I took part in a Dramaturgy Workshop with Merel Heering at Dance Ireland on the 30th of November 2016. Merel’s ability to communicate her ideas with clarity and break down complicated material left a big impression on me. She was interested in giving us tools to enrich our practice. For people not familiar with what dramaturgy is you will find a description at the end of the article.
The advise and knowledge shared during the workshop are essential for every dance maker looking to bring a new point of view to their work. The main tasks for a dramaturge is to bridge the gap between artists and audience. Seeing the work from an audience perspective can inform your process. Another important point Merel made was the importance of guiding people to construct their own vocabulary. The same principal applies during the feedback sessions with the audience on how to direct them to devise a vocabulary around the performance they’ve witnessed.
Merel gave us a useful insight into how to facilitate a feedback session. She pointed out that before employing feedback you should be clear with what you want to gain from it as well as the stage you’re at in your process.
Four basic questions to ask your audience during feedback sessions:
1. What did you see?
Make the audience feel at ease with the task. Help them state the obvious as a point of entry to further discussion.
For example, how many people were on stage, state their gender, other characteristics, what else was present, facts, lights, etc.
2. How did you interpret what you saw?
Images, possible meanings, from where did the state arise.
3. What is your opinion about the work?
Clarifying question: How did you get to that opinion?
4. Can you formulate an open question? ( from the audience to the artist )
“An open-ended question is designed to encourage a full, meaningful answer using the subject’s own knowledge and/or feelings. It is the opposite of a closed-ended question, which encourages a short or single-word answer.”
I hope you’ll find as much value as I did in these insights. If you have the opportunity to take a workshop with Merel Heering please do. I believe it will shift the way you read and construct your work in a very positive and meaningful way.
As a final thought I would like to add that everything in dance is about effective communication. From how you communicate your work, your practice to how you communicate with your collaborators, participants and audience. All of that will lead not only to more ticket sales but will bring you more satisfaction in the process.
*Dramaturgy is about seeing things how they are, as well as how they could be seen. It is about contextualizing and positioning as well as about repositioning and reconsidering. Dramaturgy is an attitude, a way of looking: being highly aware of what you observe, asking shared questions and generating possible answers. It is creating a theoretical framework, it is process based thinking, it is composition, it is a craft.
Excerpt from the description of “Articulating a Thought – Dance Dramaturgy with Merel Heering”