Very much a work in progress, Jo Fong's An Invitation... is an experimental dance theater piece, which depends heavily on the dynamics of the audience. The piece certainly works when half the audience is made up of dancers with grace and rhythm and choreographers with vision and imagination. But for us poor, passive sods called dance spectators, being invited to take center stage is equivalent to being asked to jump off a cliff, no matter with or without a bungee cord.
Deep immersion in the experience of an evolving work is a fascinating journey but it depends heavily on what each spectator can positively contribute to the process. It's a gamble.
What can become of the creative process can be surreal and gorgeous when you have the right mix of ingredients -- contributors, space, atmosphere and even time of the day. I understand that the aim of Jo Fong's piece is ambitious and lofty.
In this particular show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the mood and momentum didn't quite catch fire with each and every person in the audience at times. And you could see it in their faces unfortunately. With the onlookers facing directly opposite each other in a tiny studio, it was hard not to notice the disbelievers. Besides, the dancers had their backsides to half the audience half the time. The spatial setup led to a disjointed audience experience. Perhaps the room setup was wrong. Perhaps this performance is best reserved as a workshop for dancers and choreographers. Too many in-jokes. Too many apologies for not involving the audience members who didn't want to be involved in the first place.
Yes, it was An Invitation... but what if some of us just wanted to be Invited to Watch, Not Make dance?
However, I'm sure ultimately Jo Fong's final work will be engrossing as she consolidates the input from her audience research into a polished piece. Obviously, she's an experienced, extremely capable dancer with captivating, enthralling moves when she broke into what looked like spontaneous forays into dance. She is obviously a creative force to be reckoned with and it would be fascinating to see some of her final works.
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