Facing Space

By Angela Mazziotta

Space Dunce-ity

Lately, it’s Space that’s been pacing along the rivery flow of my thought bubble galaxies. I am a platinum AIRhead, an aureate SPACE cadet, but don’t call me blonde. Maybe I’ve always been a bit sensitive to space and how I fit into its many containers. As a young dancer, being asked to “change fronts” and face a new direction for an exercise or to practice choreography, was terrifying. It was as if we were taking the dance out of its natural habitat (on solid ground) and thrusting it deep into a dark lake without goggles or Swimmies! This posed a problem when the time came to take all that choreography set to “On My Own” from Les Miserables, “Mambo #5” and too many tracks by Tori Amos and throw it on stage. Suddenly, the deep and dark lake is actually an aquarium; people – a lot of them – can see me! The stage often felt too palatial and foreign. Suddenly spun into a spatial coma, I’d stand catatonic among my more spatially capable peers. To this day, as a professional dancer, I experience spatial disorientation the way dice probably do when they’re being jumbled around in the hands of some hyperactive and desperate gambler. While making an attempt at Katie Faulkner’s final combination today, I lost my place in space and froze in a wide second position until orientation returned. Perhaps I’m spatially stunted – a space dunce.

Space Bubbles

A bulbous bulk of any given day is spent going from one place to another. Carving out pathways for transporting our hot bods requires negotiating space in an efficient way from Point A to Point B. Because we are clever human beans, eventually our minds can travel to far-off Lands of Fancy while our bodies embark on memorized avenues hither, wither, to and fro. We feel very foxy-shrewd and graceful – maybe even majestic – about how we navigate the world. Only do we become bewildered, bewuthered and necessarily humbled when we bump into the back, side or front of someone – or something. Here are a couple reminders that we’re huddled under a big, snuggly blanket called Space and nuzzled between Everyone and Everything: “Scheisse, where’d that tree come from”, “ARGH! That car came outta nowhere!”, “Oopsie! I was aiming for the seat next to the handsome Frenchman, not his lap (still fairly certain that was an accident), or “WHACK! Well if your nose didn’t run into my gorgeous battement a la second, maybe it wouldn’t have been broken!” Just the other day I was at work when a woman walked into the glass door. Rather than blame her clumsiness on a poor judgment call of the space around her, she exclaimed, “That glass is too clean!”

Space Dance

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago came to Berkeley last week, and with a stealthy paper to-go cup of wine, I trekked to the East Bay to see the dance company perform. As I sat listening to the gasps erupt from the under-challenged audience members (ooh! ah! oh!), and stifling a few of my own, I became increasingly less aware of the dancers and more tuned-in to the spaces between the dancers. I wondered about lighting and music choices. It occurred to me that really great choreography requires the mastery of space by purposefully utilizing all possible space-altering elements. The design must be more deliberate and less consequential, taking into account how the dancers inhabit space and the ways they do not. Bathing in the rose-scented, soapy water of the first two pieces in Hubbard Street’s performance, put the audience in a glossy state of lazy indulgence. My perception was that the use of space was largely circumstantial. When the third piece began, I was yanked to attention. Everything seemed arranged for a purpose: the dancers were set in clear formations, costumes existed for lighting, the movement had a reason, and the music had a state of mind. The effect was kaleidoscopic. Whether people liked it or not seems unimportant. The point is that Sharon Eyal and Gaï Behar commandeered Space.

Adelaide laments the consequences of space oblivion in choreography. Why not challenge the audience to see what you see? Bulldoze them sweetly a few times with an image that they might have missed if they blinked. Or make sure they don’t blink! Dance is so slippery, dickory dock but maybe it doesn’t have to be.

2 Responses to “Facing Space”

  1. Anonymous

    Emmaly, Your use of words more than makes up for any dunce-ness you may feel about your use of space. This perspective is so playful and so exuberant I can fell you whirring about with words much like dancers whir about in space! Thanks for a great read this week.

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