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Graduate student invites audience interaction in her 6-hour dance performance

Letty Bassart will dance for six hours in her capstone performance “Some Ways to Continue?”
(Keaton Larson/Daily Bruin)

"Some Ways to Continue?"

Through Nov. 22

Kaufman Hall 200


By Jordan Holman

Nov. 21, 2019 4:32 p.m.

Letty Bassart will dance for six hours straight – no pauses, no intermission.

The graduate student’s capstone performance “Some Ways to Continue?” is a dance theater installation exploring the theme of persistence. The show, which took place Thursday and is taking place Friday, will consist of six-hour dance segments, but Bassart said viewers aren’t expected to stay for the show’s entirety. Rather, she said she wants her performance to challenge the traditional performance duration, as evening shows usually range from 15 minutes to two hours. Her show will also shift the audience-performer power dynamic, giving spectators the agency to freely choose when they want to enter and exit the theater.

“I have this whole routine prepared, but if (audience members) walk into the space, all bets are off,” she said. “Suddenly, this rehearsed performance becomes less important. I’m going to acknowledge (the audience), and we’re going to have a sincere exchange.”

[Related: Storyteller mimes historic Apollo 11 moon landing at Royce Hall]

As audience members walk into the theater, they can speak with Bassart while she dances. Bassart said this element of unpredictability is exciting rather than nerve-wracking, as the interactions serve as welcome developments to the production, not interruptions.

Although Bassart said she plans some prerehearsed content, she is willing to change it based on audience interaction. If an audience member wants to engage in a lengthy discourse, for example, she said she will talk with them and adjust her movements to do so.

Creating this open dialogue with attendees, she said, plays into the show’s objective to actively encourage a conversation surrounding endurance. Bassart said audience members sharing the performance space with her makes her feel energized – giving her the physical strength to dance for the show’s grueling six-hour duration. As she physically illustrates the act of carrying on through gestures and expressive choreography, she said she hopes people feel comfortable analyzing her movements and thinking about how the concept of stamina is reflected in their own lives.

“We’re living in a moment where we have become very clear about many things that need to happen, but the next step is how to do that in a way that is smart, compassionate and unwavering,” she said. “I felt like this question is a conversation that could really happen at UCLA. This is a place where the work can really interrogate something.”

Because the show is in a university setting, Bassart said she hopes people with a variety of different beliefs and mindsets will come together to examine ways society can construct long-term responses to social and political problems. World arts and cultures/dance professor David Rousseve said Bassart uses her body as an abstract metaphor to convey perseverance, often physically shaking, jumping and grunting to illustrate the effects of exerting stamina on the body.

[Related: Performance to use cellist, dancer to explore themes of life and death]

Bassart’s performance portrays how stamina is not only taxing on the body, but also how it affects the mind, said Victoria Marks, chair of Bassart’s MFA committee. “Some Ways to Continue?” is about the importance of rest and recognizing that the body has limits, Marks said.

“This is an incredibly stressful time for our democracy,” Marks said. “Politics sometimes play a role in diminishing our hope and vibrancy, and I think (Bassart) is grappling with this question of whether or not we have the stamina to sustain this.”

Bassart said she takes common phrases such as “Third time’s the charm” and “Don’t ask the thistle for figs” and bases her choreography on them. While she was putting together her piece, she found that many of these phrases had to do with stamina, which helped her make sense of what it means to carry on, she said.

“As one lives longer, there’s a certain understanding of things that happen and carrying on when those things do happen,” she said. “Some of those things are infuriating, profoundly heartbreaking or even extremely joyful. These tensions are always there. But how we navigate that tension is incredibly beautiful.”

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Jordan Holman
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