Turn it off!

We’ve all seen it happening whether it’s from the stage or as a member of the audience – that sea of people using electronic devices during a performance. Have we lost the art of being courteous both to the performers and other members of the audience during a show? Not quite, but it’s not far off! I’ll talk more about general good manners later on but first I want to talk about how modern technology is having a detrimental effect on how we watch and enjoy shows of any sort.

This struck me particularly at the Shimmy in the City show the other weekend. Large numbers of people in the audience shamelessly filming performances or almost as bad, sending text messages. I was really irritated at the young girls sat immediately in front of me from part two – they spent almost the entire time sending texts!

I wanted to run round the theatre divesting all the offenders of their phones and cameras and then yell at them to “watch the show, you idiots!”

Please don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t manage without my mobile phone and I am an avid photographer but there is a time and place for these things and it is not during a performance. Why pay good money to see a wonderful show featuring so many fantastic dancers and then only watch it through the eye of your camera or phone?? Why did you buy a ticket if you didn’t want to actually watch and enjoy the show? Nothing can beat the experience of live performances whether that’s at your local haflah or a star-filled theatre production. Many organisers arrange for a DVD to be available at a later date but even if they don’t, just sit there and enjoy the show instead of focusing on making a poor quality film of it on your camera/phone.

Filming something whilst watching it puts you at a remove from the actual performance because of the barrier it places between you and the performer, greatly reducing  you being able to enjoy the subtler moments of a performance. I know this first-hand as I have been the videographer myself on many occasions. You cannot watch the show and fully enjoy it whilst trying to capture a recording of it at the same time.

Apart from anything else, it is extremely discourteous to everyone else to sit there distracting those around you with the light from your screen. This is particularly annoying in a theatre situation because with the house lights down it is even more distracting and annoying to see lots of small lights dotted all around the auditorium! One of the girls in front of me at the Shimmy in the City show texted someone saying “I’m watching Dina right now!” but she wasn’t, she was looking at her phone instead – what a waste!

Please everyone, turn off your mobiles and put away your cameras so that you can just sit back and enjoy the show.

Good manners cost nothing.

I also want to talk about how I have noticed a general decline in manners and courtesy within our dance community over the years. This could be a very long post if I talked about all the things that come under this umbrella so for now I am going to talk about it in connection with shows, haflahs and performance situations generally.

My main complaints are:

  • As mentioned above, the discourteous use of phones and cameras.
  • People talking loudly whilst someone is on the stage or dance floor giving their all to entertain you.
  • Late arrivals at a theatre who don’t wait until a break in the performances but instead noisily disturb everyone as they get to their seat and make themselves comfortable. Why is it that somehow this always happens when something quiet is happening on stage? At other theatrical productions the ushers stop people from entering until either a suitable break/change of performer or scene or in some cases late arrivals are not allowed to take their seats until the intermission.  Then there are those who arrive late to a haflah who, with no thought to those performing, noisily scrape chairs, say hello to friends etc., instead of making an effort not to distract the rest of the audience from those who are performing. 

    I am not saying that at a haflah one should sit there in silence, far from it. What I am asking for is a little consideration for the performers – by all means talk just don’t do it really loudly. It makes it seem like you don’t care about those who are performing and you should ask yourself how you would feel if it were you trying to entertain people who are more interested in chatting to their mates than enjoying the dancing.

  • People buying drinks at the bar and then walking across the dance floor to get back to their seat. It’s bad enough that they may have a spillage making the floor slippery but if they drop something all those dancing bare foot run the risk of having glass in their feet because it is so hard to ensure that every tiny piece of glass is accounted for. Then there are the very rude who, for whatever reason, thoughtlessly walk across the dance floor whilst a performance is going on! I wish this was a rare occurrence but I have seen many instances of this over the years.

These are just a small selection of things that I’ve observed in recent times, all things that are not only discourteous and disrespectful  but down right rude. They demonstrate a lack of respect for those doing their best to entertain you and the rest of the audience who are trying to enjoy that entertainment.

A plea on behalf of all performers and fellow audience members – please, think twice before you do any of these things.


Promotion and hyperbole – inextricably linked?

This is a subject that has been bothering me for several years because it appears that the two have become inextricably bound together and I think this is wrong.

It is not a crime to pad things with a little bit of hype, I think we all do that – trying extract the most we can from any experience, talent or qualification. However some people take this too far and we owe it not just to ourselves and our dance community but also the general public not to cross the boundary into fantasy. Dancers who indulge in excessive hyperbole tend to end up believing their own hype and this leads to problems all of their own, which I will talk more about later on.

Truth in advertising and getting the balance right.

When you are writing copy for your website about what you can do and how well you can do it, it is very hard to resist the temptation to turn ‘I teach workshops in baladi’ into ‘I am an expert in baladi.’ The second just sounds so much nicer doesn’t it? What happens then, when you are booked to teach a workshop in baladi and the students discover that you don’t in fact know a great deal more about baladi than they do? They maybe too polite to complain at the time but they will most likely not invite you back to teach anything else and will be uncomplimentary when asked about you by others in the dance community. Didn’t really work to your advantage did it?

A trend that has been around for a long time and really annoys me is the over-enthusiastic and dishonest use of the phrase ‘I have studied with.’ Studying with someone is something you do over a prolonged period, it is most definitely NOT applicable if you have only done one or two workshops with a teacher! It’s much more honest to say ‘I have taken several workshops with. . .’ Dancers who are coached by me, take regular private classes with me as well as attending my workshops are entitled to say that they have studied with me. One workshop on dancing with wings does not an expert make and certainly doesn’t qualify you to go off and start teaching your own workshops on the subject! I have seen that happen far too many times in recent years!

My fantasy is now my reality.

There are a growing number of dancers who I have observed change from being modest and honest about their achievements into strange beings that I find hard to recognise. These are the dancers who are either very ambitious, self-absorbed, have an inflated view of their place in the community or a combination of all three. Commercial considerations are high on their agenda as promoting their ‘brand’ and therefore themselves, becomes the be-all and end-all of everything and they often stoop to marketing practices that do neither their reputation or our dance in general any favours. Mud sticks which means it also sticks to the rest of us simply by association.

These are dancers who make for divas backstage and they have a habit of trampling over everything and everyone to get to where they want to be. I don’t think any of these dancers realise just how obnoxious they become, so intent are they on promoting themselves to the detriment of both honesty and standards. In recent years I have seen this as an ever-increasing phenomenon  and there are several dancers who I no longer have much to do with because they have gone down this route. To be honest I find it quite sad because most of them started out as very nice people.  I’ve also noticed that many of these dancers try to distance themselves from those who gave them their start, either by being their teacher or someone who helped them along the way. For some reason many of them expunge a great deal of their early dance experience and training so that they can say ‘look at me,  I got here with no help from anyone.’  Which is silly really because no one springs into being as a fully fledged, trained and experienced dancer. Just because you want to forget your more humble beginnings as a dancer doesn’t mean that your teachers and fellow students will do the same.

Dancers of this ilk really do annoy me and there are far too many of them around now. Oh how I wish I could prick the bubble of their fantasy, especially when I can see that they are living it at the expense of those around them. There are several around at  the moment that I have been watching from the side-lines, observing as they use methods of promoting and conducting themselves and/or their business that is disingenuous at best but sadly is usually just plain ruthless and calculating. There are a few who are prepared to be deliberately controversial or provocative in order to gain publicity for themselves in complete disregard for the consequences this brings with it. It may provide them with the instant results they want but in the long term this is not good for them and it most certainly isn’t good for the reputation of our dance as a whole. There is a very fine line between famous and infamous!

The old adage of being careful who you piss off on the way up because they will be waiting for you on the way back down, is a true one where the entertainment industry is concerned! Some dancers would do very well to remember this. . .

Kitty Kohl

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