Learning to love the dance: Tips on appreciating "DancePlus Fall," Dec. 2-11

Interested in attending a dance event but worried you won’t “get” it? Choreographer and Dance professor John Evans provides tips on how to enjoy a contemporary modern dance performance. Try out your newfound knowledge at DancePlus Fall, running Dec. 2-11 at the Victoria J. Mastrobuono Theater. A female sextet is set to perform a new work by Evans called Longitude 161/Latitude 0.

Why do some audiences shy away from dance, particularly modern dance?
Because they feel like they don’t understand it. People [believe] they must comprehend whatever they view or there’s no value in it. Modern dance is abstract. Ballet has a narrative; you can enjoy the dance inside the story that’s being told. Contemporary modern dance is more about a connection to the physical energy of the movement and what connotations the movements bring up. For example, dancers being very physically aggressive and powerful—this sense of aggression draws a very strong physical reaction from the audience. Their heartbeats go up, they are sitting on the edge of their seat. It draws them in physically.

What advice do you have for a novice dance fan? What should they focus on when they experience a new piece?
The No. 1 thing I’d tell someone is just watch and be open to what you see. Don’t work to attach meaning to it. Meanings will come, but don’t work too hard at it. Afterward, you might ask, “How does this relate in my life? Did I get any strong feelings about the movement?” You don’t have to understand the choreographer’s point of view to enjoy it. You don’t have to have the right answers.

Which company would you suggest they see to get started?
Accessible companies include Pilobolus and MOMIX. The companies are very much about merging ideas with entertainment. Anyone can see their work. It has beautiful movement created and crafted very well. More challenging companies include Doug Varone and Dancers, Stephen Petronio and Brian Brooks, who will show a piece at DancePlus Fall.