You know, that moment in "Into the Woods" when Little Red Riding Hood is about to be eaten by the Big Bad Wolf, and it could turn terribly, but it's also exciting, and Little Red Riding Hood isn't really sure how to feel? That's what a public feedback session feels like to me!
I showed my pickle piece (my nickname for it) at the 9X22 Dance/Lab at the Bryant Lake Bowl on Oct. 25th. For this showing, instead of making watermelon pickle like I did in September for the first showing, my best friend and I made apple pickle to share with the audience. Delish! Part of this showing includes a public feedback session immediately after you perform the piece. Every time I've done , I feel more scared and excited for the feedback as I become more and more invested in the work I do.
Besides hoping that everyone liked my pickles, I was very interested to hear about what the audience saw, felt, and experienced, and was anxious about how feedback would impact how I feel about my piece going forward. This opportunity came at a good time, as my group will also get to show it AGAIN in January of 2018, at a brand new venue in Longfellow. The showing was my chance to have a diverse audience, some Flamenco lovers who were familiar with the language of the piece, and other dance community members who could offer insights from a non-Flamenco perspective.
My dance partner and I discussed what we thought the audience would be curious about before the show. I really wanted to know- what should I change? What was working? What memories were brought up by viewing the piece? Was it strange that my duet partner was seated the majority of the time? Was the audience curious about form, technique, or did the movement all simply make sense because it was me? Could they hear the recording enough to get what it was about? Did they want to hear more of the soundscape, or did they just want to hear the poem? Did they like the footwork along with the soundscape? Were they confused? Inspired? Curious?
Honestly, I was most nervous and anxious about the feedback session, not the dance itself, because I hate speaking spontaneously in front of people. I'm not good at it and I make things up. Riffing can be a useful skill, but sometimes it's good to be prepared with something to say.
Turns out, everyone had very different opinions about my dance. Many people did offer insightful thoughts andFunny how that works, right? One person thought the seated dancer was disabled, while another person thought her movement was very beautiful and was inspired by it. Some wanted to hear in the recording more clearly how to make the pickles, because that intrigued them. Others were curious how I fit the puzzle pieces of the recording and the movement together. Some saw my partner as an older sister, grandmother, and even an older version of myself, as in my own reflection. I should have been taking notes onstage. There was a lot to think about!
Now, having had time to ingest the feedback, I have found that I need to always take all of it with a grain of salt, and remember that ultimately, I'm telling my story, not someone else's! Audience members will take what they see and put it through their own lens. I think that if I took the feedback from all of these perspectives, I would instantly lose sight of what I'm trying to say. But, if a piece of feedback comes up again and again, and is contradictory to what I'm trying to say, it's probably something that I need to consider.
This also reminds me that as someone who enjoys critiquing other people's work, to put my own perspectives into perspective when critiquing is very important. It's a good idea to ask the right questions, and consider the lens of my own critique. This latest showing has inspired me to go SEE MORE DANCE and think critically about it, something that has fallen to the wayside since my graduation from college. I can't wait to see a show this weekend, and then write about it!