Despite favourable exposure on reality TV, contemporary dance is still the butt of jokes about inaccessible, cryptic performance art.
The now infamous belittling of Canadian dance treasure Margie Gillis by Sun TV’s Krista Erickson (if you missed it, Erickson grilled Gillis about grant money she has received over the years, not her art) is proof that, while some consider the form downright perplexing, many others continue to assume it’s a) entirely improvised, b) about nothing and/or c) all pretty much the same.
To the contrary, contemporary dance is incredibly diverse. Modern dancers and their companies come in all shapes and sizes, with their own choreographic styles, quirks and expressive trademarks. So, it may be highly theatrical or teasingly abstract.
Perhaps in our current digital, hyper-analytical culture we’ve lost some ability or willingness to “read” bodies, and are even uncomfortable regarding them as creative tools. But gesture and movement were the first language; we’ve always admired bodies in motion.
Think about a dance floor at a club, wedding or beside the Folk Fest stage: Among the skilled and clumsy dancers, there’s plenty of instinctive, beautiful and even dangerous connections being made.
And, there are stories, in all the bodies’ marvels and their insecurities. But the narrative one viewer sees on the floor can be very different than the one seen by others around him. The most surprising moments lie in your reactions to a dancer’s emotive reach of an arm, drop of the chin or buckling of the knees.
So, bring a friend, or a date, to see Kidd Pivot’s acclaimed The Tempest Replica (BWDC), or Los Angeles’s Helios Dance Theatre (Alberta Ballet), or take in a sampling of performances at the Expanse Movement Arts Festival in March (Mile Zero Dance).
Talk about what you see and share your reactions to specific moves. Just don’t get hung up on what it’s all about. As Isadora Duncan, called by some the “Mother of Modern Dance,” so famously quipped: “If I could tell you what it meant, there would be no point in dancing it.”