The theme is the central topic of something. The notion that a piece has to have a theme and be about something was put into question during the first half of the 20th Century by postmodern art, including dance, music and theater. With this break, artists compose work which is open enough to invite the audience to make their own meaning or they avoid it completely and compose according to purely formal methodologies. In this way, a piece is no longer a medium encoding a message, but an experience in itself. Just perceiving something as opposed to conceptualizing it, analyzing it, evaluating it or making sense of it is more difficult than it may seem. We can also call it being witness. Or meditation, which has been around far longer than postmodernism.
A pattern is a recognizable combination. In the case of live arts, a recognizable combination of events like rhythm, a movement leitmotif or a refrain. Perceiving patterns, saves our cognitive system a lot of time. When we come across something that has already been stored in our memory, we just need to retrieve this information to know what it is, as opposed to having to explore every single phenomenon we come across. The use of patterns in live arts can help connect with the audience, in as far as it gives them a feeling of being in the know, either based on their own experience or on what’s happened earlier on in the performance. On the other hand, if all we are required to do as audience is recognize, the experience becomes pretty passive. For us to engage actively we need a task; there need to be some missing links that we can try to fill in ourselves. Too many patterns make things predictable, which can be both safe and boring. Too few patterns make things unpredictable, which can be both exciting and overwhelming. What is the sweet spot for me at the moment? How do I play in the different areas of my life in order to find this position?
An abstract concept that is difficult to define. Outwardly it might come across as a certain self-assurance, poise or magnetism, all valued qualities for a performer. However, these qualities, are only the consequence of, “being present”. This means being here and now with one’s attention and aware of how events unfold moment to moment, both inside and outside us. Thus, presence is the quality implicit in being completely there at the time-place coordinates where things are happening. And that’s precisely the position from which the experience of life can be lived to the full.
The Spanish idiomatic expression “to have boards” means that someone is experienced in being in front of people and dealing with a situation live, that is, in being onstage, because they were always made of wood. Someone “with boards” can usually save the show no matter what happens and can even turn difficulties to their own advantage to deliver an unforgettable performance. There are things that one can not learn by reading, observing or repeating. The ability to respond to unforeseeable challenges and make the most of them is only developed by standing upon the boards time and time again.
Performing means carrying out an action. I use the word performer to refer jointly to musicians, dancers, actors and all live artists. Their work is an action and not a physical piece and only if recorded will it leave a physical trace. The object can disappear, but the lived experience can’t. Possessions can increase and decrease throughout one’s life, but experiences only increase and increase and increase. Aiming our attention at this aspect of our life can be a secure investment in satisfaction.