Given the amount of live streaming and videos of archived live performance available in today’s current lockdown situation, I thought it would be appropriate to note the pros and cons of video documentation in relation to live performance. I will close the post with something I have watched and a quote I am pondering.

Cons of Video Documentation

Mock (2000) argues the ephemerality of live performance and how live performance should not be used interchangeably with video recordings of the performance due to the loss of ‘human’ exchange between audience and performer. In essence, this exchange suggests that in live performance, reality is experienced, not witnessed, it is a phenomenological unity between audience and performer that cannot be captured through video. Royce (2002) echoes this, suggesting that when audiences watch a ‘copy’ of a performance, a new ontological exchange is generated. Film provides a record of a particular performance, rather than a record of a particular choreography in its ‘pure state’.

Pros of Video Documentation

However, video depicts the situation of performance exactly as that particular situation stood in that moment in time. It is raw material that stands as a solid means to archive and build portfolios for those artists who choose to work in the medium of live / fleeting performance. Moreover, it enables the artist to reach wider audiences and to gain peer review beyond that ‘moment in time’. Another key point is that when video is used to capture live performance, it is not only able to record the performance itself, but also the audience reaction to the work. This is gold to any choreographer/ director as it offers a powerful point for analysis and reflection (see blog on spectator gaze). From an archival point of view, these reactions, depending on the content of the work, will say a lot about any particular culture and societal trend at the time of recording.

I must say, there is bias from my side when it comes to video documentation. I have successfully used this methods for years within my solo research processes. During this lockdown I am using it more than ever. In the past week alone I used technology to teach online, record my training / teaching to promote my skills to wider audiences, I have sold links to my archived performance work, I have spoken to family and friends with it and I have watched four “released during lockdown” archived works of four of my favourite choreographers. Overall, regardless of the loss of human exchange between audience and performer, video documentation is a successful way to disseminate art to wider audiences and is a valuable point of reflection for artists and teachers.

Something I have watched – The Art of Not Looking Back by Hofesh Shechter

The work is an autobiographical piece about the way Hofesh Shechter sees women; plastic, unpredictable and strong. His vocal narrative is used a sound score to support the female bodies on stage. The gestural, repetitive moments in silence are really poignant and it is those moments in silence that make the music more sobering when it eventually comes in again. Even the horrible screeching adds to the experience, preventing the audience from gaining comfort or any sense of relief. The dancers are just gorgeous in their wonderfully grotesque movement. The lighting is dark red, this only makes the sweat of the dancers stand out more. It is like they are in a boiler. The dancers regroup at the back of the stage often. The biggest standout moment, for me, was whilst one of the nine female dancers stood in the middle of the stage, on her own, as the words “I don’t forgive you” were heard.

A quote I am pondering.

We only believe those thoughts which have been conceived not in the brain but in the whole body.

—W. B. Yeats

I will be back with more notes next week, but in the meantime, you can see my daily updates by following me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook

Rowena x