Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Ailey Ascending; Photo by Serena SY Hsu
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Ailey Ascending; Photo by Serena SY Hsu

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AUDIENCE REVIEW: Possibilities of Dialogue: An Interactive, Online Event

Possibilities of Dialogue: An Interactive, Online Event

Company:
David Norsworthy and Marielis Garcia, presented on Zoom by TOES FOR DANCE

Performance Date:
Sunday, November 1st

Freeform Review:

Between 3:15 and 4:45pm on Sunday, November 1st, I saw a screen evenly divided into two and later four square panes. In each pane was a different person, breathing, moving, sometimes speaking, and often smiling in a different room, in a different home, in a different configuration of three-dimensionally criss-crossing painter’s tape. The people did not see me. 

But they peered out in my direction intermittently, between bouts of focused navigation around the lines of the tape. While they were joined in action at that time in those places because I was watching, along with almost 30 other people, they did not appear to be performing for us. Their intent focus on spontaneously circumventing the tape (without touching it) in a way that was repeatable - and which they continuously repeated in many iterations as it accumulated - was palpable. I saw each of them discovering pathways in real time that they had never travelled before. 

I saw them “playing” by a predetermined set of rules only they knew. Their specificity created suspense; I wanted to figure out the rules. But I couldn’t guess them all. And that mattered less and less than sensing the integrity in their effort. 

In Part 1, choreographers David and Marielis seemed to undertake the accumulation task with their words as they waded back and forth through a kaleidoscope of language describing a live version of the work. Part 2 introduced the other two dancers into the physical version of the accumulation task, navigating the tape. Then they had to answer the audience’s questions verbally on the spot, while continuing the physical task. In Part 3, they each, one at a time, directed the others to move through the intricacies of their own physical sequence using only the descriptive language that came to them in the moment. 

I saw them work to complete their tasks. I heard them comment, I heard them pant, I heard them giggle, I heard them apologize, I heard them ask each other questions, I heard them answer each other’s questions, I heard them answer mine. 

Whenever they shifted back to look in my direction, sometimes mid-task and always upon completing their tasks, they were looking for each other. 

One of their rules seemed to require everyone to look at their screens at the same moment whenever any one of them said “eyes”. In a check-in between sections they mentioned how easy it was to lose each other if they looked away for too long. In an in-person venue, peripheral vision and 360-degree physical awareness would be enough to maintain togetherness. Online, the only connection to each other is in one direction, through the screen. 

They employed the same spectator’s method that I was using to watch them to connect and coordinate with each other. I saw them simultaneously functioning as doers and viewers. 

They became audience members to each other. 

How better to interrogate the possibilities of dialogue in this paralyzed time than to multiply and amplify the opportunities for listening? Two dialoguing bodies become four, one shared space becomes eight (audience members could toggle between two different camera angles on each dancer), and one performance becomes, through the three parts in four different bodies, an exponentially larger number of tasks. More doing necessitates more viewing. More speaking necessitates more listening. The people on my screen had to check in with each other to make sure they were synchronized. They couldn’t go on without the others.

Each time they returned their eyes to each other’s, which also meant they were returning to mine, I felt a fiber of my Zoom fatigue release. Assurance. Grounding. If you can’t listen as well as speak, you can’t have a conversation. Here we all are.

Dialogue happens in the checking in, checking back, and moving on together. David and Marielis and Lilly and Kevin could not have engaged their audience in a more timely experiment a couple of days before the US presidential election.

Author:
Ingrid Kapteyn


Website:
https://www.toesfordance.ca


Photo Credit:
TOES FOR DANCE

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