Life Lessons

Review of Repertoire by Elisabeth S.

I liked Velocity Dance Studio, where Next Stage Dance Theatre’s Repertoire was playing, the moment I walked up the stairs and into the main lobby. It was very warm, a happy alternative to the biting winter air outside. The petite woman who took my ticket was just as warm as the room, and as I waited for the house doors to open, I became increasingly excited for the impending performance. When the doors opened at last, I got a surprise, and just like the friendly dance teacher and the comfortable heat in the lobby, it was a good one.

There was no curtain separating the audience from the dancers, and the stage was separated from the audience by a slight wooden platform lined with chairs. It would have been easy for the dancers to reach out and touch the first row of the audience if they so chose. I tapped my foot against a leg of my chair, and for the second time, waited. Couples streamed through the open house doors, smiling and waving to friends in the audience. Complacent husbands seated themselves beside their grinning wives, and the lights dimmed.

From here, things slowly started to slip downhill. The first piece, one out of seven short pieces choreographed by the dancer, featured minimal dialogue at the beginning, soft giggling, and flowing blue sheets. Technique does not seem to be a main concern at Next Stage, a difficult realization for me to come to grips with. The dancer, Dominique Gabella, who accompanied the choreographer, danced with elegant grace, a seasoned performer that awed and inspired me. She was a pleasure to watch, but as the night continued I realized that she would be the only dancer who would ignite this feeling in me.

All the dancers were middle-aged or older, all women. All the dance was in the modern, interpretive style, all representing an event or memory in the dancer's life.

Call me judgmental, but I could not manage to find the actual “dance” in the performances. There was no spark, no connection, and by the end of the performance, I was pushing laughs back into the pit of my stomach that had somehow snuck their way into my throat.

I felt worlds apart from the performers until I could no longer find the art in the pieces. One, in which the dancer attempted to communicate with the audience through jibberish and very little dance, I couldn't understand at all, while the others were impossible for me to relate to. If it hadn't been for Gabella's gorgeous, technically sound solo rendition of a woman at the ocean, I might have walked out. Dancer after dancer looked more and more ridiculous to me, despite the work she put into her piece or the meaning behind the movements. All I could see were melodramatic hand gestures.

The icing on this sour cake came when the dancers decided to have a discussion on creativity, and its meaning to the audience. I rolled my eyes, inwardly heckling the seemingly pretentious dance troupe, but as soon as the audience began to speak, I realized my mistake, and the experience was changed for me.

I learned something terribly valuable about art that night: its totally subjective, beautiful to different people with different experiences at different age levels. Dance, as with any form of art, does not have only one definition, and I realized in that room that so willing welcomed me, but that I unjustly rejected, all art is worthy of recognition. Although I feel no connection to this type of art, and, in fact, thoroughly dislike it, I felt connected to the audience who spoke eloquently and openly about how much they enjoyed the performances. The warmth that Next Stage Dance Theatre naturally radiates returned to my bones, and I began to understand how unfair I had been.

I am no judge of “good” art, I am just an observer, but I would not recommend this performance to teenagers. I do not believe that we can yet relate to its power because the experiences that were shared there in that intimate theatre are secrets that often only adults have the key to. But it is a good place to escape from the cold, and I am positive no one would mind if you warmed your hands in lobby, or took a peek at their unconventional and unique style of movement.

Elisabeth S.

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