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Alexandra

Applause During Works Of Religious Significance

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(dipping a toe in a very lively discussion)

Early on, someone brought up the old real estate adage ("location, location, location") in trying to sort out when applause is inappropriate -- the implication being that inside a church, applause is questionable while outside a church it is not. Of course what they were actually getting on to was intention rather than location (since church buildings are often used for non-religious music concerts and public arenas are often used for religious services), which slides right into the discussion about requests to refrain from applause.

If someone asks me to do or not do something, as an audience member I’m likely to try and comply, whether it’s turning off my cell phone, wearing the big headphones, or keeping my hands in my lap. I’m really more interested in how the audience wants to respond -- do they seem to want to applaud (or make some other kind of audible ‘comment’ on the performance) whether they’ve been told to or not. I saw a reduction of Sleeping Beauty a couple weeks ago, performed for an audience of 5th graders, most of whom had never been to the theater before, much less ballet specifically. At the end of one of Aurora’s variations, before the audience started to clap, the young man next to me asked if it was ok to applaud. Petipa’s choreography is designed so that applause is the logical response to the dancing -- the ballet is built like a tank. It was pure pleasure to tell this kid "yes."

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Hi, sandik, that was me. I think I was responding to a post that brought up behavior in church. The point that arenas are used for religious services is a good one and I hadn’t thought of it. The Pope held a mass in Yankee Stadium not long ago and obviously the whoops of enthusiasm or hostile shouts of “Who’s your daddy?” frequently heard in that venue would not have been appropriate, although Benedict seems like the kind of guy who could take them in stride. I think we’re all agreed that if we’re asked not to applaud it’s good manners not to do so. The question is whether performers are entitled to ask for this because they’re performing a work of ostensibly religious significance, and depending on the circumstances I think the request is a tad presumptuous. From what I’ve seen of MacMillan’s Requiem there’s nothing in it that would make it somehow beyond the realm of applause, but if they ask you, they ask you....

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Having very recently seen two performances of Liebeslieder Walzer (a work with no religious allusions) at City Ballet, I welcomed the silence following most of the waltzes. After one of the later waltzes in Part I, there was a smattering of applause (both nights) which was enough to break the spell.

Taking this back to the original topic of the thread, it is easy to see how someone who takes a sacred performance as prayer would feel his/her slightly altered state broken by applause.

On the other hand, and this may contradict an earlier post of mine, there are many moments in worship that are lively and celebratory, and I don't see why, in those circumstances, applause would be inappropriate.

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The Pope held a mass in Yankee Stadium not long ago and obviously the whoops of enthusiasm or hostile shouts of “Who’s your daddy?” frequently heard in that venue would not have been appropriate, although Benedict seems like the kind of guy who could take them in stride.

:devil: I'm sure he'd have a ready answer for that!

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Having very recently seen two performances of Liebeslieder Walzer (a work with no religious allusions) at City Ballet, I welcomed the silence following most of the waltzes. After one of the later waltzes in Part I, there was a smattering of applause (both nights) which was enough to break the spell.

Yes.

Taking this back to the original topic of the thread, it is easy to see how someone who takes a sacred performance as prayer would feel his/her slightly altered state broken by applause.

That's why in certain cases, in which it is really considered to interrupt, directives have to be made--especially, as has been pointed out, in cases where it might not always seem obvious, as with the MacMillan.

On the other hand, and this may contradict an earlier post of mine, there are many moments in worship that are lively and celebratory, and I don't see why, in those circumstances, applause would be inappropriate.

And they are allowed in those circumstances, aren't they? That's something you can find in many literally religious performances, or ritualistic performances as well--much Eastern dance and music has moments of a kind of cadence, in which there is much expression of celebration, expressed vocally as well as with the hands--even with religious themes. In ballet, I don't think you ever find it, in that sense, because it's more separated, not so interactive, so applause at big virtuosic performance-moments occurs. These are both forms of release, and probably the release that applause gives is probably helpful in most cases. It's never inappropriate except the special circumstances when someone really doesn't want it. For example, I woukln't find it objectionable to ask the audience not to clap in your example of 'Liebeslieder Walzer'--and NYCB goers, though not all at equal levels of sophistication, are at least sophisticated enough to be able to concentrate throughout the piece without applauding. Sometimes it is good to work toward a concentrated and sustained experience of a performance without the easy gratification of clapping's release: After all, the dancers are definitely doing it themselves, and the audience is being asked to do much less. I'm not advocating such announcments for performances of 'Liebeslieder', but I wouldn't mind either.

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Here's another thought -- so far we seem to be discussing events where the "audience" is in agreement about the response, but what about individual experiences? I know that I can be having an epiphanal moment in the middle of a grocery store, if the right things come together. I can't and don't expect the rest of the world to come to a halt to honor the moment, but it's still significant to me.

The Olympics are playing in the background, and one of the color commentators just said, about an ice dancing couple, that they "made a moment for themselves" during their performance. Sometimes, it is just about one or two people. Indeed, I've always felt that was a cheerful thing -- that somewhere, something important was happening for someone, even though I was having the most mundane day.

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That's why in certain cases, in which it is really considered to interrupt, directives have to be made--especially, as has been pointed out, in cases where it might not always seem obvious, as with the MacMillan.

There are many kinds of performances that might induce a hushed atmosphere that could be disturbed by applause, though. It could be considered a little presumptuous to issue pre-performance directives that what you're about to see is "sacred," so hush up, everybody.

I know that I can be having an epiphanal moment in the middle of a grocery store, if the right things come together. I can't and don't expect the rest of the world to come to a halt to honor the moment, but it's still significant to me.

I've experienced something similar.

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That's why in certain cases, in which it is really considered to interrupt, directives have to be made--especially, as has been pointed out, in cases where it might not always seem obvious, as with the MacMillan.

There are many kinds of performances that might induce a hushed atmosphere that could be disturbed by applause, though. It could be considered a little presumptuous to issue pre-performance directives that what you're about to see is "sacred," so hush up, everybody.

It's kind of awkward to mandate an ephiphany, isn't it? It makes me think of someone with a faux German accent -- "You vill be moofed!" (or else?)

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