– Spring/Summer 2004

Let Me Entertain You

Catherine Wood

Introvert: to turn inwards; to turn in upon itself; a person interested mainly in his or her own inner states and processes rather than the outside world.

Extrovert: to turn outward; to make manifest; a person mainly interested in the world external to him/herself; a sociable, outgoing lively person.

The psychological categories of 'introversion' and 'extroversion' serve as useful markers of two extremes in the character of performed dance. The work of avant-garde dancers and choreographers following Merce Cunningham would fall into the first category. Their work is characterised by a meditative and solipsistic quality. The averted gaze of the dancer and the sense that movement derives from an internal compulsion gives the appearance that the work does not actively seek to connect - though can happily co-exist - with its environment, musical accompaniment or the presence of an audience in close proximity. In its early conceptions, this 'introverted' quality was often seen as negative. Describing work by the new wave of American postmodern choreographers, such as Simone Forti, Steve Paxton and Yvonne Rainer, an article by critic George Jackson in Dance Magazine from April 1964 complains: 'Why do these people want to be themselves so badly that they practice doing it in public?' Another reviewer criticised a contemporaneous performance by Rainer, commenting that the dancer was so self-enclosed she seemed not to care whether anyone was watching or not.

The psychological attitude of ballet is quite the opposite, with its emphasis on 'turnout' (a stance derived from the act of opening the body out from the hip socket down to splayed foot) and the linear shapes and gestures of dancers directed towards the frontal plane of a conventional

  1. Quoted by a journalist in The Late Michael Clark, Illuminations production for BBC, directed by Sophie Fiennes, 1998

  2. 'Interview with Cerith Wyn Evans', Dazed & Confused, November 1998, p.144

  3. Siegfried Kracauer, The Mass Ornament: Weimar Essays, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995, pp.143-70

  4. Ibid., p.148

  5. Ibid., p.152

  6. 'How Slovenian is it?: Michael Benson on Laibach', Artforum, Oct 2003

  7. Judith Mackrell, Out of Line: The Story of British New Dance, London: Dance Books Ltd, 1992, p.53

  8. S. Kracauer, op. cit., p.170

  9. 'Interview with Michael Clark', Dazed & Confused, op. cit, p.144

  10. It is interesting to note that the Harvard edition of Kracauer's essay 'The Group as Bearer of Ideas', as cited, is accompanied by one of a series of the writer's own photographs of crowds, this one titled 'Spectators at a Sports Event', from 1933, p.142