The festival Dance Umbrella has been going on for over 30 years here in London, usually in October-November. Last year, a new Artistic Director, Emma Gladstone, took over and brought a new vision to its programming (a focus on 21st century choreography) and lots of new ideas and approaches to presenting dance events.
The one that caught my attention was a different kind of post-show talk. We've probably all experienced Q&As with dancers/choreographers/etc after a performance: it's always enlightening to hear from the artists involved what they had in mind, where they came from, how they worked towards the piece etc, and to get the opportunity to ask them questions.
But what if you didn't like the work? What if you didn't get it? For many of us, it would be a little daunting to admit it to the artist's face. So Dance Umbrella set up post-show discussions between audience members only, without the presence of the artist. Any questions that would arise would be answered via their blog.
I attended the one following a performance by flamenco dancer Rocio Molina at the Barbican and found it so envigorating, open and enlightening. It got me seeing things in the piece I hadn't noticed. About 40-45 people stayed to share their thoughts about what they had just seen. Some people loved Molina's experimentations; others (me!) found them a little self-indulgent sometimes. Some saw references to Lorca, Ginger Rogers, Coppelia in some of her choreography; others thought there was no need to try and find references to hang on to and said so loudly. A couple shared their amazing story of walking past Molina's rehearsal space in Seville, watching her from the street for a few minutes, and being told they should come and see her at the Barbican: flamenco novices, they were blow away by it all.
Everyone was very respectful of others' opinions, and willing to share their thoughts and impressions. And no one hogged the mic!
Not sure whether Dance Umbrella have copyrighted the idea [ ;-) ], but I'd love to see this happening more often across other events.