In my previous article on the real cost of a free seat at a dance performance, other aspects of what makes dance performances possible were mentioned. These were – sound, light, sets, props, costumes etc. Of course, the dance in terms of its composition, and the dancer or dancers who are performing the dance composition are indisputably fundamental for a dance performance. But we often tend to forget that there are other integral elements to a dance performance. Indeed, sometimes it is the case that dancers are forced by financial circumstances to ignore or diminish the importance of these other aspects. They sometimes become subsidiary elements, but really, they are vital.
Music or sound is undeniably a crucial aspect of a dance performance. Whether it is recorded or live, music and sound (even the sound of silence) are an integral part of the dance – they are part of the choreographic decisions that are made to make a dance performance presentable and meaningful. Because we commonly associate music with dance in our daily lives as well (at weddings, parties, or discotheques), this connection between the two is one that is less often taken for granted than the other aspects of dance performance. Still, how much attention is paid to the quality of sound in a dance performance is questionable. While often dancers and musicians of the dance performance are helpless in this matter because a particular venue has only a mediocre sound system, or only a limited number of microphones, somewhere the dancers themselves have resigned to this helplessness. Perhaps instead we need to look at what can be done about this.
Aside from sound which is essential for a dance performance, lighting is also incredibly important. It is not enough to keep the dancing body lit. Choreographic decisions are made on the basis of the mood and nature of the piece. Good lighting can significantly enhance the quality and communicative ability of a dance performance, whereas bad lighting can take away from all this. Decisions are made regarding when the dancers are fully lit, or in darkness; what colours of light highlight a particular part of the piece and so on. Bad lighting can cause the dancer and the dance to look flat and lifeless. Light designers are coming up all over the country. As dancers and organizers of dance events, we should collectively make use of them!
Sound and light aside, there are other elements to a dance performance such as costumes, sets and props that can transform a dance performance in the way it is presented. Each of these elements are meant to be a part of the dance performance – as much a part – as the dancing itself. We must collectively understand the centrality of these ‘subsidiary’ elements to a dance performance. Most dancers understand this, many implement it, but there are several who simply cannot afford to take care of all that financially. Therefore, it is equally important for the spectators and organizers to understand their intrinsic value, in order to appreciate the other artistic skill and labour that goes into a dance performance, and in order to support the dance performance wholistically.