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#LookingForward to Watching Live Performances Again

#LookingForward is a series by Flying Ketchup, where we talk about things that we miss about the “Old Normal”. It’s both reminding us of the past, and getting us excited about the future. What are you #LookingForward to doing again? Let us know, and you might get featured in the next article!

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There’s a certain thrill to watching live performances. Whether it’s a gig, a play, a dance recital, or a whole orchestral concert – nothing beats watching art unfold right before your very eyes. Every performance is unique. Each live performance is literally a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It could go either extremely well, or catastrophically bad. Either way, each live performance has the capacity to be unforgettable.

Performance Art is unique in a way that as an art form, it is communal. They need performers and an audience. Unlike other forms, live performance art is meant to be consumed as a community. The only way is to experience it together.

Well, unless you are one of the crazy rich patrons of the arts that can close down whole theaters and enjoy private performances. But even then, maybe you’d bring a few friends with you, or your immediate family.

It’s the experience of sharing a unique point in time, with strangers or with family and friends, that makes a live performance nothing short of magical.

Live Performance as a relic of the past

The crazy thing is, more than six months into the pandemic, these events feel like relics of the past. Like much of the things we miss in the time of COVID, we took them for granted. There was always a gig every week, always an opportunity to watch the next popular play, always an opportunity to watch that next big concert. And then one day, the world shut down, and there was nothing.

You definitely remember the last live performance you watched. What makes it all the more special is that during that moment, you didn’t know that it could potentially be the last one you have witnessed. It makes the memory of it more powerful.

The Live Performance Art Industry is one of the most affected during the pandemic, because of the fact that performance is communal. The best way to experience performance art is to gather, often in close quarters, with other people.

It’s tough especially for the musicians, the actors, the dancers, and the playwrights, who depend on performances as their primary means of subsistence. It hurts all the more because they lost not just their source of livelihood, but a chance to share their passion.

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Art finds a way

But human beings have always been stubborn. Maybe you’ve seen them making the rounds on social media a few months ago – modified venues! Music halls filled with plants in the seats, with the actual, human, audiences tuning in via live stream. Orchestras with partitions to separate musicians from each other. Socially-distanced plays where the blocking is adjusted to the standard and safe six feet away. Solo dance recitals, solo music recitals, solo poetry readings. Artists take pride in their creativity, and they’re used to constraints – it just so happens that now, they have a pandemic to consider.

There’s also a boom of live online performances. Musicians are the early adapters, as they started streaming their concerts almost immediately when the lockdowns started. The comedians were next, as all they need is a good enough camera with clear enough audio. The only thing else they need is their material, and that comes easy. And then, in one form or another, the other artists find a way.

What is amazing are the new characteristics of this new live performance art. It ranges from intimately performing in front of a camera in a quiet room, to a full production with a film crew, lights, and multiple camera angles. One thing that’s common, no matter the format, is the reach – hundreds, thousands, or potentially millions of people could tune in to a live performance, all due to the fact that it is done online.

The rise of online performance art in the time of the pandemic shows the place of art in the lives of people. That in times of crisis, we turn to art, and to each other. We are #LookingForward to a future when we can all experience live performance art together again. But for now, performing live means performing online. Being together now means being apart but experiencing performances all the same. One may actually feel that there’s a new sense of beauty and togetherness in this new way.

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