An exemption in good taste

(From the Dance Festival of Kalamata)

Avgi newspaper 30 Jul 2000English

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Apart from the companies we have mentioned already, there was this year a new participation for the first time from the English Rosemary Butcher with a short, just 35 minute work called Scan in the International Dance Festival of Kalamata. The performance took place in a small auditorium with the audience sitting around the stage, very close to the dancers, in a process that revived the collective participation and the rapprochement between performers and spectators. The sense of participation was encouraged by the pretext of watching a video projected onto the floor; everybody was thus included within a rectangular perimeter which accentuated the engagement implicitly. Butcher belongs to a generation who deconstructed the spectacle as it was performed and that attitude-now widely accepted- represents the remains of a search which marked a generation of artists and up to a point, there is nothing wrong with it.

In Scan, she tried to do too many things: on the one hand it used the video/image to analyse, explore, question, provoke the audience into seeing his or her body in a different way (freezing in motion, light it from various angles and so on); on the other she based the whole conception of the work on an attempt to stimulate a debate on the traditional values that render motion its significance. Therefore, the performance in its form and content (in its traditional polarity) was a constant deconstruction of both, done not explicitly as we are beyond the era of manifestos and the easy provocation of youth but with subtlety and substance. The first 20 minutes were given to the uninterrupted motion of four dancers. The spectator was forced not only to accept that he had relinquished control of everything that was going on on stage because of the rapid flow of the movements but that he was supposed to enjoy every minute of it too. I think it was Cunningham who first attacked the narcissism of the audience in making the audience to admit that the work, the dancers and the choreographer were beyond any control until they too became spectators.

The English scene of Butcher’s generation is heavily influenced by Cunningham, though she did follow her own path and cultural idiosyncrasies. However, what she was taught was the creative platform on which she further developed her ways of presenting her work. The intense movement of the dancers, the speed and lack of breaks gave it an independence from the standard spectacles which require a sufficient amount of time in order to carry out the act. Having said that, there was a lot of interaction, changes and variations in what was happening on stage. The choreographer’s input was to give the audience “food for thought”, asking them to consider “how they see”, “what they see”, “how they could have seen” which that was presented to them. Thus they could revaluate their experience in reference to their way of seeing the performance. Even going as far as asking them to transfer this new-off centre-way of seeing to other types of dance such as ballet. Now that would be something really interesting.