People need to see this.

This is not a special place but what we are seeing right here is special.

I want to explain but I don’t know how. I don’t know where to find the words. Are there even words for this?

What does it mean? Does it have to mean something? Does the choreographer know what she is trying to convey and the story she wants her dancers to tell? If we asked each of the dancers what the performance means, would they all give the same answer? Do we need to understand what the choreographer is trying to convey for the piece to work? Does it mean different things to different people? Does it mean different things to the same person on different occasions?

Is there a right answer? I’m scared of saying the wrong thing. I’m scared of looking foolish. I’m scared to admit I don’t get it. I feel it but I don’t get it. I feel it, that’s for sure. The performance arouses strong emotions in me. Emotions, not meaning. Do I have to find words for the intangible, evocative language of the soul?

I can tell you what I see. Is that enough? This is what I see.

I see hostility. No compassion. Touch that is not connection. A heap of humanity right there on the floor. Together and yet unbearably alone. Individuals observing one another, carrying one another, reaching out to one another – but still individuals, still wrapped up in their own angst, still trapped inside their own skulls.

I’ve read something like this before. Back when I was studying English A level. Back when I was the age of these young dancers. “No matter how I reach out towards you or you reach towards me, we are still locked in our skulls as before” – James Saunders ‘Next time I’ll sing to you’. That’s it right there. That’s what this reminds me of.

I’ve seen something like this before too. Just this week. A moving slideshow of an incredible sculpture – BURNING MAN 2015 BY ALEXANDER MILOV . It makes me want to cry. Just like this performance.

What else do I see?

I see Alyssa Lisle bringing a sensuality to her spirals, her contraction and release, her breathing. Every sense is on fire. Fully engaged. Her technique is so much more than technique. She gets it. She lives it. She breathes it. She’s exploring her whole body, all that she has, testing it, seeing what she is capable of doing with it.

I see Jen Handley working out how to express her inner struggle in her movement and expression. A visual manifestation of the music. Her soul is crying out. Her movement is playing her soul’s melody. She seems alone. Terribly alone. The others are not even watching. But I am watching. I am her witness. A helpless observer.

EliotI see Eliot Smith writhing in uncertainty. Moved by an inner compulsion. Twisting and turning. Looking for release. For relief. But there is none to be found. There’s a strength and fragility, a rawness and vulnerability that are uncomfortable to observe. I want to turn away, but I find I can’t. I’m transfixed.

I see much that moves me. Time stands still. Something important is happening here. I see my own condition. My own feelings of isolation. Of being misunderstood. Of not belonging. Not fitting in. I see myself.

So I am not alone. You know how I feel. You are expressing it right before my eyes.

I am not alone. I am connected. We are connected.

I see that now.

Photo credit: Jason Holcombe Copyright Eliot Smith Company

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1 Comment

  1. Mark This March 24, 2016 / 8:49 am

    Thanks for your review Helen. Having seen this performance too I can fully understand your struggle to find meaning and to process your emotional response. I have had similar experiences when connecting with art and abstract art in particular.

    Many years ago I was working in cities in a busy vibrant work space. Any breaks that I got I went out for a walk looking for some physical and mental space where I could slow down. Fortunately this is where I discovered the peace and quiet of the art gallery.

    At first I was shocked by my confusion when looking at the pieces on display and thought that I should either like or dislike what I saw.

    Having now spent lots of time and and emotional energy working through this and many others questions around my own ability to process my emotions I have come to understand and accept that when I join in with anothers emotional inner world I neither need to like or dislike or to understand… what I can do is allow myself to travel on this journey without any attachment to arriving.

    Your honest piece has helped me put this into words, so thanks for taking the time and making the effort to express yourself honestly.

    Dance is one of the many art forms that express the humanity and human condition that is so endlessly fascinating, contradictory, frustrating and joyous! It is also something that it seems all humans throughout history have found it hard not to do. Long may we have the energy to dance.

    Best wishes, Mark.

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