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A long time ago, I went to a talk by the mezzo-soprano Janet Baker, who said that her goal was to connect with at least one audience member in each performance (she used more lyrical words than those; she might even have said "heal"). Her performance philosophy & practice were clearly oriented around giving something to the listener; this is something I've felt from her and many other singers over the years. So I wondered: are there any dancers who seem to embody this ethos? I've spoken before about the revelation of seeing Peter Boal perform Apollo as a generous god, but I can't say that I'd call many dancers particularly "giving," except perhaps to the degree that any virtuostic performer provides us pleasure. Do ballet or modern dance performers attempt to "speak" to us? Any thoughts, BTers? (I'm interested primarily in the viewers' POV.)

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It's maybe not an obvious 'reaching out', but a generosity, yes, of course. It requires the ability to receive the gift in a slightly abstruse way, but then great classical and modern dance are not pedestrian affairs. I don't really, though, see it as any different from singers or musicians or actors-you can feel the generosity from any of these. I've experienced great generosity to the audience as the generosity was being given to the art to which the dancer was devoted by Suzanne Farrell, Rudolph Nureyev, Peter Schaufuss, Natalia Makarova, Patricia McBride, Melissa Hayden, Bart Cook, Virginie Mycene, Jeanne Solan, Bill T. Jones, and Martha Graham (though only on tape), among probably many others. You sometimes feel a personal connection, that a moment is 'made for you', but I never swear that those happened unless I'm really up close, as in a cabaret, where it can be unmistakable. I once thought Kiri TeKanawa sang for a second just for me in 'Arabella' at the Met, but I was in the Family Circle, and have since written that one off to aging adolescence. But if you feel inspired and enraptured, and can now get some work done too even, maybe, then the artist has been generous, within his art, which is where it alone can be perceived (unless you know them personally).

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This is a very shoking and uncomfortable position for both the performer and the audience member, if the actor/singer/dancer decides to make eye contact with the certain person in the auditorium and play/sing/dance only for him/her. This action breaks the "illusion" of the theatre, when everybody agree to pretend that everything what happened on the stage is a true. Otherwise public should run to the stage to help Hamlet with his struggles.

Probably with singers, when they have concert, not the opera perfrormance, the things are little bit different. The public is seating close by, the light in the auditorum is still in and such contacts could be made, depending on the taste and tact of the performer.

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In the past I have seen dancers create a "conversation" with the audience through the way they projected while performing, or phrased while dancing. Projecting both an inner emotional truth or that inner 'freedom' within the movement, beyond simply smiling joyously or allowing the audience to see the hurt/bewilderment during Giselle's mad scene, by being fully invested in the choreography or dramatic action and so giving that truth to the audience. Sometimes it is direct, sometimes not.

More often, though, I've seen dancers "play" with an audience's expectations--like an actual give & take conversation--through the phrasing. In a way asking... "So, you want to see me balance/leap/turn? Ok, but I'm going to make you wait till I do, or extend it longer than you think, or cut it short so I don't bore you and me!" And then both the audience, and the dancer can smile in satisfaction (and hopefully not smugness.) So yes, I've seen those thoughts or action-reactions flicker across the faces/movements of many past greats, and a few more current dancers too, and it does make the audience fill like a participant in an "inter-active" performance. Have they received a gift from a generous dancer? Or just a playful pastime of a bored performer?

Once, I went to see a performance very haphazardly, not thinking too hard, simply to see a dance, and nearly jumped out of my seat when a dancer did a port de bras almost directly at me--or should I say TO me? I was in rear center Mezz at City Center, so was closer to the stage (and almost same level of course) than at Met, but still it was probably the oddest moment I have ever experienced.

And offstage, while many dancers have been polite and thoughtful and so patient, there is only one I can think of who has been 'generous to a fault'. Something that is still shocking, unbelieveable, and very much appreciated. Yes, such people (dancers or not) do exist. Amazing as it is.

PS. Thanks to Andrei for making me smile as I envisioned us thousands rushing the stage to help Hamlet by committee--or trying to revive Ophelia.

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