Respondent Report: Shelley Senter and David Thomson
March 8, 2010
I am new to modern dance. Last Thursday’s shared evening with David Thomson and Shelley Senter is only the third modern dance performance I’ve seen in my life, ever. For me, it was an excellent introduction to this art, as well as introduction to Platform 2010: Back to New York City.
Shelley Senter’s piece met me at square one by challenging me to answer the most basic question—“What is dance?” Coming into that performance, I would have defined it as people moving around, accompanied by music. But Senter put lie to that definition immediately with her stillness and silence, then with the addition of a direct and forceful spoken narrative. What, if not dance, was Senter doing on stage, moving ever so slightly while accompanied (or in the company of, which I think is a better way to describe it), by this disembodied narrator? She clearly was communicating. She was engaged in what struck me as profound expression. So there’s my new definition of dance: “Expression through movement.”
The next performer of the night, David Thomson, gave me the opportunity to apply this definition. There, I looked for the expressiveness in every movement. His work educated me, not only about dance, but also about African and African-American social and political history. I found myself taking in information, as a student, not just through the words accompanying the dance, but also the way the dancers moved with them, in something like abstract-expressionist pantomime.
At the end of the performance I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Danspace’s executive director, Judy Hussie-Taylor. Bursting with enthusiasm about what I had seen, I related to her my last hour’s internal monologue. She responded that I should also look at the space where the dancers are not moving—the negative space. What a revelation that was! It was as if I had just seen Fight Club or The Sixth Sense and I wanted to watch the whole performance over again, armed with my new insight.
I can’t wait to see what Platform 2010 has next.