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You call that ballet?

Last year I was asked to give a brief onstage introduction to one of my choreographies. Afterwards I walked down into the audience in full view and took my seat as the lights dimmed. Seven minutes or so into my piece (at about the moment pictured here) , a man sitting right behind me exclaimed in outrage,“You call that ballet?”.

My face got hot and I worried for the rest of the piece that he’d have more to say. He didn’t, but the experience stuck with me because I was surprised by how much I had wanted to please. To please everyone.

It made me think about the relationship between artist and audience. Is it pandering if I hope people relate to my work? Many wonderful artists have been unappreciated in their lifetimes, but I don’t consider it a badge of honor to make work that annoys or offends. Nor do I want my efforts to be ignored.Who would, honestly?