Breathing and contemporary dance

So the first change I experienced when moving on to a more contemporary training was the focus on the breathing. In ballet it is a bit more of a “save yourself” philosophy, or as someone said the other day “don’t worry, you will breathe anyway”. (With time you realise that breathing at the right time can actually make a huge difference in certain steps, like pirouettes!).
In contemporary breathing helps guiding every movement, it affects the weight of the body and, because of the variety of movements of the abdominal area, it is necessary to actually perform some sequences.

I understand all this and enjoy using the breathing and learning more about it. I also understand that breathing can help a group if dancers find a common rhythm. What I don’t understand is why the people on the other side of the studio or even in the next one should hear me breathe.

This comes to its highest point when during a performance you can hear the dancers breathing (from the upper circle!). And I can thinkg of several examples of this…

I just can’t see why you would want to show the effort it takes to do what you’re doing. Maybe the ballet tradition is at play here with me, but I think it kind of breaks the “magic”.
NB: I don’t like using the word “magic” when writing about performance (unless we’re talking about a not supernatural, born-from-effort typeof magic) but it suited the purpose here.

Now, maybe some people would say that this is a way of transmitting what the performer is feeling on to the audience. Which leads us to the next question… Is what the performer feels more important than what the audience feels?
If you have been reading this blog (thank you!) you can probably guess that my answer to this is almost categorically no, and I say almost only because I believe the feelings of both audience and performer are closely linked.

Apparently this debate appeared as early as 2000 years ago in the Indian book Natya Shastra. (Very interesting to read about, by the way).
I, like the book (or the person that wrote it, rather), think that the audience is more important. At the end, if you were to feel accurately depressed while doing a piece about depression, the result would probably be a piece in complete stillness (and no, this is not a challenge to one of this very alternative choreographers!).

This debate could probably go on forever, and maybe I’ll come back to it, but for now I’ll leave it for you. As always, you’re encouraged to disagree. And please keep breathing… Quietly 😉