Magazine article Dance Magazine

Spectators at an Event

Magazine article Dance Magazine

Spectators at an Event

Article excerpt

Attending a performance is a lot like spying, with the audience a mob of licensed voyeurs. The dancers are often fictively blind to our presence, and we train an avid gaze on their every move. Susan Marshall's Spectators at an Event emphasizes this point and turns it on its head. In the initial moments of the piece a rolling onstage spotlight insistently captures a pair of dancers in its searing, inquisitive beam. When one of them collapses, the bright probe ruthlessly exposes personal calamity as a matter of public interest. Later, a group gathers, people eagerly vying for a better view of some unspecified attraction. Bathed by GOrecki's mournful, foreboding Second String Quartet (played live by the Cassatt String Quartet), similar events unfold with a dark and dangerous edge, little mitigated by Marshall's sporadic use of folk-dance material: linked stomping lines, circles upon circles of life-affirming humanity.

Reinforcing the choreographic images of ogling, prying, and peeping are projected photographs by Weegee (Arthur Fellig), whose camera's eye focused on attentive crowds. The photographer watched bystanders as they reacted--horrified, dismayed, amused --to something they saw. And suddenly, during the dance, it seems as if we, the audience members, are what they are seeing, their eyes staring--with horror, dismay, amusement--straight out at us. This is the crack in the proscenium's invisible fourth wall, and the dancers, their ranks bolstered by untrained pedestrians, break all the way through. As bright houselights flick on, they invade the private sphere of the audience, running down the aisles, whispering to us, even videotaping us ana replacing, up on the big screen, the faces of Weegee's subjects with our own spied-upon countenances. …

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