I went to a dance show last night, and we had a pretty good time. They had a variety of dances and of them, the middle two pieces out of 6 were our favorite. Between each piece they took a small break, not entirely sure why there wasn’t much set that needed to be set up, but whatever. The key though is that they also did a curtain call after each piece, along with between four and six bows.
They would all take their bow, people would clap. They’d turn off and on the light and bow again, people would clap. Put down the curtain, and pull it up again, bow again, people clap. Turn off the lights, turn on the lights, bow again, people clap. The silliness of this routine struck me as a complete waste of time, I mean the pieces were good and certainly worth clapping but really 4 to 6 times? For each one? No, that is really not the case.
Then today, by chance, I was listening to the latest Freakonomics podcast in which they talk about booing at performances. They talked in depth about how it is bad etiquette these days to boo a performance, even if it was terrible. But they also talk about how booing is one of the last forms of true democracy. How this is one time where you really do have your chance to say how you feel about something.
I can’t help but think about how this is somewhat true. But etiquette in the United States has gotten us to a point in which we really have no option but to go along with whatever the performers want. I mean, the 4 to 6 casting calls noted above is such a case. Really, it is nothing more than the performers patting themselves on the back, and we as the audience agrees.
Furthermore, etiquette also dictates that you now are required to give whatever performance a standing ovation. This seems like it is more audience instigated, but it is not. Again, this is instituted by the performers wishing a pat on the back and they do it by giving you an encore. In fact, every live entertainment show these days plans their encore and does it every night. It is part of the show now, not a special treat for a crowd who likes the performance more than others.
Gone are the days where you can actually voice your opinion, by not giving a standard ovation, but merely clapping. Or not clapping at all. And yes, though I hate people who boo and am particularly annoyed by hooting and hollering, I also like the aspect that if a performance was bad, we COULD actually boo without being looked at as annoying jerks.
I am not a huge fan of going back to the days of a king. But I must admit, that in this particular case, that I do wish that there was a king that the audience would follow, just so that every performance doesn’t get a standing ovation and the performers on stage continue to innovate.
I also would like to see an occasion where a crowd decided to actually say to a performer how they felt… that the performance was good, worth my time. But wasn’t so spectacular that they deserved a standing ovation. Would the encore still come? Or what if no one clapped at all, no one boo’d. Would the encore still come? Would the performers be so used to their standard, that they didn’t know any other way to act?