On Expectations

Inta Balode*

The article was first published on October 8, 2015 on http://journal.dance.lv/eng/on-expectations/

I was on the side of informed audience – while standing on the edge of Geysir, the master Geysir, the father of the word “geyser”, – I knew already that it “doesn’t do anything”. When Sesselja said the phrase “it doesn’t do anything” she meant that it is just there, it is hot, but it doesn’t splash, doesn’t go up or sideways, it is just there and it is the reason and origin of all the system around it. It is partly retired now, because it did perform before but now it has stopped doing that.

Lucky enough for owners of the Geysir place the smaller one not far for the master Geysir took up the job and plays spontaneous fountain game often and with lots of enthusiasm.

So expectations are satisfied to certain extent.

Geysir at work

Still the active geyser is on the way to the big geyser, and even more back towards the parking lot there is the third one – “little geyser” which is also performing small fountain game. So everything is structured as a gradual access to the Master. From smaller to bigger. Tension and dramaturgy builds up. And despite rain and wind the path is easy because it leads uphill towards the one, the culmination, the Wow moment.


Though the master is silent. If you know it.

Uninformed audience members don’t know that the Master is silent. Their expectations must be growing on the way, on their way to the Place. They go there and expect. They are expecting for the Event to take place and finish their journey uphill. After which the show will be over and they will return, discussing their experience on the way and passing the smaller geysers as they were not there anymore. All the choreography of space and situation makes to think there will be the peak experience, that this is the place where the major show will take place. Expectations are high.

Master remain silent.

Master is there

There are several questions coming out from the geyser experience and directly linking to the performance experience.

What and who builds up the expectations of certain kind? Previous knowledge, imaginations, the structure of the space, the sense of lack of something in my own mind?

How long am I ready to wait for the expectations to be fulfilled?

If I don’t get the fulfillment whom do I blame? Was the advertising wrong? Is the Geysir broken? Or I did not stay long enough for the miracle to happen?

I would suppose that answers to that in nature park and dance performances might be quite different though there are also some significant parallels.

In case of meeting natural phenomena most of audience members know how crucial patience is.  I know I can see something amazing by chance but once I go to see “the amazing” quite often I have to wait. For bear to come out from his house in Zoo, for moon eclipse, for whale to swim by and show her back. I also know that there is quite a large probability that I will not get the full experience but I take the risk. Am I very disappointed if the whale didn’t show itself? Not so much because I spent time in nice place, watching, being there, most likely with nice people and we discussed our experience afterwards. We imagine how would be if it would be and make up stories. It was good anyway.

Because I know why I came to the place and what I was waiting for.

The expectation of the big event caused chain of very nice events. Maybe I met love of life while expecting for that whale or geyser eruption. So why wouldn’t I feel the same during performance? I had many nice events even if the big one did not happen. So what then causes much more disappointment about performances where “master remains silent” or “master did not show itself in full glory”, or “I needed to wait long”, or “I thought it will happen but it did not”?

The master is silent, but it is there and has power to do amazing show. Or everybody knows it was amazing and the memory is still alive. Or he is giving chance to the young ones. But he can still show itself any moment.

One side of it could be the fact that even if the geyser did not erupt I might think that I just did not wait long enough or I was not lucky this time to see a whale. But I truly believe that whales time to time are there, that the Geysir does fountain game time to time. It does not matter if I am there or not. It does not matter if anybody is there or not. It happens anyway. In animals case we also know that in most cases they don’t come because we are there. Though we would never think that performance’s high point did not happen because I was there. Still it might be also true if we think about stress of performers, too early premier or technical failure because somebody from the audience by chance turned the light or unplugged the wire.

But what if I start doubting the existence of the master?

Geysir_no master


*this text has been written during the LAB 2 of The Writing Movement Network that took place in Iceland (Laugarvatn and Reykjavik). The Writing Movement Network is supported by The Nordic-Baltic Mobility Programme for Culture Short-term network scheme.

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