Whenever I write about dance, I’m handicapped by the fact that all I can offer is a video and some words, and perhaps a few still photos.
That’s better than nothing. But it doesn’t even begin to compare with seeing a dance performance in person. On a flat screen you cannot properly appreciate depth and height, closeness and distance, and the living breathing force of the person moving in space right before your very eyes.
Dance is partly illusion—of floating, soaring, and flying; of indefatigability and ease while performing almost impossible feats (sometimes consisting of a variation after which the dancer pukes in the wings), of effortless beauty and eternal love (sometimes between two dancers who are at loggerheads).
Here’s a particularly good example of what I’m talking about. I’ve seen the following dance in person at least three or four times, and each time it has been extraordinary. The first time I ever saw “Caught” (when it was new, in the early 80s) I decided the illusion was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, I’ve ever seen in the theater—arresting, startling, and magical.
But the video gives you almost no sense of what I might be talking about (the real action only gets started around minute 2:15; I strongly suggest you watch it in full screen mode). To appreciate the illusion, the viewer must be aware of three dimensions, including and especially the location of the stage floor vis a vis the leaping strobe-lit dancer, and depth and height perception and scale. In the real thing, live, the dancer looks for all the world as though he is either flying or walking on the air:
Alas, David Parsons no longer performs the piece. But his company does, and I highly recommend going to see them if you get the chance, in no small part because it’s one of the few modern dance companies that feature humor as well. I wish I could find a video of Parson’s “Sleep Study,” one of my favorite examples of that genre. But I can’t, so here’s a still—which gives you only the very roughest idea of what I might be talking about:
[ADDENDUM: I've just learned that "Caught" was Parsons' very first work (an old video of part of it can be found here). Here's Parsons talking about having choreographed "Caught" at the very outset of his career:
And here's a nice clip of excerpts from the Parsons Dance Company's repertoire, for those who want to see more. It doesn't give you much idea of Parson's formidable comedic talents, but it does give you a notion of his choreographic dynamism, and it ends with a couple more seconds of "Caught" that give the best example on video I've yet seen of the experience of seeing it in person:
And a short one of another dancer doing "Caught":
That should whet your appetite.]