After a number of years of watching performances and attending festivals in Brazil and Europe I have noticed tendencies and clichés that make for bad performance. These clichés are old conventions that are used because they (apparently) make pieces more “artistic”. However, these clichés, I believe, are what give a lot of contemporary art a bad name. So below is a list of 20 things artists should avoid when creating or showing works of Dance, Performance Art or Theater.
Allow me to call this the 20 point SEABRA SCALE for Bad Dance, Performance and Theater.
1. Looping. Don't loop sounds or images. Multiple usage of the Control C and Control V keys on your computer reflects laziness and is for artists who don't want to take the time to create a proper soundtrack or a video. Plus... it’s sooo 80s.
2. No two actors should speak different texts at the same time. This is a convention that started sometime during the Dada years. Just because people can't understand what you are saying doesn't mean it's art.
3. No distant, lost or blasé stares especially while walking in straight lines.
4. This is for the dancers: No toe-heel-toe-heel to the side and no mime like bending arms at the elbow. In other words don't imitate Judson Church dancers of the 70s.
5. No arty-fartiness. Don't get cryptic or try to “artify” a concept. If you have something to say... just say it. Clarity can also be artistic.
6. No water moment. Please don't pour water on yourself or another artist.
7. Please don't line up objects on stage for no reason.
8. This is for Brazilians: No Clarice Lispector moment. Please don't pull out a Clarice Lispector novel and start reading from it (especially while someone is pouring water over you!).
9. No exaggerated and loud acting. Chill.
10. Don't make a “piece for actors”. In other words don’t make a piece in which an actor can show off his or her multiple abilities.
11. This is for Europeans: Stop trying to shock your audiences all the time.
12. This is ALSO for Europeans: Spare us your identity crises.
13. This is for Brazilians dancers: Don't import the European identity crisis. Brazilians are not having an identity crisis.
14. This is for Asians: No lasers on stage, please.
15. This is for Americans: If you need your character to grow or your story to develop please don't involve them (or a loved one) in a car accident or give them cancer. There are other ways a story can develop.
16. No MIDI crap. Don't sample a sound and plug it into the wave lengths of the celestial bodies or inanimate objects. They don't sound like anything. MIDI is an uninteresting toy. (It’s also sooo 80s).
17. No electronic noise soundtracks... the world is noisy enough.
18. No dodecaphonic compositions from the 1920s. Using this stuff in your piece doesn’t make you modern. It makes you moderne (with a French accent).
19. No Commedia dell'arte references. Hello?! Can we give Commedia dell'arte a rest?
20. Finally, if you have to mention the word "theater" in your performance NEVER say it while lifting your arms up with your heel on the ground and toes pointed upward (posing like some Harlequin... that’s sooo 1780s)
A director once said not to worry if you are performing something that you have already seen done before. “Just make it your own”, he said. Fine. But the above elements are far too frequent in contemporary performance and should be banned for at least two generations in order to give Art a breather.
Now, if one of the above elements appears in your performance that’s not too bad. You have scored a minus 1 on the SEABRA SCALE. If you remove this element from your piece you might have a good performance.
But if you scored minus 2 to 3 points: Sorry, you have probably made a bad performance.
Minus 4 to 8 points: Artists like you give Art a bad name.
9 and above points: Please return any public funds you received to produce this crap and find another career.
Finally if you did lift your arms and say the word Theater! in a piece this gives you an automatic maximum score of minus 20. Audiences should walk out immediately.