Sunday, May 13, 2012

Awkward Silence?

     National Public Radio's show, All Things Considered, has been doing a series called "Why Music Matters."This week, they did this great feature on dancer and choreographer Amy O'Neal, who took on the challenge of dancing in complete silence. Ahem, I'm not going to say that it hasn't been done before because, ahem, yours truly undertook her own similar experiment, but it was intriguing to get another dancer's take on the experience.
       "I had to do a performance a couple years ago where I couldn't use any music," O'Neal says. "I had 15 minutes without sound. I felt like, OK, well, I need to have some kind of circumstances to deal with — so I asked people to bring me different outfits to wear. I would end up changing out there and sort of embodying whatever outfit it was that they had brought in."  O'Neal says that although she liked the idea at first, seeing video of her performance was not what she had expected.
      "When I saw the video I was like — oh my god, why are you doing that? You're just doing that because you're nervous about it being quiet," O'Neal says. Aha! Dancers are notoriously afraid of the "awkward silence," from my own experience, and O'Neal's insights seem to support this. "These questions came up: Is music a crutch for me? Why do I have to have it? Why can't I just be up there alone?" Yeah. Been there, sister. You dedicate so much time and energy to your craft, and you don't see why it shouldn't be able to stand alone, but then it does, and you feel so naked without the music.
      "There's an inherent tension and beauty in silence," she adds. "Things really aren't ever silent — there's always something, whether it be your breath or somebody coughing. But then, when music happens, everything sort of becomes alive."
     What I want to know is when this "music happens." And what is the state of things when they aren't "alive."

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