When I was about 10 years old, I went to see a ballet performance of Sleeping Beauty in the Vienna State Opera together with my sister. We always got the standing tickets – which are the best tickets (and the least expensive one’s) – right across from the stage all the way in the back.
The most exciting parts, to my taste, were in the 3rd and final act. Pieces of fast-paced choreography accompanied with spectacular music pursued one another.
That night the main male role was performed by Gyula Harangozó. As he started his solo, the audience was excited and ready for his usual good performance.
But something unexpected happened that evening. Towards the end of the solo, the music picks up and there is a jumping sequence called “Grande Manège”. The dancer leaps forward in a circular movement throwing out his front leg every time. It’s a fast and powerful movement that uses the whole stage.
As Harangozó approaches the backdrop just past the middle, however, his front foot catches the curtain and he falls flat out on his side.
The 2500 people in the room all froze in shock. Within one or two second, however, he was back up and went right back into the final bits of his solo to finish it more or less where he should have.
The applause that followed was so much stronger than anything else I had ever heard and I remember it to this day.
Factually, his performance was a fail. Logically the audience should have expressed their disappointment with his performance. But the contrary happened. His accident actually made him more relatable and reinforced the emotional connection with the audience. In the end the audience rewarded his professionalism and his “human side” more than the factual result of the performance.
How can you create a stronger emotional connection with your audience – by design or by accident?
Photo by Quino Al