BODY ON STAGE

For creators in all artistic disciplines, the body is more than a medium or a vessel. As the seat of our existence, of our sensate experience, the human body, in creation, personifies and represents unique ways of living and thinking. In the poem I’m a Shepherd, which he published under the pseudonym Alberto Caeiro, Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa expresses a specific way of exploring reality, with all his senses and his entire body:

I’m a shepherd.
My sheep are my thoughts,
And my thoughts are all sensations.
I think with my eyes and ears
And with my hands and feet
And with my nose and mouth.
To think of a flower is to see it and smell it.
And to eat a fruit is to taste its meaning.
And so on a warm day,
When I ache from enjoying it so much,
And stretch out on the grass,
Closing my warm eyes,
I feel my whole body lying full-length in reality,
I know the truth and I’m happy.

Like Pessoa, artists in the performing arts continuously change how the body is used and presented, evoking their sensibilities, their identities and the questions they want to explore. This is all the more true in this day and age, when artistic conventions and hierarchies between genres are being questioned and we are witnessing the emergence of original body languages and new experiences for the audience.

Those who are observing creation today are now seeing performers using new technologies more often and mingling with other artistic disciplines. On the modern stage, cameras—which no longer belong solely to television and film—are now appearing in theatre, dance and opera productions. Singers, dancers, and actors must now all know how to sing, dance and act.

The body’s presence on the stage is thus being transformed to varying degrees: sometimes intensified, sometimes disembodied. How are new technologies and the merging of artistic disciplines shaping body languages? What do artistic disciplines contribute to each other? How, for example, has the body as represented in film opened new possibilities in dance and theatre? Are these new vehicles for self-expression blurring the lines between art forms?

The performer is increasingly communicating with his entire body, using all his senses. To what extent do these new vehicles challenge the dialogue between the artist and the audience? How do these new hands-on methods change the role of the spectator? Do these new artistic expressions encourage people to have more contact with creation; do they make them want to go to the theatre? In conclusion, I would also like to ask: To what degree is the body on stage representative of society? Do the bodies on stage reflect the full range of people?

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