Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Is it work? Or is it fun? Or is it both?

As I sat in City Center last night, writing some notes about the Ailey show, the fellow sitting to the left of me leaned over and laughingly asked, "Is it work? Or is it fun? Or is it both?"

"Oh, both!" I quickly chirped.

"If not," he replied, "poor you!"

Poor me, indeed. Sometimes, it is indeed work with no fun. Sometimes, it is so much fun that I wonder if it should be considered work. For the most part, though, I find this work fun and--far more than that--an incredible privilege. But his question amused me because, as it happens, I've been thinking about what I'm doing when I plop my butt down in front of dance, night after night. Am I working? Am I being entertained? Is it a breath mint? Is it a candy mint?

I've noticed how different it is for me to attend a dance concert alone or with a friend; I realize that, most often, I prefer to go alone. Why? Well, I am working, actually, and when I go with a buddy, part of me is taken up with the social nature of the occasion--all that catching up to do, all that laughter and chatter. I can think of numerous times when it was all I could do to take a quick, unsatisfactory glance at the program notes--let alone peruse the press kit--before the lights went down and the performance began. Not wanting to be rude, I could rarely find a tactful way to interject, "Look, sweetie, I've got to check out these details before the show gets underway. Let's revisit your job crisis at intermission."

But, when I go to a dance concert with a friend, there's a more serious concern, and it's all about satisfaction. What if my friend ends up hating the show? Or, maybe hate is too strong a word. What if they're baffled by it? Or maybe hate is the right word. After all, I once recommended a DTW show to a dear friend, and she took the initiative and went on her own--with a few of her close friends--and they all came away dissatisfied to the point of fury. She still speaks to me, but I never, ever mention the name of the choreographer in question--one I respect and usually enjoy. Over the past several months, I've taken another dear friend to a string of shows that he has almost always disliked, most often with good reason. As a friend, I feel like I've failed these people somehow. Oh, the guilt...the guilt!

Here's the crux of the matter: For me, it's work, and part of that work is keeping an open mind and taking each dance as it comes, and all manner of dance comes my way. But my friends--ah, my friends!--they're out on the town and hoping for a good time.

Wait! There's more! Some casual dance-goers twitch and fidget at the sight of the Ailey troupe; others twitch and fidget at the sight of anything under the Movement Research banner. Figuring out who to take to what for the best outcome can be a lot of work in itself, and this is a form of work (social direction) that I'm not getting paid to do.

And what about the folks who feel anxious about figuring out what they've just seen and how they feel about it, companions who look to me for definitive answers when I might not yet have any answers of my own? After all, I'm supposed to be the professional dance expert, right? (Please insert laugh track here.)

I've long since given up on inviting friends out to see dance who are--bottom line--not interested in dance at all. But my more progressive, artsy friends--and that covers pretty much everyone--who wouldn't necessarily seek out a dance show on their own or who are very picky about the kinds of dance they see? These are the ones whose ultimate happiness and well-being take up entirely too much space in my head.

Sitting next to some professional colleagues is a problem in a league of its own, one to be avoided if you want to concentrate and not feel the pressure to be witty and on top of things and absolutely sure of yourself. One thing that the Movement Research people, and their kind, have taught me is the worth of process, and coming into alignment with a dance I've just seen is as much a sensitive process as is the making of a dance. I have to give time time, as they say, and not rush to judgment. And I don't know it all.

So, is it work? Is it fun? Or is it both?

Poor me: I suspect, and I hope, it will always be both.

(c)2007, Eva Yaa Asantewaa

Update: Read more from critics and bloggers Apollinaire Scherr, Tonya Plank and Tobi Tobias on this topic.

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