Sunday, March 18, 2012

Of Standing Ovations and Performance

Last night I went to the Kidd Pivot performance of Crystal Pite's "Dark Matters." As with many dance performances, don't ask me, "what was it about?" because I can't really tell you. Which is less true with this than some dance performances, since there was a high theatrical element, especially in the first half. But my attempt to tell you what it was about would be my interpretation of what I experienced; not The Answer to What It Was.

They received a standing ovation, which I thought was appropriate and deserved. I'm not a fan of standing ovations as they are currently used: like big star musician's tour encores, they've become expected, rather than earned. Standing ovations have lost their meaning, almost. Or at least around here. I wonder if other places are experiencing the same phenomena or if this is another Pacific Northwest thing. Or maybe a Portlandia thing.

I can hear someone questioning who has the right to determine if an ovation is earned. I hear you. Or someone wondering if I'm supporting the idea of us all having to agree on what is or isn't good performance art/dance/theater. And if you know me then you know that's not what I mean, either. But there are questions for me about the validity of a standing ovation when 80% of the performances I go to get one. The value of it is lost if it happens all the time.

Have we lost the ability to know good art when we experience it? Or great art, skill, innovation, flow, and words? Or are we so starved for inspiration that "good enough" is enough; is experienced as exceptional because we are so worn down or yearning for cultural exposure that we want to uphold valiant efforts so we don't lose it all?

I don't have the answers and I know this may come off as snobbery. That is not my intention. However, the power of the standing ovation has been watered down when it happens almost all of the time. Like expecting the encore: you know there will be more so don't get upset when the band holds off on giving you their #1 classic/newest hit/signature song. You'll get it in the encore.

But Kidd Pivot's performance last night earned each pair of feet standing in the audience. Each clap of hands showed the power and skill and connection with the dancers. All of the performances I've seen in the White Bird Uncaged series have been good. This was exceptiontional. Immediately after the performance I posted a tweet: "It flowed, reaching into every cell, holding. Breath." Today that feeling remains.

This performance will stay with me. And I was happy to stand and applaud with my fellow traveler's on the "Dark Matters" journey.