DESCRIPTION: This dance theater work delves into the construction of the artistic mind by exploring the intertwined relationship of four characters caught within a young female writer’s reality and creative imagination.
So here’s a show description that immediately throws up some red flags for me. I’m not as hostile to the metafictional “writers-writing-about-writing” device as many of my colleagues – I’ve used it more than once, myself – but I’m well aware that at its worst, it can collapse into dreary navel-gazing.
So I mainly came to this one because it was sandwiched between two others that I was seeing on assignment, and – as is the way this kind of thing always works – it outshone both of them. Totally uncool to admit, but I definitely have that nostalgic sense-memory attached to the trappings of the act of the writing – the clicking and clacking of keyboards, the sound of pens scraping across paper, the fluttering of book pages – and this is a show that’s very much built out of that kind of detritus.
It’s also a period piece, which I’m a sucker for – one of the great appeals of art for me is the opportunity to travel to other times and places. It’s arguable that they didn’t really use the period setting – I would speculate that it could be performed in modern dress with nary a change to the choreography – but the period costume evokes, well, the period, with its heaving bosoms and dark and stormy nights.
One of the reasons I think I’m wary of this kind of show is because of my familiarity with the act of writing – and the fact that it is, for the most part, a repetitive and tedious process: obsessing over word choices, writing and rewriting a paragraph twenty times, badgering editors and audiences for responses – and on some level portraying that as a grand, sweeping, romantic adventure not only rings false, but sort of offends me. It’s a disciplined craft.
So the narrative that I got out of the show (and it is, of course, an open question whether this is a narrative that I derived from their movements, or a narrative that I imposed upon them) is one of conflict – conflict between grand, sweeping, romantic flights of fancy, and the tedious discipline of translating them into communicable form. The central conflict is one between chaos and order, and that’s actually a really freaking effective movement concept.
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