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Thoughts on Watching Dance


Often as a choreographer and dancer, friends, family, and other audience members will ask after a performance, of either my own work or a show we’ve watched together,  “But what does it mean?” This is often asked with a tinge of anxiety, as if the dance were some sort of quiz for which there are right or wrong answers, and that their level of culture and insight might be judged by their right or wrong interpretations. I’ll tell you what I always tell them:


Relax, watch, and observe what you feel. If I’d wanted to communicate a literal narrative I would have written a play or a novel for you. But as a choreographer, and as a dance artist, I’m simply inviting you to feel something. What that feeling is for you will most likely be influenced by the intentions I put into creating the work, but also by your own life experiences, how you relate to the world. 


Especially in our modern times where words can be so divisive, sometimes bypassing language all together and going directly to the emotion that a simple gesture conveys, or the stirrings of memory that an image of figures, color, and light on stage can evoke, will more directly bring us back to a depth of feeling in our own realities, or transport us to worlds or moments just beyond what we can put out finger on with words. 


There are no wrong answers to what you feel, even if its not exactly what I intended when I made the work. As an artist, I don’t make political or activist work. There is no precise message. My hope is that my dances will simply help people to feel and be in their own emotions for a little while, maybe in a different way than is their habit. And maybe this different way of feeling will help ground us, enabling us to return to the world outside the theatre with more empathy and understanding for the world around us.


If not, just enjoy bodies moving through space, and all the colors, sounds, and shapes. I promise you, there will be no quiz at the end!


Aimee McDonald

Artistic Director 

Photo by Kirk Donaldson

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