Telling Stories

I’ve been thinking a lot about nostalgia lately – how we relate to and often revel in it.  I guess in a way, nostalgia informs a lot of my work and the way I work – thinking about the past and people from the past, both my own past and that tantalising collective past in which we are often wont to dwell, as well as how history and knowledge informs and instructs audiences and how they will read and receive a performance.

Reading this passsage from Walter Benjamin’s ‘The Storyteller’ gave me some food for thought – both about thinking through the past, and about my role as a ‘storyteller’ in my choreographic work.

Benjamin, of of course, speaking of an oral tradition, an epic and classical tradition. But, thinking of storytelling as transmission – of thoughts, od memory, of ideas – if, as Benjamin states, storytelling is a dying art, where do I stand?  Do his words stand up some four decades or so years later?

Familiar though his name may be to us, teh storyteller in his living immediacy is by no means a present force.  He has already become something remote from us and something which is becoming even more distant…This distance and this angle of vision are prescribed for us by an experience which we may have almost every day.  It teaches us that the art of storytelling is coming to an end.  Less and less frequently do we encounter people with the ability to tell a tale properly.  More and more often there is embarrassment all around when the wish to hear a story is expressed.  It is as if  something that seemed inalienable to us, the securest amongst our possessions, were taken from us: the ability to exchange experiences.


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