Emotion and the Arts

By Mette Hjort; Sue Laver | Go to book overview

8
Emotion and Emotions in Theatre Dance

FRANCIS SPARSHOTT

Theatre dance is an art of the theatre, and there is a common aesthetic of theatre arts. Drama, dance, opera, mime, theatrical displays, and performance arts generally share a common space, the stage, and a common destiny, presentation to an audience. The arts overlap and blend: whatever shares that space and that destiny belongs to a powerfully unifying reality, theatricality. What is specific to dance (on some interpretations, in some ideologies) is submerged in and may be overwhelmed by the unifying culture of the theatre. That is the first thing to bear in mind.

The topic of emotion in theatre arts sends us back to Plato's supposed thesis in Book X of his Republic, that theatre threatens morality by putting emotion where rationality should be. But Plato was referring to the specific genre of tragedy, and the use of that genre as a medium for moral instruction, and his contention was that the conditions of presentation make the audience respond emotionally to what is before them -- rather than think about the psychological and social realities involved -- and portray the characters as behaving emotionally rather than dealing with the realities of their situation. The objection is not to emotion, in the sense of strong feeling about one's situation, but to emotionality, in the sense of indulging one's inner feelings without close relation to the situation in which one acts. If one wants to consider Plato's views on emotion in theatre arts, one should not ignore the extended discussion in his Laws, where civic ceremonies involving dance movement symbolize and

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