Dancer Michael Schumacher offers some advice to audiences who watch Last Touch First, the haunting hour-long work was created by himself and world-renowned choreographer Jiří Kylián for the 2008 Holland Dance Festival. Using Chekhov as a reference, the piece is performed in profoundly slow motion. “Just focus,” he advises, “you’ll see more than you think.” “It’s a paradox. It’s slow motion, but you cannot keep up with it, which is great.”
In the interview that appears in this week’s Time Out New York, Gia Kourlas asks Mr. Schumacher how the piece came to be and his experience performing the piece. An excerpt follows. Read the article in its entirety here.
What is an example of the way in which the production continues to grow?
I’ll give you a microscopic view: At one point, I sit in a chair and reach over and pick up a glass. For the rest of the day, every time you reach over to pick up a glass, think about how many times you do it exactly the same. If that’s your script, and your character has a certain way of handling a glass and drinking from it, then that’s a huge amount of information and a huge amount to deal with from performance to performance. It relates very much to my philosophy about life and improvisation. There are many sides of our daily lives that we incorporate into our improvisational behavior. Not everyone may see it that way, but I do, and that’s why I find it entertaining that in a dance-theater piece like this, it’s readable. You have to see it a few times to understand that, which is why a lot of people see it more than once. It’s hard to catch all of the elements the first time; you’re busy trying to put all the pieces together.
So do audience members get overly absorbed in certain sections and miss others?
From what I understand, you get the mise en scène. You understand, Okay, this is a parlor in a period roughly around the turn of the century, and the characters resemble people that may or may not have been in a Chekhov play. We use Chekhov as a reference, but it was never intended to be a telling of his work; it’s more an impression of Chekhov and that era, with characters who have a dissatisfaction with the banality of daily life. However, because our eyes work very much in different levels of focus, it’s easy to get distracted by certain details. You might start to focus on small gestures and objects. I find that may be the key. Not only is it a piece in which to observe the whole, but it is also a time to think about how you, as an audience member, observe.