The aftermath of performing: what it does to us?

Today I begin researching for my new solo performance, and I’m planning to share here my every-day process, struggle, and fascinations.

Completely by chance, it turned out that the phenomena of “aftermaths” will be my starting point. What aftermaths do to us as performers, and as audience members? What remains? Do we make room for the feelings, thoughts, emotions, states that occur in the first seconds after a performance? Is there any “ritual” that could help us to live through them?

“Performing is deeply relational, and to do it well dancers become extraordinarily porous to those around them – to the artistic team, to dancing colleagues and to the audience. And then it finishes. I’ve certainly experienced feelings of love and loss, loneliness and grief in the hours and days following a performance or project. Mostly on my own. This after is often undervalued and unsupported (…)” Katye Coe

This weekend, I went to a performance of Katye Coe “Making Room for the Mess” in Siobhan Davies Dance, where she investigated what is happening with the dancers just after the performance. Coe used a score “Sabat Mater” by Patricia Okenwa, and danced it with six other dancers (Piedad Albarracin, Helka Kaski, Samuel Kennedy, Steph McMann, Alexander Standard, Rosalie Wahlfrid-Shaw)

My aftermath as an audience member, exactly 24h after the performance:

When we entered the space, one of the performers was already there. I felt that there is a very concrete starting point, one girl lying on the floor and gently rocking. I felt hot and somehow alienated in the big space of the studio. After a few minutes, when the rocking started to develop other dancers started to join from the audience. They also were subtly rocking, and suddenly transformed into an underwater landscape. I opened my palms, to not only observe, but also feel the flow of the air and energy. I felt invited to watch them. I also recall enjoying a lot an abrupt change of the movement quality introduced by one of the performers. She broke the marine and womb-like atmosphere by jumping, crossing the space in the most rapid way. She emphasised her landings, like a falling rock. Bum, shshshshshshshshshs,  bum, shshshshshshss, bum – and then other followed her. But for me, she stayed as a genuine “elan vital” of the situation. What a LIFE! WHAT A ENGAGEMENT! She brought us to the surface. Then I remember body contact and caresses among dancers. They also looked at us, and sometimes allowed themselves to be private between movement. To fix their hair, to scratch their face, to take a breath, to smile. I truly enjoyed that. The music consisted sounds, of bubbles, of children, of a crowd. The composition of the piece was dynamic, performers were close to each other, few times even placing themselves in a row, but always someone was separate, alone in the space.

When they stopped I remember I didn’t want to clap, but at the same time clapping reassured me that now is the end. And then the most interesting, and also the most ambiguous thing happened. For a few minutes, we sit in complete silence, looking at each other. I felt very bizarre. Very tense, like I would absorb the dancer’s stress, very curious, and very calm. These moments of silence gave me space to start to digest what I just saw, to remark who is around me. One of the dancers broke the silence. A talk started. Siobhan Davies said afterwards, that she could stay in that silence, to fully enjoy longer the afterimage of performance. Then performers started to say what did they fell: grief, fatigue, and fear what will be next?  Question – Are they doing enough? Will they have to wait two weeks for another job or two months? What will happen with them as a group? Do they have any agency in that matter? Not really… Is the choreographer who decides if the work will be shown once again. And sometimes, not even her or him, but the budget.

Katye Coe said a very important thing for me: each performance consists of a number of short love affairs, among dancers. The history of these relations is often solitary. We work very intensively, very close, we share an enormous intimacy, and then it finishes, and we rest alone, searching for another project, coming home to our family life, jumping to a train.

Deborah Hay who was among the audience members suggested that it would be useful to remain always in silence after a performance for a few minutes. It would be like a new ritual. Can you imagine from intimates local dance studios, to opera houses – stay in silence, with each other. Beautiful. I want to introduce that into my practice. I also learned a prosaic, but yet very important, strategy used by a choreographer Charlie Morrissey which Katye described as useful for dancers: to take a walk in the place where was the performance, to plan a special time to grieve together.

I will treat my performance as a way to get to the aftermath, as my friend John Kishore Rose Sawney suggested.

music: Geoff Holroyde and James Holroyde

dramaturdy: Peggy Olisaegers

One thought on “The aftermath of performing: what it does to us?

  1. Alicja, thanks for that note, I found it really interesting! I like that, as you wrote, dancers “sometimes allowed themselves to be private between movement. To fix their hair, to scratch their face, to take a breath, to smile”.
    Also, I like the idea of being in silence for a while after the show (or rather shared experience). Although, I don’t feel ready to fully use this time for myself yet. Probably I would be a bit stressed or theorizing too much during this pause, but it would be significant as well. Maybe after a time, we will become more self-reflective and focused thanks to this new ritual. Furthermore, then it won’t be so obvious when the performance ends, so participation will be more challenging.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s