Last night il Troubadore played Chandara Gamal’s 7th Annual Cairo in Columbus show and I must say it was an incredibly frustrating experience. Not that the repertoire we performed or that the dancers who danced (more about this below) weren’t wonderful. It’s the “Pit” experience that’s very frustrating. Being able to interact with (or even just being able to see) the dancers is something that I generally take for granted as I’ll usually be on stage with the dancer(s). In last night’s case we were on the floor in front of the stage, which worked fine when we were just playing casual background music before the show and even afterwards while playing the open dance portion of the event.
But during the portion we were performing specific pieces with dancers who were onstage behind us–that was maddening. Earlier this month I performed as an adult ringer for a production of the “King and I” in the pit, and again it was the pit experience–though in this case I could occasionally get glimpses of the choreography for the Uncle Tom’s Small Cabin ballet portion. Also at the beginning of the month for another bellydance hafla at Purdue University in Matthews Hall il Troubadore was on the floor in front of the stage (the bellydance hafla last month at Ball State University was a marginally better situation).
It’s not so much an issue of wanting to be seen–for the musical (as well as Opera and Ballet performances) this is the norm to be in a pit-type environment. And more and more non-Western multi-media genres are turning to this Western model of staged “realism.” Watching a number of VCDs of live likay performances with my mother has shown me how much even this local form of musical-drama now tends to “hide” the musicians.
I suppose ideally, this kind of situation shouldn’t be a problem, but there were a few ending cues that would have been easier to do had we been able to have eye contact with the dancers or they with us.