San Jose New Ballet's Sleeping Beauty - photo by Bari Lee Photography

You know the age old debate: is dance a sport? Well, we’re not here to debate that today (although, if we’re on the topic, this writer believes that matter could be put to bed with the following: dance is not a sport, but dancers are most certainly athletes). But we if we take some of the good parts of watching sports and apply them to dance performances? For example, commentary. 

Whether you’re a die-hard sports fan or not, you have to admit that commentary is often helpful when watching a game. It provides context that allows the viewer to process what is transpiring on the field with greater depth and understanding. Well educated commentators give information on the players, history of the game, and make it an altogether more engaging experience for audience members. Well, can’t the same be true for ballet? 

That’s precisely what San Jose’s New Ballet thought last month, when they offered “live casting” seats at one of their Sunday performances of Sleeping Beauty. Director Dalia Rawson said she was inspired by watching electronic coverage of sports broadcasts. Patrons who purchased these special seats were seated together in the balcony (so the phone lights would not disturb others), and could use their own phones and headphones to dial in to listen to pre-recorded commentary that included anecdotes, historical context and facts about the show, and interviews with the dancers.

In an interview with her local paper The Mercury News, Rawson said that she knew this was a bit unorthodox, but she thinks “context and additional information with enhance the experience, just as it does when watching football or the Olympics.” What do you think - would you like to watch a performance with someone in your ear, or is dance best left alone? 

photo: Bari Lee Photography

About the author

Anne Luben has performed works by notable choreographers such as Donald McKayle, Bill T. Jones, Jiri Kylian, Idan Cohen, Alex Ketley, and Summer Lee Rhatigan, among others.