Comedic Dance

This past weekend I saw part of Triskelion Art's Comedy in Dance Festival.  I did not expect to be blown away by any of the pieces, but I went with someone who is not the hugest dance fan, so I hoped at least for a good chuckle for the two of us.  Alas, it was horrendously bad, and that's coming from a person who loves really weird art.  Dancers were trying to act when they clearly weren't well versed in acting, let alone comedy.  The title of the festival was misleading because there was nothing inherently comedic about the dance, but rather it was as if someone tried to inject a standard modern dance piece with their contrived idea of what is comedic.

That's not to say that dance can't be comedic.  That's not what I mean at all.  Because dance can be absolutely hysterical, but only if the artists drop the common notions of what is funny.  Comedy in dance can't rely on jokes or physical humor.  Comedic dance pieces have to play with expectations.  They don't involve dancers hamming it up onstage in pieces that appear to have been thrown together a mere ten minutes before the performance.  Comedic dance requires even more careful planning than the standard minimalist contemporary piece.

Some of the most successful dance pieces I've seen were comedic.  Compagnie Marie Choinard's Gymnopedies spent the first 2/3 of the piece setting the scene as a very romantic/realistic/human interpretation of Satie's Gymnopedies.  Then slowly the dancers came out wearing clown noses, and then the music would be played through a boombox instead of coming from the onstage baby grand.  By the end of the show, there were dancers humping keyboards and waving with nervous smiles to the crowd who was keeling over in laughter.  But the piece would not have been funny had Choinard not taken the necessary time to set the piece up properly and introduce the humorous elements tastefully.

In general, I think that people give comedy too little credit.  The fact that the dances I saw in this festival existed is testament to how easy people think comedy is.  Sure, the dance companies involved in the festival probably thought their dances were comedic gold, but their misguided beliefs surely came about because the choreographic process had all become an inside joke.  It's hard to create a good piece of comedy that retains its humor even after you take a step back from it.  It's even harder to add comedy to an art form that is often taken too seriously.  The dance world is a very academic and intellectual world that sometimes feels too stuffy for even a slight smile.  But dance audiences and dancers love a good chuckle as much as anyone else, just that laughter must be earned.


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Meet The Author

I'm Madysen, born and raised in Nebraska but now living out my dreams in New York City. I moved here to go to Columbia, but living in New York has become so much more to me. This blog is a space where I can share my experiences of reconciling my midwestern upbringing with the life I live in the city. But even bigger than that, this blog serves as a space where I can try to understand where I fit into the larger social world, where I want to go in life, and how I want to go about pursuing all of these endeavors.

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