Reflections on act #2

In act #2 on March 29, 2009 at 22:20

I realize I gave myself a tough assignment with this project. Three days in a row I placed myself in the entrance space of Dansateliers on a roughly designed floor of cardboard patches half an hour before the start of the presentations of Maaike van Dijk en Annika Pannitto. When people enter the building they don’t expect me to be there, me performing there. I am surprising them and in a way interrupting them in the action of picking up the tickets in time. I can see I confuse them. Somebody told me after day 1 that what I do is so refreshing. She also said that I made her aware of the state she is entering the building. In a rush, goal-oriented,… But not all the people seem to appreciate it in that way.

It’s now Sunday and I performed for the third time. I didn’t have so much energy today. The first two days I really wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to claim my space and the right of myself performing on a place unexpected. I wanted the audience to watch me performing. I wanted to make the people stay with me and enjoy this little extra little surprise act. Buy two shows and you get one for free. First day my strategy was ‘flirting and seducing’. I was using my charme and if necessary I became like a desperate little boy full of selfpity and in need of attention. I am good in this role. I know that. And it works. The audience was charmed. Though they may have felt a bit embarressed in the way how I included them in my performance, they acknowledged me. Second day I didn’t feel like pleasing the people and play the little boy. I wanted to work more with the idea of ‘the wild man’. The figure who is unpredictable and has no boundaries. This is a quality that is not so easy for me. It became a very physical performance driven by anger and determination. I made a mess of the space where I was in. The audience had to pass me to pick up the tickets and were overwhelmed by a sense of threat. As on day one I managed to find a way to acknowledge my presence to the audience. I forced the audience to be part of the game.

Today was Sunday. My energy was very low. I realized how I had exhausted myself the days before. I didn’t want to do that again. I didn’t feel like selling myself and prove that it’s worthed what I am doing. I just wanted to be there and share something with the audience. I decided to use a different strategy. I played with the idea of the jester, or rather the figure from the middle ages who would go from village to village to tell his stories. The troubadour. I had the Grimm fairy tale “Iron John”  written out in front of me, and I would tell the story to the people entering. Once in a while I would interrupt and make an attempt to give form to the story in movement/pantomime. (this suddenly reminds me of the wonderful performance I saw “Wintervögelchen” from Jan Decorte where he reduced a Shakespeare piece to a hugely symphatic play acted with childlike exuberance and exaggeration) I didn’t make a strong attempt to claim the attention of the passers-by. I was hoping that my presence would be interesting enough to make them stop and listen to what I had to say. But I am deeply disappointed. I was shocked so many people passed me by, often completely ignoring me.  As if I would be air. As if I would be too mad to take me serious. I suddenly could feel how it really is to be a beggar, or one of those homeless people selling their newspaper at the supermarket. Totally non-existent.

Once there were times when artists would travel from town to town to entertain the people. They brought joy to the everyday life of the inhabitants. Those performances were rare. Experiences talked about and remembered for long. Now there is so much stimulation in our society. People get selective. If it is not holding the attention for longer than 10 seconds, the information is desposed. The audience of Dansateliers selected this weekend to come to see the two performances sceduled. They programmed themselves what to see. Are they also able to appreciate any surprises on their way? Are they able to acknowledge Dansateliers as a place of experiment? Even when certain experiments are not programmed? Was my presence still that treathening? Or simply unclear? Is ignorance the only reaction to surprises that might come on your way, or can there also be curiosity for the unexpected?

It is not my intention to blame the audience of how they are reacting. But these performances create some real challenges that I have to take in account and deal with. It is for me to develop it further into something that can become better. What “better” is, I do not know yet…

  1. I was there on Friday, and indeed it was quite a surprise to see you perform there. The context matters a lot; if you would have been ‘past’ the ticket-point, for example in the bar-area, then people (or at least myself) would be more inclined to stay watching. But I’m sure you thought of all that.

    But rereading your text, I wonder… what was the goal?

    • hey Jan… I appreciate your comment. Thanks… I am trying out different locations in the building. Two weeks ago I was on the first floor. This weekend I decided to be just before the ticket booth. Maybe next time, I’ll be dancing on the bar… who knows. different locations produce different challenges.
      ” what was my goal? ” = good question. But I’m not sure where the question is directed to. What’s the goal of the fact that I am presenting things before the show? What’s the goal of the specific performances of this weekend? What was the goal of what I wanted the audience to be percieved?
      My intention is to use opportunities when people meet at Dansateliers to also show something as a preparation for a research that I will do next season. I don’t want to take the space of the other choreographers, so that’s why I decided to use other spaces where people have to pass to come to see the performances.
      Little ideas/subjects/themes that are related to the research I already want to play with, and give it visibility to an audience. Every evening I play with another theme and I improvise with it. So it becomes almost like an open-rehearsal, where you can see me struggling with a certain task. I realize though that the audience doesn’t necessarily sees it as an open rehearsal but rather as a performance…. Perhaps that’s a problem.
      I am curious in how the audience percieves my performance, and what they see. With Project Iron John I am making a solo for myself. The process can become so self-reflective. I want as much as possible an outside eye who can give me feedback of what s/he sees. They are the mirror for the piece. And in this way I am also curious to hear what you have seen last Friday? What was my performance about? What stayed with you? Which subject/theme came very much to the foreground?

      Did this answer you question a bit? If not, you are very welcome to come back to me…


  2. hi Johnny, first of all great weblog. It provides honest and thought-provoking background to your performances. I think it would be interesting to play more with these ‘programme-scheduled’ expectations that the audience has – to see if they can be unscheduled a bit…

    • hey Natasha… thanks for the reaction… is much appreciated. Yes, the expectations of the audience. Nice to hear that Dansateliers is available to challenge their audience.
      I hope to do soon something again. Though I am gone pretty much. I was hoping to do something on 2 and 3 may but I will be in Vienna then. But perhaps I can still be present in a different way than in flesh. I will think about it the coming period.

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