I wasn’t stressed about finding dates or subjecting myself to the public scrutiny; rather, I realized that I didn’t know much about the performing arts. I’ve only attended a handful of plays and couldn’t tell you how the Renaissance era set the stage for the Baroque period of classical music. (In fact, I had to look those eras up on Wikipedia.) I respect the arts and admire artists, but rarely enough to make them part of my Friday night.
Naturally, I came into the first of six Arts Dawg performances – the dance production Faculty Dance/Collaborations – knowing next to nothing about dance. In a way, I was the ideal customer. When the UWAA and ArtsUW partnered to create the Arts Dawg program, the goal involved introducing patrons to the wide variety – and high quality – of fine and performing arts offered by the University of Washington.
My date for the evening expressed similar sentiments at the Arts Dawg-only pre-show reception in the Meany Theater lobby. She admitted that she wouldn’t think to attend a dance performance while planning a night out, so she was intrigued by the new experience.
The reception, which offered wine and light snacks, included the chance to mingle with other alumni and a pre-show talk from Betsy Cooper, M.F.A. ’97, director of UW Dance. Cooper spent 10-15 minutes discussing the stories behind each of the three performances and the collaborations that went into the production.
Shortly after the talk, my date and I entered the auditorium and discovered a benefit previously unadvertised to Arts Dawgs: We were directed to a section designated specifically for Arts Dawgs in the center of the theater, providing perfect sightlines.
My date and I didn’t always follow the various storylines, but we chalked that up to our lack of knowledge with regards to the art form. Still, Cooper’s comments gave the performances some context and helped us better understand the stories unfolding on stage. We agreed that the pre-performance discussion enhanced our appreciation for the evening’s event and that we enjoyed the new experience.
We talked about the production as I walked her to her car, trying to piece together the plot of one production (“The Rite of Spring”) while gushing over another (“Dances for Isadora”). At one point, my date made a few sensible connections between the choreography of “The Rite of Spring” and the AIDS crisis of the late ‘80s, leading me to (jokingly) question her “novice” credentials. Once at her car, we hugged and parted ways.