Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Things to Watch For

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Things to Watch For

Article excerpt

Modern dance can be appreciated on many levels, but four seem to be especially key: the emotional, intellectual, visual, and kinetic. The most-resonant dance works usually combine all four of these in varying balances.

Keeping these elements in mind can add to your enjoyment by giving you insights into what the choreographer may have intended in creating the work.

EMOTIONAL Part of any art's enduring appeal and power is its ability to move people's emotions. In dance, this happens most often through setting up a context in which a story is told or specific feelings are brought to the fore. In modern dance, this ranges from works that are as much theater as dance - presenting vivid characters and clear-cut narratives (Martha Clarke is one of the chief exponents of this kind of dance theater) - to works that only briefly allude to human emotions.

Love can be expressed by the slightest of tender gestures. Anger can be suggested by the merest jerk of a limb. Emotion in dance can be expressed by full-blown pantomime or through subtle nuances that can make a different impression on each viewer.

Sometimes choreographers aim to create ambiguity that compels audiences to bring their own backgrounds and experiences to the interpretive challenge, and no two people will see the work in quite the same way. The Japanese team Eiko and Koma, for example, create long, slow-moving works amidst a rich variety of imagery that can draw the mind and heart in a number of different directions at once.

INTELLECTUAL Often a work is created around a concept that has little or nothing to do with emotion, but is crafted more as an intellectual exercise.

The challenge for the viewer is to solve the puzzle, to figure out what the choreographer is doing and where he or she is going as the work unfolds. There is a stimulating, cerebral quality in works such as those by Merce Cunningham and Trisha Brown that often lingers long after the specifics have faded from memory. …

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