I have been trying to formulate my thoughts on the Wen Wei Dance show that I experienced on Wednesday night for quite some time now. Not one to normally experience a knee-jerk reaction after having seen a show, I usually need some time to mull over what I saw before I can really know my thoughts about it. However, the amount of time this show has taken me has gotten excessive. I can only find it fit, then, to assume that I have mixed feelings. Double-sided tape.
To begin, after mulling a bit, it WAS easy for me to realize how much training a lot in one certain form can skew your perception of everything you see. By that, I mean that when I was training in mostly modern in university, I saw shows akin to this all the time, and, while they often did not move mountains for me, they were a mode of thought easy to tap into. Due to the frequency with which I saw such shows, I also noticed less when I felt that the vocabulary looked awful similar from one show to the next. Because I was seeing so much of the same kind of movement, it was harded to discern the fact that much of it, when looking in from outside, seems recycled. After spending the greater portion of the year training with DJD, I noticed quickly how much this show seemed to look like so many of the other shows I was seeing in the Twin Cities. DJD has altered my outlook on dance quite a bit this year. At least in practice. Purpose for and connection with the music is such a large part of what is done at DJD, and one of my favorite parts. I like to dance when I am out at a club just as much as I like to dance on stage, and the common thread between those two things - music. Dance existing as a spawn of the music is NOT something that should be looked down upon. So much of the modern and contemporary schools believe that the dance should come first, and the music be created for it. While I appreciate this idea and sometimes engage in it myself, I do not think it is the be-all-end-all of dance. I am modivated to move most often by the sounds and music I hear, so to me, this is simply, often the most authentic way for me to get engaged in dance. And authenticity is a concept that is arguably important to all dance practicioners across the board.
That being said, I had a very hard time with the sound scape in the show. The choreographer's notes explained that the concept is trying to explore dual cultures, being a Chinese-born Canadian. He wanted to do this though the use of Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons.' I heard the first season worked into the scratchy, repetative soundscape, but none of the next three because I had been placed into a lull by the surrounding sounds. The soundscape did very little for me because it never went anywhere. Apparently the concept surrounded the idea of a day or a year in the life of, and while I can see that one might envision such a cycle as relatively consistent, it can also be thought (and I think would be more effective) that a day or year cycle has many ups and downs, both major and minor, so why not show that? I think that came through here and there decently well in the choreography, but my ability to really bite into the dance I was watching was negated by the sound that NEVER seemed to shift. It made me think about what I was going to eat when I got home a couple times, as well as let my eyes droop more than a few times. I am not trying to say that all dance has to be directly connected to the music, but if you are going to have music, find a way to make it purposeful somehow. I almost thought that this show could have been performed in near silence and that it would have affected me nearly as well. I am simply saying that training with DJD this year has made my eyes, ears and mind keen to the purpose with the music, and really further developed my love for dance that really USES the music.
An additional side-affect that I have experienced from training at DJD this year is really knowing not just the intention, but how you fit into it. Knowing the choreographer's intention is all fine and good, but if you do not know how to help it come across, something is missing. Here, to find that, it has been combinations of speaking with the choreographer, creating a back story or character for yourself, going through the dance and examining where you have opportunities to exploit these ideas, and also finding opportunities to connect with one another as ideas or characters if that is what the dance calls for. These are just examples. But the through-line - KNOWING the ways in which how you perform can help to communicate the idea. The movements alone are not enough - they must be executed the right way to really get things across. I think that the dancers in this show did the best with what they had. I saw loose relationships develop that seemed to suggest that they were just examples of what a certain relationship can look and behave like without creating a specific story about Jane and John Doe who were dancing together. This idea was aided by some really physically interesting and innovative partnering that was executed astonishingly. Overall, I DID get the feeling that these were many different people moving through many different things, but I felt for awhile like these things were supposed to be important, considering that the choreographer returned to many specific formations and repeated certain gestures, but with the nonchalantness with which the repeats were performed, and against a non-changing sound backdrop, it was hard to try and distinguish why the repeated situations were important at all.
In regards to the 'generic people experiencing things' idea previously mentioned, I felt that the vocabulary for the most part was conducive to this, but the very beginning scene, in which the dancers walk out and stand in parallel facing forward and staring into the audience, was clique and unnecessary. I hate the word clique, and honestly belive that if something such as that was imporant to you as the choreographer to include, more power to you. However, I cannot as an audience member shake the fact that the only impact that image had on me was 'modern dance staring. 'I am every man, and I make that clear by standing here in the beginning and staring at you before I move.'' I would have been happy for them to have simply launched into the next sequence, which was one straight line running from up to down stage, which moved across from St R to St L in interesting patterns that came back later in the dance.
All in all, such observations as the one I made above are likely clearer to me considering the fashion of my training as of late. Who knows - maybe if I had been training in a modern school all year, I would have raved about it. However, I know myself well enough to doubt this. I think I have simply had the opportunity to better understand why it is that I enjoy dance, and much of that has to do with music. I felt about this show much like the function of double-sided tape; Opposed.