I love watching you watch dance. Apr 19, 2013

by Marlo

I get a huge bang out of seeing a space transformed and On the Boards satisfies my itch every time. KT Niehoff''s Collision Theory "The Finale" was staged (excuse the expression) perfectly. Upon entering OtB's Main Stage, I felt like I had arrived at a boxing event with the audience sitting on all four sides, complete with a hung rectangle of small lights illuminating the white rectangular floor. I am affected deeply by imagery, and from the get go "the Finale" had me intrigued.

As I sit before the opening of a show or event I enjoy looking around, not with a meandering eye but with an eye focused on detail and searching for more information on what led to this production and what may appear in front of me throughout the evening. Looking up, I saw a limited amount of lighting instruments. To my right and left as well as across the white floor I noticed tall tables in each corner, they were well braced, and I got excited at the possibility of dancers moving on and around them. Two microphones were on stands and the dancers were mingling with the audience. Ambient music played in the background and the audience, full of familiar Seattle dance faces, men, women, a few kids, some recognizable and some strangers to me, enjoyed talking to one another, engaging with the dancers when they approached them. All this was effortless, easy, fun. I read that KT wanted "The Finale" to have the feel of a reunion and coming from the mid-west where reunions and weddings are a large part of our social structure and enjoyment, I was looking forward to that feeling - it was there…the ritual of smiling and talking, drinking and hugging, loud laughs and easy conversation. An atmosphere of contentment rather then anticipation for the show to begin. The experience was fluid and constant, no beginning; it had begun as soon as I walked in. One of the performers Sean came and sat next to my friend. They chatted, and having known each other it was just small talk with a twinge of "hmmm, this is slightly different because I know you are "performing" in a moment" but wait, are you performing now?” Nope. The dancers were casual, relaxed, and seemed welcoming. I wondered, how do they do that? Maybe they are the kind of performers who love to talk, who enjoy a bit of schmoo-zing. I wondered if I could do that: chit-chat with an audience before a performance? And what does that mean anyways… my main goal as an artist is to connect to the audience, but if I cannot literally talk to them then am I really able to connect? Is there a feeling of security in performance mode for most artists? And likewise is there a feeling of security within the ritual of the traditional performance for the audience? We know what to expect, when in general it can happen, and how to outwardly react. Crap. That kind of sucks.

You see, I like the unknown. I like to be surprised (love surprise parties in fact) and to contemplate that I may have fallen into a stale trap of experiences and expectations was a bit startling. And delightful. And, sigh, this is why I go see dance/theater/live performance/etc. etc. etc….and you know, the show had not even "begun" yet. The lights dim and holy shit, (I know I may be behind the times on this information) KT can sing! I am not talking kind of muddle your way through karaoke night and wow the guys who have tossed down a few too many, I am talking sing beautifully, fully, superbly. YES! Remember, surprise for me is so good. Ivory, her fellow singer is amazing, and together they string harmony and melody, overlapping and arcing voices, fulfilling to the ear and soul. Remember those microphones standing alone? They were grabbed from their stands and walked to separate tables at opposite corners and upon that mini-stage Ivory and KT sang. And I melted. Now, I could give you a blow-by-blow breakdown of the performance from here but why would I ruin the surprise? You deserve the full experience of coming to 'The Finale". So, let me say this. I love watching you watch dance. I love the way the audience takes in or rejects a moment of performance with their whole body. I watch the audience about as much as I watch the performers when I am at an event. And, most time this is difficult, as I sit sandwiched by fellow patrons, desperately trying to peer sideways and maybe sneak a peek back to catch a glimpse of your eyes, the fold of your arms, the width and length of your yawn, the tears from your eyes, the smile upon your lips, or even better the anticipation that lies in your eyes as you watch the dance unfold. Thank you KT for allowing me to be a part of the whole, for giving me the opportunity to not only feel but to see the experience unfold in the eyes of another. It was delightful and liberating to have the freedom to watch where and when and what I so chose. I found that my wandering eye was allowed because it was actually encouraged by the artist herself. I was able to take in so much, in large part, because of the environment that was so meticulously designed and executed by KT.

Leaving On the Boards Thursday night, I was reminded of my first experience at Northwest New Works as a performer for The Three Yells and how the theater supports and produces both local and national artists and how thankful I am that they present shows like KT's "The Finale". As an artist I have created work in Seattle for 10 years and people like KT give me strength and push my desire to continue. She perseveres. KT has a clear vision and executes it fully. Because of the shared stories and the open, welcoming, reunion nostalgia of "The Finale" I left with a sense of history, of involvement, of having a hand, or a voice, or at least an eye on the future of the dance/art in Seattle. And, it felt good.