an audience at the same level and in the same space as the performer is a rare opportunity that provides a lot of benefits, especially when it comes to Twyla’s choreography. Her work is less “flashy” than some other ways of performing and more based off the everyday gestures and actions of regular human beings, so performing in a space where you’re removed from and placed above the audience—like in a proscenium stage—might feel disingenuous. I think it was significant for the audience members and the performers to be in the same space with the same lighting. I’m sure, to some, it may have been awkward or uncomfortable, but it’s always a good experience to do something outside your comfort zone!
Further, the informality of the performance in general—no makeup, no costumes, no special music or lighting—really lent itself to a unique experience that fits the aesthetic of Twyla’s choreography better than a formal performance. Being on the same wavelength as the performers probably made the audience appreciate the rawness of what they were seeing and feel a greater connection to the human core of the performers and the work.