The business of presence

Book

This business of presence is essential to all live performance, whether the players are musicians vigorously bowing and putting their arm and shoulder into it, or banging or blowing, or dancers leaping or holding themselves precariously balanced and still, or actors, or acrobats, or singers using their breath to create sounds that are almost miraculously the shape of emotions. Because all these performers are using the body – a body just like our own – at its highest pitch of possibility and skill, we too, as we identify with their effort, are made aware, and in a unique way, of what the body actually is, and this is essential to the sense we get of our own body, the exhilarations we feel, the rush of energy we get as the soprano reaches for her high note or the acrobat goes flying across space and catches the bar.

– David Malouf, ‘Shared response to our humanity

David Malouf attended a recent meeting of major performing arts artistic directors to discuss the proposed national cultural policy. This essay is his response to that discussion.