A Rant on Audience Etiquette

I was really excited to see the Paul Taylor Dance Company perform this past weekend at the Eisemann Center for the Performing Arts in Richardson, TX. It was my first time seeing the company perform and I was looking forward to losing myself in the mind and choreography of Paul Taylor. As the lights dimmed and the curtain went up a flurry of activity around me regrettably pulled my attention away from the stage.

“Are you kidding me,” I said to my husband as a couple of audience members around us made a mad dash for the few empty seats in the front row of the mezzanine section we were sitting in. The nerve of these people. Those front row seats cost at least $20 more and they had no right, in my mind, to sit in seats they didn’t pay for. Thankfully, justice was on my side that night. As the music began, I watched an usher approach one of the groups that had moved (three ladies who should know better) and told them to go back to their original seats. Other couples who were in the process of moving saw this happen and abruptly returned to their seats as well. My husband and I smiled at each other.

Unfortunately, this sideshow caused me to miss the opening of “Brief Encounters” and I was struggling to catch up with the story. The first phrase of the dance had just concluded when another flurry of activity in my section caught my eye. “This can’t be happening,” I whispered to my husband. An older couple had just arrived (10 minutes late) and there were people in their seats in the front row. I watched wide-eyed as an usher hurried over to resolve the problem. I was so annoyed and it was hard for me to concentrate on what was happening on stage.

Don’t any of these people know anything about show etiquette. From a young age my Mom instilled in me the importance of being on time. “It’s better to be 5 minutes early than 5 minutes late,” my Mom always said. Most people would never dream of being 5 minutes late for a job interview, an important meeting or a doctor’s appointment, so why is it OK for them to be 5 minutes late to a dance performance. I know why. It’s because in most cases there are no consequences for being late to a show.

There are some dance companies that do not allow late admittance into their performances. I found this out the hard in college when a group of us went to Columbus, OH, to see a performance for a class assignment. The name of the dance group escapes me, but I do remember that we hit traffic and showed up 5 minutes late and weren’t allowed in. We ended up getting our money back but we all received poor grades for our lack of punctuality. If only this was the norm everywhere audience members would never be interrupted by latecomers every again.

Unfortunately, this is only wishful thinking. Until then we must trust people to be responsible enough to arrive to a show on time, if not early, and remain in their seats once the curtain rises. Is that too much to ask?


2 thoughts on “A Rant on Audience Etiquette

  1. I still remember my high school music teacher would go on rants about show etiquette for music concerts. I always thought he was being a bit stuffy. Over the last few years I’ve come to appreciate that a good performance (even a mediocre one) is an escape from the rush and stress of normal day-to-day life and etiquette is there to ensure that escape can be enjoyed by all.

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