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Suspension of belief


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 01 February 2002 - 02:30 PM

Leigh's monster thread raised this question in my mind. Is one of the reasons there are no stage monsters the fact that many people can't believe in them? That we're too literal? I'm also thinking of some of the posts here from people who found Edward II and various Eifman works screamingly funny (while obviously many people take these works very seriously). (I do NOT mean to dredge up that as an argument, and I don't mean to suggest that either the laughers or the believers are right or wrong, just that there's a difference in viewpoints.)

When I read Leigh's question, the first images I had were of a black modern dance company that did a story ballet here about 15 years ago -- it was a small company that's changed names and personalities several times, and I don't remember the name of the work. But it had a monster. He was evil, totally without redeeming social value. The protagonists were children (grown dancers pretending to be children, and very well, I might add). The audience, which was 99% African American, loved it -- booed the villain, reacted with fear, although it was a theatrical fear, if that makes sense -- I don't think any of them went home to nightmares, but they were appreciative of what was going on stage. When the children triumphed at the end, they cheered. I've never felt so much an outsider a dance concert; I could not enter into this world. To me, what was on stage was very amateur. But by the end of it, I realized that the people sitting around me knew that. They didn't believe the villain was really going to eat the children, of course. But they could pretend they did. I was quite jealous! I would love to do what they did -- to recreate its own innocence.

Is it possible, in a post-post-modern world, to reclaim innocence? Would Eifman, or other choreographers who might seem outrageous (to those who find them outrageous) seem less so if we entered their world?

We draw distinctions with words, of course. "Camp" has a good connotation now -- it means that the artist who's put something on stage that's outre' knows what he's doing, and so we can laugh at the joke. This is cool. Isadora coming back and dancing her Marxist dreams would probably be uncool -- unless it's done by the Trockadero's Isadora, and then it's camp. In some ballets where we need a villain, like "Sleeping Beauty" we avoid the issue, just "seeing" the dancing. The mime characters could be doing the mime from a completely different ballet and most of us wouldn't know or care.

What will it take to make us see drama? Is suspension of disbelief possible?

#2 Calliope

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Posted 01 February 2002 - 03:04 PM

I'm not sure if this is in effect what you mean, Alexandra, but I'll give it shot.

At least for me, the ballet is so beautiful. Even the monsters are beautiful.
But I'm not sure I've seen a ballet where there's almost a tangible evil. I may be forgetting something, but I can't think of any "bad guy" roles that have as much stage time as their antithesis. As I'm typing, I just thought of Dracula, but I haven't seen any and no one mentioned him...
Yet I "believe" in the fairies, in the hopeless romance that goes on (a woman, trapped in a Swan body). So I think the suspension of disbelief is entirely possible, but I think we live in a society where you turn on the tv and visually we're bombarded with "scary" all the time.
I have a feeling I missed the point of your question though, apologies if I did.

#3 Alexandra

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Posted 01 February 2002 - 04:31 PM

Thanks, Calliope -- that's what I was getting at. Perhaps it is because we are bombarded with the reality of evil every day that it's difficult to believe it on stage. Also, to audiences bred on puredanceballet, expressionistic ballet seems overdone. (As, to people who prefer expressionistic theater, abstract ballets can seem dry and wanting.)

#4 LMCtech

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Posted 02 February 2002 - 01:15 PM

I go in and ou of my cynical moods. Sometimes I will "get into" the play of good vs. evil, sometimes I have to sit back and balk. It usually depends on what kind of day I have had. But I still think I (and everyone) need to see it to remind myself of when I took it in without any question.

#5 Manhattnik

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Posted 02 February 2002 - 06:39 PM

In terms of a suspension of disbelief, I was pretty good at that when I was a kid, reading comic books about various characters in tights who could perform superhuman feats and defy gravity.

So, for me it was no big transition to the ballet, which features much the same, except to music.

#6 leibling

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Posted 11 February 2002 - 12:53 PM

On the monsters thread, Alexandra mentioned something about a character's reaction to a person, monster or event- do we not believe in the monsters because noone reacts to them?- A good point- sometimes my emotions are stirred as I watch someone else's reaction ot something. In Giselle, for instance- just looking at Giselle's body lying on the stage does not always register a reaction, but when I see the villagers and the mom reacting- that is when I realize that this is something real.


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