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Applause During Works Of Religious Significance


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#16 kfw

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Posted 15 February 2010 - 10:30 AM

One complaint: the audience must be asked, before curtain-rise, not to applaud during a work of religious significance.

If I am to take this complain seriously, does this mean then that I ought not to clap during a performance of The Rite of Spring?

I may be missing your dry sense of humor, here, Sandy, but I'll answer anyhow. Maybe you should refrain if it's danced by Gaia Ballet Theater, or some such entity. Otherwise, no, because the ballet is just the creation of a religious rite, not an actual act of worship. :thumbsup:

#17 SandyMcKean

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Posted 15 February 2010 - 01:00 PM

kfw, no you not missing my "dry sense of humor" (bye-the-bye, my humor can be dry, but it's more often satirical, usually attempting to point out some hypocracy or inconsistency).

I could make my own argument why I think the idea of treating religious themes with special respect is silly, but a man for whom I have the greatest respect, Richard Dawkins, recently wrote an entire book on the subject. I could not possibily improve on this brilliant man's words so I won't try. Quoting from the 2nd chapter of Dawkins marvelous book "The God Delusion":

"A widespread assumption, which nearly everybody in our society accepts - the non-religious included - is that religious faith is especially vulnerable to offence and should be protected by an abnormally thick wall of respect, in a different class from the respect that any human being should pay to any other."

....and then....

"I am not in favour of offending or hurting anyone just for the sake of it. But I am intrigued and mystified by the disproportionate privileging of religion in our otherwise secular societies. All politicians must get used to disrespectful cartoons of their faces, and nobody riots in their defence. What is so special about religion that we grant it such uniquely privileged respect?"

#18 bart

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Posted 15 February 2010 - 01:57 PM

Whatever one thinks about Dawkins' point (and I tend to agree with him on this particular matter), it would perhaps be better if ALL persons -- whether religious or non-religious -- did their damnedest to treat other persons (including those of different belief and value systems) with "special respect."

The setting, of course, makes a difference. Behavior in a church (or equivalent) would obviously be more restrained and respectful than in a public theater. In a church, one is a guest. In a theater, one is a patron.

We also might be expected to behave differently in a performance that merely reflects religious faith and a performance which is aitself intended as act of worship.

Are there dance companies in the United States that actually treat their performances as worship? Would Ballet Magnificat! fall into this category? If so, I would hope to be told this ahead of time by the presenters.

#19 kfw

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Posted 15 February 2010 - 02:06 PM

Sandy, I think Dawkins (who has not lacked for scholarly rebuttal, btw) confuses respecting people's feelings with not questioning the thinking behind them. The former is about presuming, in the absence of evidence otherwise, that people deserve respect, both skeptics and believers. I think we can agree that this is basic civility. I see no reason why that shouldn't apply as much in the theater as out of it.

Now tell me, would you really have the courage to boo Gaia Ballet Theater's Rite of Spring? :blink:

#20 bart

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Posted 15 February 2010 - 03:18 PM

Now tell me, would you really have the courage to boo Gaia Ballet Theater's Rite of Spring? wink1.gif

Well, I don't boo at performances. But I'd certainly be willing to say that the dancing and choreography were bad if the performance were being conducted in a theater and in front of a mixed audience. Speaking for myself onlyI would not comment on the religious sentiments behind the performance, or about Gaia worship (is there such a thing?) in general.

Getting back to Balelt Magnificat: I checked their website where I found that they consider their work to constitute a religious -- and specifically Christian evangelical -- "ministry."

Clearly that would make the experience of attending a Ballet Magnificat performance something quite different from attending Adagio Lamentoso or Requiem performed by a company which is not "faith based," or a concert performance of the Missa Solemnis (unless the Catholic Mass was actually being conducted at the time).

Also, I would think that writing a "dance review" of a performance of this sort would be almost impossible and something I would definitely avoid. For a company like Ballet Magnificat, dancing is the means to something they believe to be more important. For NYCB or just about all the companies we discuss on Ballet Talk, dancing is the whole point.

http://www.balletmag...A_newfirst.html

#21 kfw

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Posted 15 February 2010 - 05:21 PM

Now tell me, would you really have the courage to boo Gaia Ballet Theater's Rite of Spring? wink1.gif

Well, I don't boo at performances. But I'd certainly be willing to say that the dancing and choreography were bad if the performance were being conducted in a theater and in front of a mixed audience. Speaking for myself onlyI would not comment on the religious sentiments behind the performance, or about Gaia worship (is there such a thing?) in general.

I'd do the same, restricting my criticism to the standard of the performance, not the motive behind it.

Also, I would think that writing a "dance review" of a performance of this sort would be almost impossible and something I would definitely avoid. For a company like Ballet Magnificat, dancing is the means to something they believe to be more important.

That's true, but if their purpose is to "magnify Him," well, excellence does that better than mediocrity, so, to my mind, constructive criticism seems in order. I can imagine a critic being afraid to give offense, but that's where, :blink:, I find myself siding with Dawkins.

#22 dirac

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Posted 16 February 2010 - 10:40 AM

We also might be expected to behave differently in a performance that merely reflects religious faith and a performance which is itself intended as act of worship.

Are there dance companies in the United States that actually treat their performances as worship? Would Ballet Magnificat! fall into this category? If so, I would hope to be told this ahead of time by the presenters.


As they say in real estate, location, location, location. Obviously no one would boo singers and dancers performing in church as part of a religious service. (Applause would no doubt be inappropriate in most cases as well.)

If you are in a theater charging spectators for the privilege of watching you, then you should expect to deal with audience reactions, which can range anywhere from ecstatic happiness to vocal disapproval, no matter what the religious nature of your material or intent. Such is life.

Thanks for reviving the thread, bart.

#23 SandyMcKean

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Posted 16 February 2010 - 10:49 AM

Sandy, I think Dawkins.....confuses respecting people's feelings with not questioning the thinking behind them. The former is about presuming, in the absence of evidence otherwise, that people deserve respect, both skeptics and believers.

I don't think Dawkins is confusing anything. I presume you feel that way because you may be missing his point. Allow me to reiterate his main point:

"But I am intrigued and mystified by the disproportionate privileging of religion......" (the emphasis is mine)

He (and I for that matter) are not saying, as you seem to imply, that it is OK to be disrespectful if you are so inclined (hurting peoples feelings in the process -- which seems to be your main concern), but rather he is saying: why do we single out the realm of religion for special consideration, such that for whatever the supposed reason is, we are expected to give extra leeway, or feel extra deference when a religious theme is involved.

Now tell me, would you really have the courage to boo Gaia Ballet Theater's Rite of Spring?

Like bart, I don't boo.....ever. I don't boo even at basketball games when the opposing team members are introduced as so many home team fans do (in fact, I often cheer for their best players in respect for their talent). I see no purpose in booing ever. However having said that, I would boo, cheer, or remain silent in exactly the same way, for exactly the same reasons, whatever the circumstance. I certainly would not modify my standard behavior for no reason other than the theme happened to be religious, or the performers were in a religious mood.

[As an aside, I can't for the life of me understand way we give tax breaks to religious organizations when a organization devoted to, say, the understanding of philosophy would not qualify for such tax breaks.]

#24 kfw

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Posted 16 February 2010 - 01:23 PM

He (and I for that matter) are not saying, as you seem to imply, that it is OK to be disrespectful if you are so inclined (hurting peoples feelings in the process -- which seems to be your main concern), but rather he is saying: why do we single out the realm of religion for special consideration, such that for whatever the supposed reason is, we are expected to give extra leeway, or feel extra deference when a religious theme is involved.

Sandy, I keep writing and erasing things here, trying to respond to your thoughts without opening up a whole bag of worms. (This is Ballet Talk and I've never seen a bag of worms at the ballet!) Let me just say that I think we're right to give religious views special consideration because they are special to most people who hold them. For many they lie at or near the very base of identity. That's why I would give the expression of religious views special consideration in the theater and out of it. But I do stress that word "expression." The content of the views is of course up for debate, just as are any others.

#25 dirac

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Posted 16 February 2010 - 01:53 PM

Let me just say that I think we're right to give religious views special consideration because they are special to most people who hold them. For many they lie at or near the very base of identity.


Political views are often held with the same kind of intensity and personal identification. But leaving that aside, if a work is presented for appraisal by critics and public, it should expect the treatment of any other work so presented.

#26 bart

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Posted 16 February 2010 - 02:28 PM

Political views are often held with the same kind of intensity and personal identification. But leaving that aside, if a work is presented for appraisal by critics and public, it should expect the treatment of any other work so presented.

I have to go along with dirac here. Further, far too many people, in my opinion, consider themselves to be "more special" than others. Claims like this can be resented and often turn out to be dangerous, as we see in so many conflicts throughout history and today.

Putting it in the form of a metaphor: it's one thing to say "my children are the most special kids ever born." It's quite another thing to demand that the people around us behave as though they agree with us.

Having said that, I have no problems behaving with careful public respect towards the religious sensibilities of anyone, provided that I am not ordered to do so or punished for not doing so.

#27 kfw

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Posted 16 February 2010 - 03:00 PM

Let me just say that I think we're right to give religious views special consideration because they are special to most people who hold them. For many they lie at or near the very base of identity.


Political views are often held with the same kind of intensity and personal identification.

They may be strongly held, but I think religious views precede them, or at least logically should for any thinking person. And by "religious views" I mean views on the matters religion concerns itself with, which everyone has, skeptic, agnostic, or believer. That said, while I tend to be liberal, I respect both principled conservatism and principled liberalism.

But leaving that aside, if a work is presented for appraisal by critics and public, it should expect the treatment of any other work so presented.

I'm not sure we're actually in disagreement here. As I've indicated or tried to indicate, I think music, choreography, sets, costumes and dancing are all fair game for criticism. Going back to Sandy's question, "If I am to take this complain seriously, does this mean then that I ought not to clap during a performance of The Rite of Spring?," I just wouldn't clap if I'd been asked not to in deference the company's or choreographer's or presenter's feelings. To my mind, that doesn't seem like a lot of them to ask.

far too many people, in my opinion, consider themselves to be "more special" than others. Claims like this can be resented and often turn out to be dangerous, as we see in so many conflicts throughout history and today.

Putting it in the form of a metaphor: it's one thing to say "my children are the most special kids ever born." It's quite another thing to demand that the people around us behave as though they agree with us.

bart, I couldn't agree more.

#28 SandyMcKean

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Posted 16 February 2010 - 03:41 PM

Further, far too many people, in my opinion, consider themselves to be "more special" than others. Claims like this can be resented and often turn out to be dangerous, as we see in so many conflicts throughout history and today.

BINGO......(especially in the realm of religious belief).

......I think religious views precede them (political views), or at least logically should for any thinking person.

I find this a fascinating point of view. kfw, I'd like to understand more about what would have you feel this way. BalletTalk is chock full of some of the smartest and most informed people I've ever run into. I don't often get a chance to get enlightened by a group of this calibre on issues that I've puzzled over for many years.

Just so this discussion doesn't go too far afield....kfw, in your world, how do you justify that religious views precede something like philosophical inquiry. Should I give "special consideration" to a ballet that contains religious themes which explore the fundamental aspects of human existence, but give lesser consideration to a ballet that contains philosophical themes which explore fundamental aspects of human existence?

#29 dirac

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Posted 16 February 2010 - 03:51 PM

They may be strongly held, but I think religious views precede them, or at least logically should for any thinking person. And by "religious views" I mean views on the matters religion concerns itself with, which everyone has, skeptic, agnostic, or believer.


Religious views take precedence for some. They may not for others.

Going back to Sandy's question, "If I am to take this complain seriously, does this mean then that I ought not to clap during a performance of The Rite of Spring?," I just wouldn't clap if I'd been asked not to in deference the company's or choreographer's or presenter's feelings. To my mind, that doesn't seem like a lot of them to ask.


Sandy’s comment also speaks to the question that started this thread. My own feeling is that I may or may not clap as the mood takes me. If I am specially requested not to clap, I may well do so depending upon the circumstances, as a matter of courtesy. I might not, however, refrain from clapping or other audible expression merely because I’m told that I’m about to see something of “religious significance.” That's something that should come out in performance and not as a program note or admonition....

#30 papeetepatrick

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Posted 16 February 2010 - 04:36 PM

Sandy’s comment also speaks to the question that started this thread. My own feeling is that I may or may not clap as the mood takes me. If I am specially requested not to clap, I may well do so depending upon the circumstances, as a matter of courtesy. I might not, however, refrain from clapping or other audible expression merely because I’m told that I’m about to see something of “religious significance.” That's something that should come out in performance and not as a program note or admonition....


I just read the whole thread, finally, and I think kfw also said "If I am to take this complain seriously, does this mean then that I ought not to clap during a performance of The Rite of Spring?," I just wouldn't clap if I'd been asked not to in deference the company's or choreographer's or presenter's feelings. To my mind, that doesn't seem like a lot of them to ask."

I think I've been asked not to clap at certain dance performances in the last few years, but can't remember for sure. I always believe that you should never clap under any circumstances if asked beforehand, no matter what the work is, whether or not religious. I can't for the life of me remember what performance it was, but I don't think it was religious. But if requested, there is obviously a serious reason for it in terms of what the performance should or should not include--especially in terms of sound. I remember the spiritual leader (for lack of a better term) and speaker J. Krishnamurti always asked his audiences to never applaud, and he would stop them if they started, but humourously, by saying 'please don't applaud, it's not worth it'.

I never thought about applause or not for 'works of religious significance' or other. I just see what the traditions are in any given circumstance, and if applause is occurring in some religious ritual, I guess I do a bit of it politely, just like I sometimes did the other day at NYCB even when I didn't think 'it was worth it', unless I thought it was so not worth it, that I just didn't anyway.

Isn't an announcement the appropriate thing to make if one wants no applause to bring unwanted sound into any kind of piece? If that is asked for, one should respect it always, and I always do. Unless I'm missing something here, I don't see how this is very complicated (I may well be missing something.) I would really prefer no applause after arias or stupendous ballet variations personally, but I accept that most do. As for booing, I once went to a reading in which I nearly went much further than booing, but didn't. I thought the reader deserved to be roundly shouted at, but somehow didn't, even though others were hissing (this wasn't religious, of course.) As for clapping for the Pope and such things, that always seems a bit curious to me to clap for the mere appearance of a notable figure, which I first noticed when the queen of England and Prince Philip and then-mayor Beame came out at the New York State Theater, and everybody applauded (I doubt it was for Mayor Beame, but then that's the breaks.)

Those wonderful Taiwanese I saw last fall at the Joyce Theater may have said not to clap, but I can't remember. I think we either were told not to or automatically didn't do so, because you don't usually get inspired to clap at something so serene. But if asked beforehand, I think it is never appropriate to clap. If it's just in the programme notes (I don't know if this happens sometimes), people wouldn't all even know not to, if expected. I would imagine that if it appears in the programme notes, there would also be an announcement beforehand, so people would be sure to know. If one then clapped, it wouldn't be showing appreciation, because the 'not clapping' had actually been indicated as a part of what the performance must consist of for its mood, atmosphere, sense of serenity and continuity, etc.

I still think I may be missing something, though, because I can't figure out why it's complex. If not told, I think clapping is always fine if you figure out that that's the tradition. It told not to, then one mustn't, whether or not one dislikes the proceedings. Now if it comes to unruly behaviour, the term itself goes without saying: Youse takes youse chances, and sees if youse don't get arrested, or whatever. I'm now glad I didn't scream at that reader, though, and I guess I might have been thrown out at most. There was that 'tazing' incident some years ago at a john Kerry speech, and I suppose those political protests are another subject (even when it's the long-ago fury at 'Rite of Spring' but I think we're not talking about determined uncivil behaviour, when protesters know what the consequences are.) Apologies if I really am missing something, which might have to do with knowing beforehand about a religious performance, etc. I wouldn't think about it at the ballet, I think, ever automatically. If I were hearing a Bach Oratorio, I would probably by nature never clap for any of it unless I saw others did, in that case it must have been appropriate. But I think somebody said something about Verdi Requiem, I don't know if there's tradition to clap during parts of it, so I'd just clap if I saw that was what other people are doing.

I wasn't sure if the issue of 'that you'd paid for performance' meant that you should be able to clap--well, no, not if expressly asked not to, no matter what the nature of the performance, ritual, etc.. I don't think anybody said that, so at La Scala, even if some of us wouldn't boo, it's certainly accepted to do so, as is all manner of rude behaviour at Amateur Night at the Apollo (if that still exists.)


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