So last post I mentioned a concept that I use a lot while teaching, and I think it bears expanding. It’s an idea that I revisit time and time again, as it is both a technique booster and a conduit into a larger discussion about art and audience. I can’t claim the invention of the first incarnation of That Guy—that honor belongs to a long-lost friend of mine, Rachel Wakefield. But it is a device that has changed and become mine in the retelling, as I shall elucidate here.
That Guy is an audience member who maybe doesn’t have a ton of money, or maybe decided to see a show at the last minute, and so is relegated to sitting in the very back of the theater, high in the first, second, third balcony. Maybe this is the Met or the Lincoln Center or the Carrier Dome or the Astrodome, and so That Guy is very far away from the action onstage. That Guy deserves the same show as the wealthy/lucky/proactive people in the first row Orchestra.
It becomes the job of the performer to project such that That Guy shares the same experience. Projection, connection, ‘having a face’—these are all methods of describing the tenuous emotional threads that bring people together in an artistic moment.
It’s not an earth-shattering statement to say that art—particularly performance art—can transport people out of themselves. When I choreographed my contemporary ballet piece “Nuestra”, all I wanted was to connect with people in some way, make them feel part of a greater whole. Based on the number of people who came to me in happy tears after the premier, I’d say it was a success.
When I teach my choreography to the SU Ballroom Team, after I am fairly confident they know the steps, I always bring up That Guy. Thinking about That Guy is what takes them from biting their lips to smiling, from staring at the floor to looking at the audience, from just going through the motions to actually dancing. It’s a learning point, and to me an essential part of performance art.