Thursday, September 30, 2010

shame

In St. John's, Newfoundland recently, while at the Festival of New Dance, I saw Martin Bélanger's piece Spoken Word/Body.  In it,  he offers us a piece of text which he wrote a long time ago. He tells us, however, that we should know that he is ashamed of it. He is only putting that text in the piece because his collaborators insisted upon it. Then, he says, seeing as he is being paid to perform and the audience has paid to watch him, it is only fitting that he should be the one who is humiliated.

Shame and humiliation in an arena of commodification.

In that little scene, we are all implicated in this ritual of performance - the performer, the audience, the exchange of money. And by calling it for what it is, we are then able to see past the ritual and perceive the real pain and truth contained in the shameful text without feeling as if we have been manipulated by shameless sentimentality.

The following night, while in the middle of my own performance, I realized that in fact, The Whole Beast is full of things that I am ashamed of. The shame is about speaking the truth about yourself. And the line that divides the shameful from the shameless is very, very thin indeed.

To dance the truth is to dance on the treacherous edge of a very sharp blade.