Not-So-Tough Love: Giving Good Feedback, Part Two

Recently, we talked about how to give feedback in informal settings, like during class or open studio. This week, we’re looking at how to give good feedback somewhere a bit more formal. Formal in this context means that feedback is directly asked for in specific ways, and with a moderator present to keep things on track, such as our Scratch Nights. Let’s break it down for you.

How It Works

First, you’ll watch the performance. This may be anything from, “a few ideas I’ve been playing around with” to “the first draft of a sequence I’m working on” to “a dress rehearsal of the finished piece I’m performing next week”. Next, the moderator will open up the floor for feedback. The performer will specify what kind of feedback they want, which might be very general or incredibly specific. Some performers may not want feedback at all, in which case the next performance will begin.

What You Do

Want to say something about the performance you just saw? Here’s what you’ll want to keep in mind:

  • Limit comments to what’s been asked for. This is one of the most important parts of giving feedback in a formal fashion. If the performer has been clear that they don’t want comments on sequencing, don’t tell them you think their drop would look better later in the routine – even if you really, really think it would. There are many reasons they may have chosen to do it that way, and please respect their wishes in regards to your comments. If they’re not open to suggestions on this aspect of their performance, keep your opinions to yourself.
  • Be kind. It takes guts to get up there and show your work. Even seasoned aerialists (including your instructor!) can feel vulnerable when they perform. Choose your words carefully, and be careful about using humor, as it can be taken the wrong way. It’s okay to be critical (often, that’s literally what the performer asked for), but avoid being rude or offensive. Consider how you’d like to hear the same note.
  • Be brief and stay on topic. This is not the time to go into a detailed explanation of your own struggles with cross-back straddle entrances or how this routine reminded you of an elaborate dream you had last week. Keep your notes short and on point. You also don’t have to comment on every act you see. And if someone has already covered the point you want to make, you don’t have to repeat it or expand on it.
  • If you do get off track, expect to be corrected. That’s what the moderator is for. If you start to wander into territory that’s outside the requested feedback range or is otherwise off-topic, you’ll likely be gently redirected. Don’t take it personally – the moderator has the difficult job of keeping the evening flowing smoothly and making sure performers get what they ask for. The moderator might also need to move on to the next performer before you have a chance to speak. Again, they’re trying to keep the evening on schedule and prevent the audience from becoming fatigued.

Attending performances like Scratch Night can be lots of fun – and the critiques we make of others’ work (out loud or internally) can help inform our own choices when we put together a performance. Remember to stay on topic and treat others as you’d like to be treated! Then sit back and enjoy the show.

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