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Friday
Oct292004

Depressing Contemporary

Why must contemporary dance themes be so depressing?
I had the 'privilege' to attend a contemporary dance performance recently. I went because one of my ex-student was dancing in one of the items and I wanted to give her some moral support.
When I arrived at the theatre, I was in a cheerful mood but I can't say the same when I left. Nearly all the items were so depressing, oppressive and 'dark'. They talked about misery, being trapped, being oppressed. I did not manage to get a programme but one cannot mistake the general atmosphere of the evening.
It seems to be the 'in' thing to writhe about on stage depicting inner turmoil. Creative dramatization of war, injustice and of pain are also very popular. Excuse me, but I happen to be one of the few people in the world who wants to go to the theatre and 'escape'. If I want war, injustice and pain, I pick up the local dailies sent to my house. Incidently, I have stopped reading the newspapers for a while now, unless I have nothing to do whilst munching on my Marmite sandwich on certain mornings. Even then, it's a cursory glance through the whole paper in 5 minutes flat.
Ok back to the 'escapism' bit. I go and watch a performance or a movie to 'get away' from it all. I do not want to see a dance about the bird flu.  I do not need to be reminded of it.  I do not want to see a piece about evil spirits lurking about in a jungle. There are other nicer things that dwell in jungles. Why can't dances be created to showcase these instead?
From a production point of view, I suppose I can quite see why. The subject of evil, occult and mysticism always intrigues people. These always have bigger impact on viewers. Plus, in a production, there's no lacking in opportunity to play around with special effects :)  Bad news always cause a sensation. For example, how many front page headlines scream, "One million reached their destination safely on air travel today" . Instead, it's the bad news that gets plastered on it.
Don't get me wrong. I don't mean I cannot be confronted with realism. How about, for example, a happy medium of 90% uplifting and 10% depressing? The performance I went to that night was a total reverse of 90% depressing and 10% light.
When theatre was created many centuries ago, it was created for the purpose of 'escapism'. IMHO, I think that should STILL be it's main purpose.
I am now waiting for the right opportunity to create my 'light & happy' contemporary piece. YES! It can be done.

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