How to watch a dance performance

February 14, 2014 

Thaddeus Davis, principal in the Wideman-Davis Dance Company and choreographer of Breaking the Barrier’s Mass Hysteria, shares tips on how to take in this moving art form.

Face it: most of us are lucky that no one watches us when we dance. That’s not the case for the student performers in USC’s Dance Company. Most danced their way through elementary school and grades thereafter and have mastered turning even the simplest movement into something beautiful. In performing Breaking the Barrier, which opened Tuesday night at Drayton Hall Theatre, the all-female cast will need those skills.

That’s because Breaking the Barrier is composed of five stunning, but very different works, each choreographed by a different artist. Bushache Etude, for example, recreates a ritual dance of the Bushongo people of the former Belgian Congo while Paper Wings asks dancers to perform parts of the work with little or no accompaniment.

Because watching dance can often be as much as a challenge as dancing itself, we asked Thaddeus Davis, assistant professor of contemporary dance at USC, principal in the Wideman-Davis Dance Company and choreographer of Breaking the Barrier’s Mass Hysteria, for a few tips on how to take in this moving art form.

Don’t always look for the story: “We’re always trying to figure out the point, but, it’s OK just to be enthralled by the movement,” says Davis.

Leave preconceived notions at the door: “Titles can be tricky,” notes Davis. “They may be the idea behind the work, but aren’t always indicative of what the piece is.”

Watch what captures your attention: Whether it’s the facial expression of a single dancer or the shape being created on the dance floor, Davis suggests following your eyes and enjoying where they take you.

Katie McElveen

Breaking the Barrier, Drayton Hall Theater, 1215 College St., (803) 777-5112; artsandsciences.sc.edu/dance/2014/season13-14.html

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