At both the Poly and Westridge dance concerts last year, poems were used instead of music for some pieces. At the Poly one, the poem was spoken live! It was really amazing! At first it was actually really shocking because we always expect to hear music. Without the music and just merely the power of words, you are really able to hear the tone of each word. It is also interesting to see how the words of the poem are translated into movements. It is very powerful to both hear the poem and watch as it transforms into different motions you never could have anticipated. The dance aspect can truly add another element of emotion, if it is executed well. In my mind, executing it well means that the dance can stand alone as a wonderful piece, however by setting the piece to a poem a whole new dimension is added. A few times I have seen the dance movements literally doing exactly what the word is, which does not look good in my opinion. From a dancer’s perspective, rather than listening to rhythm and tone of the music (like how the violin, piano, or whatever instrument sounds), you are forced to truly process the words that are spoken.
By the way, I looked forever for a video of poetry and dance together, so you guys could actually see what I am talking about, but there are barely any. The ones that I found are not very good ones. This most likely indicates that poetry taking the place of music in dance pieces is not extremely popular…YET! (probably because it is so difficult to choreograph to and do it well!)