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  • Writer's pictureJoAnna Shaw

Blink Moments

We blink when we are processing information - or perhaps at the moment when the information enters the brain.

  • Blinking occurs at the conclusion of an action

  • Blinking is the hidden punctuation to thought

  • Blinks are the rest stops, when the brain is assimilating information.

  • This is not just true for humans…Horses blink as they are assimilating information.

The podcast Radio Lab discusses the presence of “Blink Moments” in film. Jad Abumrad talks with film editor Walter Murch who describes a strange discovery he made years ago while working on The Conversation: The blink moments occurred when his characters were assimilating information. Murch uses blink moments in his editing process to modulate the trajectories of his films.

“That momentary pause is important. It is that nano-second when we take time to let the mind do its work. The blink moment allows our brain to assimilate information. The blinking chunks the information, saves the information and allows the brain to remember information.”

As a choreographer, I find this information immensely interesting. Allowing an audience time for blink moments is not something most choreographers think about. Choreography in 2020 seems to favor constant motion, a barrage of movement information. No blink moments. Hence, the viewer is not being given time to take in information. As a viewer, I personally feel I am witnessing a kinetic assault. Perhaps younger dancers are drawn to the physicality, the sheer exertion. Like watching a race or car chase. It could be exhilarating.

A dance without blink moments leaves me wondering about the choreographic intent. Was the relentlessness a conscious choice or a default to what is in fashion? What is the creator’s intention to have the viewer to come away exhausted? Or impressed with the sheer volume of movement crammed into a 20-minute piece. Assaulting the viewer could create a visceral experience of the physicality. Inviting the viewer into a visceral experience asks for a kind of visual entrainment.

The opening scene of Saving Private Ryan, 1998 American epic war film directed by Steven Spielberg is a 27 minute bloody, terrifying battle scene depicting the Omaha Beach assault during the Normandy landings. Spielberg is intentionally robbing us of any blink moments. There are no blink moments in battle. Spielberg did not want us to passively witness the violence of that battle. He wanted us to feel its intensity.

Relentless dances are created by the maker, the doer, the person experiencing the dancing. Perhaps the choreographer no longer does that kind of dancing but remembers that physicality and wishes to still embody that level of physicality in his work.

Watching relentless dances, I find myself admiring the dancers who feel that intensely, impressed by the level of stamina the performers must have to endure that level of intensity….and eventually just feeling sorry for them, wondering about the level of injury that kind of dancing causes.

Kinetic assault choreography can distance the viewer. The audience becomes sort of a voyeur. I submit that if the choreographer were to allow for Blink Moments inside that non-stop motion, it would keep those relentless dances from being pure assault.

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