My two year old granddaughter has a favorite request to make when she is enjoying something. “Again? ” she sweetly asks. Her need and desire for repetition seem to be fundamental to her development and comprehension of the world around her. I’ve come to think that same need most likely exists throughout life!
Recently, I watched a stunning performance by Batsheva Dance Company of Sadeh 21. It was a visceral and emotional experience for me. It seemed as if the entire range of our often perplexing and complex human experience was being expressed onstage by the astonishing dancers, compressed into 21 contrasting and startling segments.
At the conclusion of the piece, there was polite, but unenthusiastic applause. Was I alone in the experience of believing I’d watched an artistic tour de force? I heard comments from the audience such as, “If this were NY, people would have been up on their feet, cheering!” And, ” What was that about?”
I’ve thought about these responses a lot in the days that have followed the performance.
It brought me back to the word, “Again!”
How many hours of listening does it take, to really appreciate a great work of music?
How much rereading does it take to really appreciate a great book, essay or piece of poetry?
How many times do you desire to revisit a great work of art?
With these other artistic disciplines, we usually have the luxury of time to digest the work that the composer, songwriter, painter or writer has offered us. Each time we revisit, we probably notice something else to respond to that we’d overlooked previously. Repetition allows our responses to deepen. Familiarity does not breed contempt, in a great work of music, writing, or visual art. I think that if dance audiences had the luxury of shouting “Again,” their appreciation of the art would deepen.
We rarely have that kind of familiarity in dance, with the exception of the yearly return of omnipresent Nutcracker!
Abstraction in art often breeds discomfort, but in disciplines other than dance, if we remain open, we have a chance to reabsorb what the artist is offering us. We can allow ourselves get more comfortable with “not knowing” exactly what the artist had in mind. We begin to trust our own responses, and understand that some element of mystery is usually present in a great work. Because of this, I invite audiences who are confused by dance to see more of it, if not the same work!
I hope, that I will get to see Sadeh 21 again. There’s no doubt my level of appreciation for it would deepen. But if there is no more “again,” the one performance I saw will have been a thrilling ride.
P.S. We are so proud to share with you an up-to-date interview that Rachel Howard, one of our Board members and Dance writer, scored with Ohad Naharin! Congrats, Rachel!