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Audience Behavior


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#1 Jayne

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Posted 09 May 2013 - 08:39 PM

WSJ has a great article on the audience singing along at the revival A Trip to Bountiful.

I'll never forget seeing George Balanchine's "Prodigal Son" performed by Dance Theatre of Harlem for a mostly black audience. At one point in the ballet, the dancers unexpectedly form a human merry-go-round. I'd seen it happen a half-dozen times without incident in the past, but that night the audience let out a huge whoop of delight at the sheer cheekiness of Balanchine's choreography. And did I join in? You bet. It felt as though I were watching that classic dance for the first time in my life.


The indelible memory of that wonderful whoop is one of the reasons why I keep on going to live performances night after night. Sure, it's easier to stay home and fire up your television or stereo—but you'll probably be the only one whooping. It's a lot more fun to do it in a crowd.




I have to say I really enjoy the more emotional audiences at ballets. Watching a ballet done in a Latin country is a very emotional experience - they don't hold back on their appreciation - or disapproval. I'm really not opposed to the figure skating type of crowd that cheers for excellent dancing, and hisses their love to hate the evil characters. It just makes the whole experience more fun!

#2 sandik

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Posted 09 May 2013 - 10:00 PM

I'm always curious to hear audience response (I'm an inveterate eavesdropper in the lobby), and I've really been wondering lately about laughter. I recently watched six performances of Pacific Northwest Ballet's Swan Lake, and in each one of them Von Rothbart got laughs when he moved to block Siegfried's view of the real Odette in the third act. I don't remember this moment getting laughter in previous years, and I don't know that it reads as funny in other productions. I've always thought that Paul Tazewell's costume for Von R was pretty over the top, but it hasn't seemed to make a difference before -- I'm trying to figure out what made this series of performances different.

#3 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 10 May 2013 - 03:21 AM

Sandik...just like you, I've been doing an ongoing study of the laughter phenomenom. People seem to feel the need to nervously laugh all the time about everything, everywhere. Classes in school need to be fun...programs on TV are permeated of silly comedy. Lately, when I go to see a film, no matter how dramatic it is, theres's always the omnipresent nervous laughter at the most strange moments. For some reason, everytime I have to suffer the improper laughing at dramatic moments, I think of Balanchine's words to Von Aroldingen in "Elegie" setting up the right tone..."You are European, you know how to mourn"...

#4 Birdsall

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Posted 10 May 2013 - 03:58 AM

I think in American culture the "alternative" scene has caused it to be corny to cry or be moved by something. We are supposed to see irony or ridiculousness in everything because everyone is trying to be too cool for school all the time. I noticed when I worked in the schools that being "cool" was the most important thing to teens nowadays, not doing well. And I think people growing up in that atmosphere has some of that sticking in their personality even in adulthood. Look at the popular music and culture. Even the Met Gala tried to be "cool" this year.

#5 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 10 May 2013 - 05:33 AM

And then you hear more and more the "oh, I danced this or that, and it was a lot of fun!" -(in, let's say, R&J), or instead of "I love my husband...he's wonderful father" or something along the lines, you get the "I love him, he makes me laugh all the time!" and so on and so forth...
I definitely think people are more and more confused when faced with performing arts in the dramatic side. It's almost like they don't know how to react. One time I was at a screening of Bunuel's "Viridiana" and there was a whole raw ow women behind me that couldn't stop laughing during the most dramatic moment, even during the famous rape scene. I mean, ...really..?



Just recently, the most liked scene of "Dances at a Gathering" by MCB, according to the general laughing, was the duet of the two men challenging each other in their dancing-(there's a comic touch to it). People were like, "Oh, NOW we're talking....ha,ha,ha!!"

#6 abatt

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Posted 10 May 2013 - 06:08 AM

What a coincidence. I saw Bountiful last night and the audience did sing along with the hymns. My husband and looked at each other and cracked up when people started singing along. By the way, Tyson is giving a heartbreaking performance, and I enjoyed the show very much. Attendance was sparse, and there were plenty of rows of empty seats.

Audience participation is not always welcome. When Denzel Washington did a show on Broadway a few years ago, the audience's vocal involvement was an interference with the flow of the drama.

#7 Birdsall

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Posted 10 May 2013 - 08:07 AM

Cristian,

Sometimes I think really horrible things can cause a human reaction that seems inappropriate. Maybe the woman viewing the movie with rape was raped herself and her mind and body HAD to react that way.

I know what you mean, but I do think humans are humans. I think we can't always judge how a particular person reacts, because there could be a good reason.

When my mother and I were getting ready for my sister's funeral she and I started laughing hysterically because she was looking for something black to wear and she pulled out a black dress that was "sexy" that had belonged to my sister and laughed about my mother wearing it and what my grandmother would think. For a few minutes we thought we were TERRIBLE for laughing during such a horrible time, but our bodies and minds NEEDED to laugh. We needed something that took us out of the horror we were experiencing. After 20 years I still cry about my sister at times, and I don't think you ever get over it, but there was that moment when we laughed.

Each person processes things differently, and laughter (like tears) is a RELEASE. When people see someone crying they sometimes say, "Don't cry...." Well, you would never say, "Don't laugh!" (at least not most of the time). Laughter is usually an acceptable release in public in the U.S. but crying is not. Crying indicates weakness among men and now even women b/c women are supposed to be "tough" nowadays.

I think this could be the reason. People are trying to only show their tough or cool side in public, and I do think some of it has to do with pop culture. Music has to be "cool" and not sappy, etc.

But if you sit down with any human being (from ANY country) and question them about their lives and tragedies in their lives, you will find tears and deep feeling. Humans are humans. Every person that walks by you has a story that would probably make you cry and admire that person. Try to remember that when you see the person behaving in a way you do not understand.


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