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Understanding Dance

Appreciating Dance

Watching Dance

When you are watching a dance performance, there is no research to be done and there are no special methods or, tricks to be studied before you sit in your seat. The big secret that dance lovers have discovered is that there's no secret at all. It's your experience, and the interpretation of it is all yours.

The combination of movement, gesture, costume, set design, music and lighting all work together to take you on a journey. The adventure begins the moment you sit down in the theatre and the lights begin to dim. Just like when you go travelling, throughout a performance, you may have many different experiences.

Things to notice:

  • The movement and emotions expressed by the dancers
  • The combination of patterns, shapes and dynamics on stage
  • The relationship between the movement and the music
  • The colours, textures and design elements used to enhance the movement

Maybe you'll be drawn to a particular performer's movement, impressed by the way he or she jumps, turns or travels through the space. You might notice the relationships between the performers, or the various qualities of their movements and gestures.

There may be a narrative in the program to guide you, or you might discover your own story as you watch. Then again, the structure might be more abstract. You might find yourself listening to the music. Perhaps the lighting or the costumes will capture your attention.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • How does the dance make me feel?
  • Do I recognize any of the gestures or symbols used by the choreographer?
  • Does the dance remind me of moments or events in my life?
  • What can I take away from this experience?

You may feel various emotions: excitement, anxiety, curiosity, frustration, amazement. You might want to laugh or you might feel sad. This is normal.

The performance might also generate memories of situations or people in your own life. Perhaps it will make you remember something you haven't thought about in a long time. You might see images that you think are beautiful, or that you think are ugly. These are all valid responses.

Thoughts, ideas, images and emotions - the possibilities are endless. Just remember, there are no rules. Expose yourself to dance in a variety of settings and set your mind in motion alongside the movement. With each dance you see, your imagination will soar to new and potentially unknown places without fear or anxiety because you are open to the experience.

So, now you really can sit back, relax and enjoy the show.