At Dearest Home by Kyle Abraham’s Abraham.In.Motion, the audience was offered the choice of listening to an original score along with the show or listening in silence. In my past experience, a dance performance is intimately intertwined with music and is oftentimes the impetus for a dancer’s movement. Music not only has the power to add to choreography but it has the power to transform it and alter it. The choice to select music or not made the show from the beginning feel like interactive performance art. My choice would directly impact my experience of the show. I chose to take the headphones with me to my seat and would later decide what I wanted to do.
I thought it would be interesting to listen what the music was like and then maybe take the headphones off so I could experience the dance without sound as well. We were soon informed that the company requested we make a decision: either to listen to the music for the duration of the performance, or listen completely in silence. I decided that if I listened in silence I could in no way imagine what the music was like, versus if I listened to the music then maybe I could imagine the dancing in silence. The director of the Hop, Mary Lou Aleskie, also informed us, much to my surprise and delight, that the dancers themselves had never heard the musical score before. This solidified my decision to listen with music. To me, that meant the music was an independent piece of art that did not sway the dancers in their movements but rather would add another element for me in the audience.
Listening to the music at first was I imagine was very similar to listening in silence. Very few notes played as the opening pieces were performed and I was hyper-aware of my own shallow breathing. When the music became more up-tempo and techno-style, the dancing transformed in front of my eyes. I looked for parallel movements in the music and the dance to see if they lined up. Every movement seemed much more energized and intentional. I then tried to imagine the dance with the previous musical track, that of minimal notes and a softer beat. I think without the upbeat music, the dance would have seemed much slower and like the previous piece. It was almost as if the portion of the audience listening to the music was experiencing the dance in fast forward. By the end of the show my brain had seemingly blended the music with the dancing and I did not notice one particularly over the other. Because the dancers had never heard the music, their movements were independent from what I was hearing. I felt authority in my own unique interpretation of the two pieces coming together to form the show I experienced.