SHORE Post-Performance Reflection

Jun 18, 2014

Share your experience with us and tell us about the different parts of SHORE you participated in. How did any of the four parts of SHORE affect you? What significance did the multi-disciplinary approach of SHORE have for you? What other stories, thoughts, or experiences did SHORE trigger for you?

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to be perfectly honest - I can't think of one thing good to say about this performance. It was awful.

I have heard local artists say that an observer’s personal connection with the work is more important than an interpretation of the author’s original meaning. While I do not know the intimate thoughts and intentions of the collaborators of Shore, I was able to enjoy it from the perspective of my own experience. Shore, to me, was an artistic presentation to be observed, not necessarily a performance to be compared or graded. The participants obviously expended much energy and thought in preparation. Based on my limited scope of reference, the primary dancers were very skilled. The music and other auditory stimuli were simple, yet elegant. In many of the elements of the presentation I was able to see concepts that were either familiar or foreign to my own world view. Some of the elements of the presentation left me wondering about the author’s original meaning.

The process and product obviously made sense and meant a lot to Emily Johnson. It also represented a great deal of work and collaboration, which is to be commended. Though interesting, and vocal parts at times enjoyable, overall it felt empty and unfulfilling to me. The dancing seemed a bit aimless, repetitive, boring, with little discernible development (except for a hug at the end). I guess I needed a bit stronger thread linking the inside performance with the stories outside. The high point was after the show in the Northrop lobby with the song continuing and echoing beautifully. I wish I had known the words.

From the moment I went inside Northrup, SHORE disturbed me. Not just visually, but aurally, and then spiritually. I thought this work was about joy, but it began with a violence that the dancer in red was causing herself and then the assault of the loud keyboard sound that repeated every 15 seconds or so. Many people around me were plugging their ears with their hands. So from this jarring opening it was quite difficult for me to stay open to the work, but I tired. I tried to find moments even that I could find a way into, but at every turn there was just questions for me. This piece sorely lacked MEANING in its actual delivery. There was plenty of meaning in all the other events that SHORE is and was. The volunteering, the reading, the shared meal. But the dance lacked any kind of cohesiveness, authentic feeling, and precision. I was even more surprised because the work, unlike the second work in this trilogy, had a director who I have heard great things about. Half way through I thought I should leave. I was having a difficult time following any of the work and was beginning to feel negative. I didn't want to disturb the enjoyment others around me might be liking the work. But we were all packed in together and there was no way to leave. Which I also found to be some kind of violence. It is difficult to separate out the music, dance, spoken word and chorus and pick points that were good or not good. It was in general just not well crafted work. I am very surprised at the level of funding and attention this work is receiving because it is not able to stand up to the support. I saw the last piece as well and didn't say anything because I thought I will wait till the third to see if something meaningful and cohesive can be made of what comes across as a big mess on stage. I am sorry to say that even though this one had a director, it failed even more than the second work in the trilogy. I hope Emily and James drop this work and move onto something new. I respect them both as artists. I look forward to something different from them in the future.

If you read the comments from the last production "Niicugni" you will come across this below. I really wish someone (Johnson or the Director) had read this and taken it to heart when creating Shore. Listen to the audience, beyond friends and people who admire your work. "trying to be generous" Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 04/23/2013 - 7:37am "I attended the performance with an open mind and heart, yearning to be welcomed into a space that would offer new views, experience, creative stirrings and a connection to the artists. I am not beyond loving controversial art, and the unexpected. But this was simply disappointing. The messages were mixed, the pedestrians seemed awkwardly unaffected and distracted. While I wanted to connect with Emily's vision, she seemed to be so 'into' the other dancer she was with, I often felt excluded or superfluous, when not manipulated into nervous laughter by standard performance tricks. I am reminded of the 'Emporor's New Clothes' am I to agree that this was a moving and deep experience because the funders tell me it is? and some audience members who support the artists are expressing their appreciation to the artist? Or would it be helpful to call it what it is, and ask gently for the artists to consider a more genuine offering to us, a little more intention and authenticity, some actual discipline with their craft, and some respect for the native influences being referenced? It seemed like an elaborate waste of so many resources, a sad display when the promise was for some connection to something true and lasting and maybe even sacred?"

The outside portion on the mall was lovely and affecting. The inside portion struck me as all smoke and mirrors. Emily has some fine ideas, but she hasn’t managed to translate them to anything compelling or comprehensible onstage. The choir and “pedestrian” performers were visually and (often) aurally affecting, but did not relate to the three main women in any but the most superficial of ways. And they didn’t even get a bow at the end! Emily, Krista, and Aretha are powerful performers, and several of the solos (esp. Krista’s ending solo) gave me a sense of what this piece might have been. But the onus of pretentiousness lay heavily over everything onstage. I think one reason that “The Thank You Bar” worked so much better was that the audience was truly a part of it. We moved around with the performers on the stage and heard Emily’s compelling stories up close and personal. She handed us wonderful things to hold. Everything, including us, was in constant flux. The idea of dislocation, of change, of nature as both benevolent and red in tooth and claw, was conveyed. The whole thing had an intimacy and authenticity that the other two parts of the trilogy lacked. When Emily terms her performance work “installations” I believe her. But an installation must be experienced in a way other than seated in an audience staring up at a proscenium stage. ON THE OTHER HAND I applaud Northrop for taking the kind of risks inherent in commissioning new work. I love the idea that the performance was only one part of this multi part project, and that the piece had an outdoor component.

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