Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Clothing Optional: Overdue thoughts on Poetics

I'm going to try to avoid commenting on the venue, on my journey there, or on the experience of seeing the show alone (yeah okay, lonely, but also kind of thrilling). Instead, I have some thoughts on the show itself, the themes it presented, and how it relates to a lot of what Phelan has been saying about performance.

Poetics: a ballet brut was very much a performance of the body. Acknowledging each others' bodies, the audience's bodies and the energy of their own bodies, the performers' movement and interactions expressed their identity and their visibility. I was reminded of Phelan's points on metonymy and how rather than erasing dissimilarity and negating difference, the body is metonyminic of self, of character, of voice, of 'presence'. She claims that through this visibility and availability, the performer disappears and represents something else (150, last week's article). In Poetics, the performers' bodies (and the clothes they wore, where they stood, how they interacted with each other) not only represented their identities, but expressed their possible social statuses, life roles, relationships and gender.

The PuSh Festival site says of Poetics: "Intimate one moment and operatic the next, these seemingly mundane gestures build to a surprising conclusion that is delightfully unhampered by its performers’ complete lack of formal dance training."
The very unprofessional yet charmingly intense dance moves (which also consisted of finger-dancing, chair-dancing, and sleep-dancing) was goofy and fun, and definitely danced all over the audience's funny bones. Oh my goodness, cheesy.
Anyways, through the purposely awkward and repetitive dance moves, the show also raised a question of legitimacy and authority regarding the performance.
Not only was the dancing repeated by a professional ballerina, pointing out the original performances, but the audience's own performance was also reflected. One of the curtains revealed a mirror theatrical setup, making the real audience aware of their own actions and interactions ("Wait, so can we take pictures too?" said the lady beside me)...

Phelan said "Great art accumulates relevance and meaning as it moves
beyond the control of its creators; weak art decides in advance what the piece is about" (571, from week 5 readings). I think that Poetics has definitely left the grasp of its creators and left the audience with room for conversation, making it great (and hilarious) art.


  1. Oooh, by the way, check out the Best Before review in the Peak this week!

  2. Great weaving in of Phelan in this post, Irina. And I'm glad you liked the show. What does The Peak have to say about Best Before?