Dance and music combined into what can only be classified as… an experience.

By Nathan Durkin

This past Tuesday, I went to see Anderrson Dance and the Scottish Ensemble perform Goldberg Variations: Ternary Patterns for Insomnia. Before coming to the show, I had seen a preview of it, and thought it seemed quite strange. Nothing short of actually experiencing this performance, however, could possibly prepare someone for what I witnessed that night.

A picture of my program for Goldberg Variations – Ternary Patterns for Insomnia.
Taken 4/2/19 by Nathan Durkin.

As I was walking into the auditorium, the stage was already being used, with props lying around, people walking about, preparing for their performance. Looking back, this really is where the show began. Countless props were constantly being thrown, dragged, climbed, worn, etc. throughout the entire performance, moving on and off the stage much like this very beginning. With all of the strange props – ropes, pipes, ladders, bowls, clothes, unidentifiable objects, and more – constantly being taken on and off the stage with the dancers and musicians, it made the performance itself feel very unexpected, always changing. It allowed the performers to set moods throughout the performance depending on what they bring on and off the stage. These different moods translated into what could possibly be described as stories – there were definitely things going on, even if I’m not entirely sure what they all were – going throughout the performance, sometimes more than one at a time. There are supposedly 30 parts of this dance, which would every now and then be announced by either a dancer or a musician, but there was so much constant chaos from all of the props, all of the bright colors, all of the everything, that I was only able to tell what part the performance was on when a dancer would occasionally shout out a number.

A picture of my view of the stage, with some of the props visible. Dancers and musicians would soon arrive to start the preshow show.
Taken by Nathan Durkin on 4/2/19.

One of the key points brought up in the video I had seen in preparation for this event was this idea of playfulness. Indeed, all of the bright colors, silly props, silly movements, etc. did give me this sense of playfulness – the audience spent a good portion of the show in laughter and applause. It played a lot with the notion that classical music is supposed to be graceful and elegant. The music was quite nice throughout, and though the musicians were playing the same tune 30 times, they played with what the tune sounded like to fit a mood that they were trying to go for. They started out making the performance seem fairly normal – announcing the first movement, playing the piece fairly normally, no extravagant dancing. By the time we were in double digit movements, however, the music was being played at varying tempos by varying instruments in varying styles – the same classical piece, which one would expect to be in a very formal, graceful setting, was filled with strange movements, bright colors, and props everywhere. The musicians themselves did not let them be bound to their role as musicians. They put their instruments down and danced themselves – sometimes even without the dancers. The dances were obviously not as physically intensive as those being performed by the dancers, but the show as a whole allowed for less complicated movements to not seem out of place. Nothing seemed out of place in that performance. It was performed in such a manner that nothing felt out of place, yet at the same time everything felt out of place. I tried to explain to my friends afterwards what I had just seen, but there were just no words. I don’t think any form of communication could possibly get across the experience I had that night. The only way I could possibly describe it without showing it would be with one word: chaos.

My ticket for the performance.
Taken on 4/2/19 by Nathan Durkin.

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