No Words for Dance

23:45 Sat 03 Feb 2007. Updated: 11:19 07 Feb 2007
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I went to a dance performance at the ODC Theater tonight, one that my friend Brian helped produce. It was enjoyable, but I don’t really know how to write or talk about it.

I’ve noted this problem before—I’ve never studied dance, and I’ve never read books about dance or the theory of dance, and so I don’t know how to describe movements, or how to associate meaning with movements, and that makes it rather difficult to discuss.

I suppose I could talk about what movements look smooth, what movements look awkward (this would be fine except that I’d have to be able to describe those movements in order for this to be useful). But even remembering movements is quite difficult, and this makes sense—one has to associate some meaning with things in order to be able to remember them (hence the fact that chess grandmasters remember board positions better than amateurs, as long as the board positions make sense as part of a real chess game—set up nonsensical or impossible positions and the grandmasters remember them no better than the amateurs).

Overall, I enjoyed it, certainly. But an inability to analyze it, or to take meaning out of it, makes it less enjoyable for me than, for example, theater or cinema. But I definitely appreciate the difference, too, and it’s good to mix things up.

I suppose I could try to learn Labanotation, but I don’t think I have quite enough interest for that.

The performance, “The Shape of Poison”, included a voiceover of Ordinance on Arrival by Naomi Lazard. And I knew I’d heard it before. I came across her work online, some time ago. I know Brian didn’t mention it to me, but have no idea where or how I came across it. I might have been a reference from some political piece I read. It’s a little maddening that I can’t remember, but on the other hand it’s nice to be reminded of the poem, which is quite excellent.

Update: Brian sent me two links to reviews, both of which demonstrate clearly that it’s quite possible to take meaning from, and write meaningfully about, dance performances—not that I doubted it, it’s merely my own vocabularly which is lacking.

Attraction is hell: Manuelito Biag’s The Shape of Poison solidifies his standing as a choreographer on the rise, by Rita Feliciano (SF Bay Guardian)

Biag makes good dancers great in ‘Poison’, by Rachel Howard (SF Chronicle)

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