WELL, THAT HAPPENED: Digital decorum

By on August 18, 2015

Insolent theatre goers are part of a socially inept generation

When not even dancers from Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company can convince audience members to stop texting. (Credit: Paul B. Goode)

When not even dancers from Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company can convince audience members to stop texting. (Credit: Paul B. Goode)

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – On Saturday I was lucky enough to be invited to the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane dance performance at the Center. Last year, the New York-based dance company workshopped a piece here in Jackson, and then returned last week to perform the finished piece. I knew very little about what I was walking in to, but I’ve always trusted Dancers’ Workshop to provide quality entertainment in the valley.

The performance itself was haunting, complete with a running monologue at its core and live music to round out the edges. The dancers bounded and stomped across the stage, depicting the violence, sorrow and tribulations surrounding one woman’s life in occupied France and Poland. I noticed that Bill T. Jones himself sat behind me in the back of the orchestra section, no doubt observing his creation from a new angle.

After a good 15 minutes into the actual performance, a trio of 20-somethings arrived and filled in the seats next to me. Growing up in a very Central European household, punctuality is a virtue I try to uphold for myself, and I admit that I often get annoyed when my friends arrive late to engagements. Suffice it to say I was annoyed to allow these people into my row when I was already captivated by the dancers. Throughout the performance (which had no intermission), the two men of the group occasionally checked their phones and frantically typed replies to what must have been the most important text conversations of their lives. They whispered back and forth to each other, distracting me from my own enjoyment. I was about to say something, when Bill T. Jones himself leaned forward.

“You can leave, you know,” he said gruffly. “If you don’t want to watch you should leave.”

I doubt they knew that the man who shushed them was actually the director of the performance they were watching, because Jones left his seat a few minutes later and the two men whispered to each other and suppressed laughter. They continued their texting. Before the performance was done, the two men left early leaving the female of their group behind to finish the show.

I may never know who these people are, nor do I really care to. But I will say that there is something very frustrating about the post-college-age crowd, a huge demographic in our community. I’ve noticed over the past few years that among this group of people, there is a genuine lack of respect and courtesy when it comes to social gatherings. Not long ago I stopped by a friend’s house who was in the middle of teaching a music lesson. As I was waiting in the living room for her to finish, her roommate was watching television.

“Hi, I’m Andrew,” I said.

He waved a cereal spoon at me while watching “Bob’s Burgers.” He neither introduced himself nor asked me what I was doing there. Another roommate walked into the house, right past me. For a good 8 minutes, the two roommates spoke to one another without even acknowledging my presence. No handshake. No introduction. Nothing at all.

The latecomers to Bill T. Jones are not an anomaly. As someone who grew up in town and is a “face” in the community, it bothers me tremendously when outsiders come in and claim the town as their own, when the question of “Where are you from?” is repeatedly answered with the dodging remark, “Oh, I live here.” There is an epidemic of valley greenhorns who are willing to participate, but have no desire to contribute. And unfortunately they’re the ones who can somehow afford to live here.

People have asked me what it’s like to grow up in Jackson, and I tell them it was no different than growing up in any other small town. But now I see how much things have changed and, like some crotchety old timer, I start to refer to the way Jackson used to be. With the massive insurgence of transplants and the current housing crisis, the old locals are being pushed out.

Texting during a dance performance is only a mosquito bite compared to the main issue, but nothing itches worse. And when all the old locals leave, I don’t know if the people left here will care enough to solve it. PJH

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