Art, is a finicky, slippery, fish of a thing.
Some people love it! Crave it! Marinate and savor it!
Other people want to toss it back into the ocean where it undoubtedly belongs.
Still others are somewhere in the between. Taking it as they find it, but not always overtly seeking it out.
Well, jokes on you, Still Others, because art is EVERYWHERE. Your beloved Super Bowl commercials? That was someone's artistic marketing dream! The jingle of your go-to oil changery? That was borne of a musician's heart! The color scheme of your CPA's office? Yeah, someone said to herself, "These commercial business chairs will look alright with this commercial business carpet, and this wall hanging from Staples is fine."
Art is, delightfully, everywhere.
(Here is comes...)
The trickiest misconception about art is that you have to, you know get it. Understand it. It has to mean something to you every time. And here's the thing. It might not.
First of all, you're not alone. It happens to all of us, and modern dance especially can create a lot (a LOT) of skeptics who dismiss what they're seeing because they claim they don't "get it."
One thing is true. There's only one absolute, resolute, person who will unabashedly understand a performance...and that's the person that created it. Everything, everything else is left to speculation (which one could argue is one of the biggest risks / scariest concepts of being an artist, but THAT is another conversation for another day!)
So what do you do when you're at a show, and there are these cool performers performing and you don't know who they are or what they're doing or why they're doing it and what your face should look like while they're doing it?
Well, for starters, chill.
Any artist knows that their art is not for everyone. Any artist putting themselves out there knows they are subjecting their craft and their creation to scrutiny, criticism, and a handful of raised eyebrows. No artist will be offended by your lack of understanding. What is more upsetting, however, is lack of a willingness to understand.
If you're lucky enough to find yourself in the company of a creator. Here are some perfectly appropriate questions you can ask.
"What was your inspiration in creating this piece?"
"How long have you been working on this?"
"Tell me about your process? What was easy? What hurdles did you encounter along the way?"
"Why did you choose the ::music:: / ::title:: / ::costume:: / ::number of performers:: / ::lighting:: / ::really anything::?"
Or, if you're less looking for conversation, there are plenty of harmless, but still meaningful comments you can make to a creator. Whether or not you enjoy a performance, certainly something sticks with you to make you feel that way. Did a certain performer have an expression on their face that you can't get out of their head? Was there some nuanced movement you noticed? Was the color of the costume so striking you want to buy a couch in the same shade? Any sort of commentary on a work that shows that you truly watched it is compliment enough to an artist. Let them know what you noticed, what had an impact on you, and what made you think.
And remember, just because you don't LOVE a piece doesn't mean it can't have an impact on you. Anything you spend time thinking about or processing...well, that's an impact. And sitting back, watching a piece and enjoying the fact that people are doing something before you? That's enough too.
Art is not exclusive. Or at least, it shouldn't be. Create art. Share it. And talk about it. There are so many ways to enjoy something, so find the way that best suits you, and enjoy it...even if it is a fish.