10000 Gestures - Non-Consensual Touching and Safety for the Performer and Audience

I was reading “We Need to Talk About Non-Consensual Audience Participation” by Lauren Wingenroth and it ignited some reflection in my own work. If we aren't interrogating and reflecting on our work, we aren't growing as artists. As someone who likes to challenge audiences, it is important to still respect them. This article reminds me of some mistakes from my past.

When we create performances that include direct audience participation, it is important to ensure we are safe and the audience is safe. I have used a lot of participation in some of my performances and have had to manage unexpected (inappropriate) audience behaviour that endangered me. It is also important to ensure audience members are able to opt in or out. We might not know that an audience member has a physical injury or would really prefer not to have a sweaty, scantily-clad performer climb all over them (find the person who does).

I admit I have not always done it right.

I had at least one situation where I had to grab onto an audience member (by chance, someone I knew) in order to save myself from injury. Luckily I did not hurt her, and I apologized afterward. I also produced a showcase where one performer was not clear on what they would be doing on stage and the front row had a bit of an upsetting experience. That taught me to require more information when working with other performers as I could have prepared the audience prior. It was well and good for me to give the performer autonomy but it came at the price of the audience's experience and safety.

When we ask audiences to wake up from their daily sleep-walking lives, to enter into relationship with us and our art, we have to understand how autonomy becomes part of that exchange.

When we include nudity, direct interaction, violence, etcetera, it is important that we know why these elements are called for in the show, how they are earned, and how we ensure the safety of performers and attendees alike. Being shocking for the sake of being shocking is one-dimensional at best, risk for the right reasons brings huge rewards.

theaters should be spaces where people of all physical abilities and backgrounds can feel safe and respected.

It’s also a question of why choreographers use audience interaction. What purpose is it serving, and how is it deepening the work? Just like artists might consider whether using violence or nudity is truly necessary and earned, content that puts audiences at physical risk shouldn’t be included casually. It especially shouldn’t be used as a gimmick.

This doesn’t mean audiences shouldn’t be challenged or uncomfortable
— “We Need to Talk About Non-Consensual Audience Participation” by Lauren Wingenroth, Dance Magazine

Recognized for her passion, knowledge, and support of her clients’ individual journeys toward their best selves, Frances Mulinix brings over 20 years of experience in coaching, voice, movement, and performance to support her clients in breaking down blocks, opening the voice, and reaching achievements they had previously not thought possible. Transform your relationship to your mind, body, and voice, bringing new confidence and creativity to your life.